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Tom Cruise Wears Ray-Bans in 'Top Gun.' But These Are the Shades That Real Navy Pilots Prefer

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17.07.2019

Editor's note: This tour of small businesses across the country highlights the imagination, diversity, and resilience of American enterprise.

Damian Lewis rocks them in Billions. Liev Schreiber sports a pair in Ray Donovan. Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell use them to get their swagger on in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Tom Cruise also amps up his cool quotient with Randolph Engineering aviator sunglasses in the movies American Made and Oblivion. And in Top Gun...?

"Unfortunately, Ray-Ban is the one that had those," says Peter Waszkiewicz, president and CEO of the second-generation family business. "But we have been in more movies than I can begin to tell you. Now everybody in Hollywood knows Randolph."

Cruise is also a Randolph Engineering fan in private life. But more important to the company's story have been real-life versions of his Top Gun Navy pilot character--as well as Air Force and Army pilots--who for decades have worn frames engineered by Randolph for performance in extreme conditions. The only manufacturer of metal eyewear still operating in the United States, the company is based in a brick factory in Randolph, Massachusetts, a former shoemaking powerhouse about 12 miles south of Boston. There, just over 100 employees produce more than half a million pairs of sunglasses a year--generating between $15 million and $20 million in annual revenue from both military and private customers.

Randolph used to be 100 percent a government contractor. The company has designed glasses that fit behind a pilot's face shield and can be removed without taking off a helmet. It has also created frames for use with night vision goggles and inside gas masks, as well as ones that fit lenses resistant to laser attacks. And in 2000, Randolph landed a contract to provide all five branches of the military, as well as NASA, with sunglass frames for everyday wear.

Now, however, the business leans commercial. Sixty percent of revenue comes from consumers buying sunglasses virtually identical in appearance to the military versions, although not constructed to exactly the same specs. "It is our staple........

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