Oakley began from very humble origins in 1975. Working out of his garage, founder Jim Jannard had an initial investment of just $300 to produce what he called ‘The Oakley Grip’, which he sold out of his car at motocross events. The grip was made out of a substance Jannard had patented called ‘Unobtanium’ (not the stuff they mine in Avatar) which made it unique and advanced for the time. Oakley still use Unobtanium on the nose grips and earsocks of their sunglasses. The name Oakley, incidentally, comes from Jannard’s pet dog.
In its history the company has produced number plates, knee and elbow protection, gloves, chin guards and plenty of other stuff for BMX and motocross riders, but it is for eye wear that they are best known today. This is thanks in part to the their Eyeshades and early endorsements by athletes such as Tour-winner Greg LeMond and triathletes Scott Tinley and Mark Allen.
Jim Jannard is still very much in charge at Oakley and the company continues to embody his ‘mad scientist’ approach to business. They currently hold over 600 patents and test extensively with top athletes to incorporate these advances into real competition conditions. While their eye wear remains iconic and ubiquitous everywhere from a military barracks to surf shack, the company do produce a huge range of other apparel and accessories. Their technical and performance backpacks are of particular interest to endurance cyclists.