CAZAL eyewear has become synonymous with hip-hop fashion. Many of hip-hop’s brightest stars (both past and present) have rocked a pair of CAZALs in their music videos, around town, and virtually anywhere else they go. But, the CAZAL brand did not have a beginning one would most associate with a hip-hop attitude. Although the space-age designs and thick rims have now become hip-hop mainstays, CAZAL’s beginnings are generally much different.
CAZAL was first created in 1979 by Austrian eyewear designer, Carl Zalloni. He took the first syllables from his first and last name and combined them to create his eyewear company (CArl ZALloni). His first sunglasses were distributed through a German company. Any way you slice it, however, Carl Zalloni was a fair distance away from Run-D.M.C.’s stopping grounds in Queens, New York. The iconic 607s were one of the first pairs released by CAZAL, but, again, they didn’t receive widespread popular support (especially in the hip-hop community) until later.
It didn’t take long for sunglasses fans to take notice of CAZAL, though. And it certainly helped that Darryl McDaniels (from the aforementioned Run-D.M.C.) liked to rock his own pair of 607s. When McDaniels was first seen in his 607s, the popularity of CAZAL in the United States seemed to balloon. Although the price tag for those early CAZALs hit upwards of $500, the sunglasses were still flying off the shelves. But because these glasses were high quality products and not cheap glasses for 5$, most of the B-Boys were not able to buy them because they were very expensive (up to 500$ depending the collection). So there was just the possibility to snatch them. In the Bronx people were even killed for a CAZAL frame.Cari Zalloni himself was very shocked about this fact. The CAZAL BOYS even made a song of it and it was called “SNATCHIN CAZALS” (’85 Tempre Records).
The success of the CAZAL brand was largely built on innovation. Zalloni knew that consumers want something extra with their sunglasses. They didn’t want basic protection from the sun anymore—they wanted a statement. There’s nothing more impactful than unique set of shades that will make all those around you gawk in amazement. Perhaps CAZAL’s most unique innovation was the 821 sunglasses. These shades provided something that most eyewear companies wouldn’t dream of providing: mismatched lenses. While that may seem like an impractical design feature to some, the 821s were simply something you couldn’t find in other locations.
As the 80’s came to a close, more rappers and hip-hop artists were rocking their own CAZALs. Other famous styles included the 951s and 955s often worn by Joe Cooley and Rodney-O. Of course, success didn’t just come because of the ultra-stylish designs. In fact, CAZAL eyewear must go through a stringent battery of tests before being sold to the general public.
Clearly, CAZAL sunglasses were and are a behemoth in the sunglass industry. They are up there with Ray-Ban in terms of cultural importance, and they also provide ample protection from the sun and long-lasting durability. If you want to complete your futuristic and ultra-cool wardrobe, then you have to have a pair of CAZALs. From its outset, the eyewear maker has been on the cusp of innovation and some of America’s most prominent stars have taken notice. CAZAL eyewear is still worn by some of the greats today, including Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Kanye West.