The History of Oakley Romeo
Oakley’s X Metal Collection
When Oakley released its first model in the X Metal Collection in 1997, it was big news. The Oakley Romeo, originally called the “Oscar,” was unveiled at Oakley’s still under construction headquarters in Foothill Ranch, California in December of 1996. Five Olympic medalists, two NBA players, two major league baseball players, surf and snowboard champions, and a leading beach volleyball player were all in attendance to promote the $250 sunglasses.
It was the world’s first 3-D sculptured, hypoallergenic, all-metal frame.
Wrapped in layers of secrets, the making of X Metal included an unidentified bunker in Nevada. The Oakley Romeo took 3 weeks, over 27 different machines, 425,000 watts of electricity at 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit, and passed through 75 pairs of hands to manufacture.
Touted by Oakley as an “evolutionary application of a new metallurgical process and a breakthrough in structural physics,” the strength-to-weight ratio was unheard of at the time of its creation and is considered to be virtually indestructible. As a testimony to its durability, Oakley purportedly drove over a pair with a tank.
Originally slated to be released in November of 1996, the Romeo did not make its commercial debut until February of 1997. This date was likely only reached because Jim Jannard, the CEO of Oakley, promised he’d forsake his $1 million bonus if they weren’t out by the second month of the year. On the last day of February, Oakley shipped 1 pair each to select stores.
Like many first of its kind, the Romeo had its flaws. Principally, the frame created stress points on the lenses, causing them to fracture and splinter. The frame was also criticized for being too large for the average head and too heavy for prolonged wear.
Despite those flaws, the Romeos, along with the Fives, accounted for a quarter of the company’s sales in the first quarter of 1998. Its futuristic style also drew the attention of Hollywood. In perhaps their most famous appearance, a pair worn by Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 2 detonates shortly after displaying a message. Romeos also feature in Blade II, Spiderman, and the second Boondock Saints.
Each pair of Romeos are unique in that they have their own serial number. Any pair is highly collectible in its own right, but if complete with a low serial number, original box, and coin, it can fetch a pretty penny. If you happen to stumble on a pair with original lenses intact but still want to wear the sunglasses, collectors recommend that you shelve the lenses with the XMetal etching so as to avoid the splintering and go with some replacement lenses instead.
After a 7 year-run, the Romeos were axed in 2004 and succeeded by the Romeo 2s.
But even if they're no longer being produced, they'll always be the first. The first in the X Metal collection. The first frame of its kind. And the first in many an Oakley collector's hearts.
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