Oakley, Inc., based in Foothill Ranch, California, is a subsidiary of an Italian company that designs, develops and manufactures sports performance equipment and lifestyle pieces including sunglasses, sports visors, ski/snowboard goggles, watches, apparel, backpacks, shoes, optical frames, and other accessories. Most items are designed in house at their head office, but some countries hold exclusive designs relevant to their market. Oakley currently holds more than 600 patents for eyewear, materials, and performance gear.
Oakley was started by James Jannard in 1975 out of his garage with an initial investment of $300. The name “Oakley” came from Jim’s English Setter, “Oakley Anne.” Jannard began by selling what he called ‘The Oakley Grip’ out of the back of his car at motocross events. His motorcycle grips were unlike other grips available at the time, using a patented material known as ‘Unobtainium'(‘Unobtanium’), a unique creation by Jannard. The material is still used to make the earsocks on Oakley glasses, and many of the nose pieces and now the bands of their watches. Oakley went on to produce number plates, gloves, grips, elbow guards, chin guards, and goggles for the BMX and motocross communities.
In 1980, Jannard released a pair of goggles called the O-Frame. With the ‘Oakley’ logo present on the strap, the brand garnered increasing recognition and prominence throughout the sports industry. In 1983 Oakley began selling ski goggles.
The first Oakley sunglasses; Factory Pilot Eyeshades, were sport-oriented, resembling goggles and were released in 1984. These were followed in 1985 by the Oakley Frogskin, a casual sunglass style that was made in Japan.
The company went public in 1995, raising $230 million.
Most of Oakley’s technological designs, fashion pieces, gear, etc. were developed with extensive athlete input and testing in the field – including extreme conditions. Oakley also maintains US Standard Issue, which provides U.S. military and law enforcement eye protection. Oakley M Frame sunglasses are included as part of the U.S. Army’s Authorized Protective Eyewear List (APEL), and have been assigned a NSN number for ordering through military supply channels. The company has also built at least one ‘golf hovercraft’, intended as an all terrain replacement for conventional golf carts, in partnership with the professional golfer, Bubba Watson.