Mention aviator sunglasses and "Top Gun" might be the first thing that comes to mind. But a close second should be Ray-Ban, the company that originated the style 70 years ago.




Modeled after military-issue goggles, aviators were developed for pilots who needed anti-glare glasses. They became popular with civilians in the late 1960s and early 1970s, only to be eclipsed by the Ray-Ban Wayfarer in the 1980s.




In Hollywood, aviators never strayed too far from the spotlight. They've shaded the famous faces of Robert Redford, Michael Jackson and Angelina Jolie. They are a perennial classic on the runways too, at Michael Kors and Gucci. And although aviators do get updated with oversized lenses and sleeker materials, their sloping frames always will accentuate the cheekbones.




Aviators are sporty and assertive. (Why do you think they are a police officer favorite?) The shiny metal rims go with everything. And because the recent revival of the Wayfarer is now waning, what better time to shift the focus from that winning style to another classic?




To mark the anniversary, Ray-Ban is releasing 25,000 pairs of 22 karat gold-plated "Ultra" aviators at $485, available at Bloomingdale's and Saks Fifth Avenue. Quite a jump from the original $129 price tag. Also at the high end, Chloe and Lanvin have hot versions for spring. But for those who don't want the stress of having museum-quality frames, there are a few brands with their own styles at a fraction of the price.




There's no gold-plating or engraved serial number on Roxy's "GT" glasses, but for $95 they are sturdy enough, and the little plastic nose guards don't wiggle around. Mall stores Aldo and Zara are making excellent versions in a rich gold hue at $12.99 and $35, respectively.




But the best deal we found was on the wire rack at a 76 gas station. For $5.99, these gold specs are a dead ringer for Ray-Bans, as long as you can look past the malleable metal and lack of UV protection. At this rate, you can buy a pair for home, the office and the plane, er, car.