A history of Mark Cavendish in Oakley sunglasses - the Manxman's most iconic looks
A relationship that has stood the test of time – and tricky contract negotiations
On his first training camp with Astana Qazaqstan, Mark Cavendish was seen squinting from the glare of the Spanish sun. He was glasses-less. Alarm bells started ringing. Could we have a year of Cavendish without the signature Oakley ‘O’ on the side of his face as he weaves through bunch sprints and gives his moody interviews afterwards? The Manxman has worn Oakley’s for his entire career – spanning close to two decades – and has become the brand’s biggest representative in the cycling sphere. Could it really be that Oakley’s poster boy would go a season wearing a different sunglasses brand?
Of course not. Judging from pictures of Cavendish at his first race of the season in Oman, it seems that whoever helps him navigate through those complicated sponsor agreements when he signs a new contract managed to convince Astana Qazaqstan that the 34-time Tour de France stage winner needed to remain in Oakleys for 2023. The rest of the Astana team are still wearing Scicon glasses, but Cavendish will be unmissable in those bright gold Oakley Kato sunglasses.
Oakley has been beside Cavendish through every step of his rollercoaster career. From his first Tour stage wins way back in 2008, to his World Championship title in 2011, to his well-documented, fairytale comeback in with Deceuninck-Quick Step 2021, those little ‘O’ logos have been on either side of Cavendish like two guardian angels. The 37-year-old has become so acquainted with the brand, he’s even helped them to design models of glasses that have steadily become some of the most popular in the Oakley range: first the Jawbreaker and, most recently, the Kato. Cavendish has also been given the freedom to go wild on his own, signature paint jobs numerous times to create limited-edition drops – many of them inspired by his green jersey wins at the Tour de France. He is regularly seen making appearances at events that are fronted by the American brand.
So, after a couple of weeks of being worried that this season could mark the end of the Oakley-Cavendish love affair, the confirmation that Cav will, in fact, stay with the glasses brand for 2023 gave us the inspiration to take a fond trip down memory lane. Here are some of Mark Cavendish’s most iconic Oakley looks, some perhaps a little bit more palatable than others…
2005 - Oakley M Frames
A fresh-faced, 19-year-old Mark Cavendish is pictured here wearing the Oakley M Frames at the Under-23 World Championship road race in Madrid in 2005. First introduced in 1989 as the “Mumbo,” the M Frame used to be a staple in the Oakley line-up. Cav looks to be wearing the version of the M frames that were released in 1999 with rounded ear socks and a shaved down wing design – a far cry from the oversized frames that dominate today’s market. It’s unlikely Oakley actually sponsored Cavendish at this very early stage of his career, and neither parties would have known the fruitful partnership that would emerge between the two brands as Cavendish progressed.
2006 - Oakley Zero S
This photo was taken during Mark Cavendish’s stagiaire period with the T-Mobile team. He joined the outfit in August 2006, signing his first professional contract after he impressed with his results while riding for a Continental team the year before. Cavendish came close to taking a stage win in the 2006 Tour of Britain where he wore these Oakley Zero sunglasses, but eventually finished on the podium three times throughout the race, just missing the top spot.
2007-2008 Oakley Radar
Oakley first introduced the Radars in 2006 with similar style characteristics as the M Frames. The Radars have a hammer stem profile, a brow that dips slightly in the centre, and a single shield lens. Cavendish could be seen wearing Radar frames for almost two seasons, the first in 2007 when he was with T-Mobile, and the second with the American squad, Team Colombia. It was when he was part of Team Colombia that Cavendish secured his first Tour de France stage victories, winning four stages of the 2008 Tour. It’s fair to say that the Oakley Radars will likely always hold a special place in his heart.
2009-2011 - Oakley Jawbone
Oakley released its Jawbone Sunglasses in 2009 as their flagship sports frame and many argue that this pair laid the groundwork for Oakley sunglasses today. The Jawbone offers wearers the ability to quickly swap lenses by releasing the lower jaw, which gives complete access to the lens, a clever and innovative feature, The full framed white and gold colorway that Cavendish is sporting here in the 2009 Tour de France are an acquired taste, although they seemed to work well for Cav himself; he won three stages of the Tour this year. He stuck to Jawbones in 2010 and 2011 too in various different colourways, including a green version while he was wearing the points jersey in the 2011 Tour de France. Cavendish took 15 Tour de France stage victories in those years he raced in Jawbones – it’s fair to say they are a winning pair of sunnies.
2012 - Oakley Radarlock
In 2012, Oakley released the Radarlock which has the same look as the Radar (a similar size and lens shapes), but the main difference was the addition of Oakley’s patented 'Switchlock' technology. The left temple features a locking mechanism which switches open when unlocked, allowing for an easier lens removal/installation process. Cavendish wore these glasses in a year which was historic for British sport; the London 2012 Olympics caused a boom in cycling in the UK, while Bradley Wiggins wearing the yellow jersey leading out Cavendish to a stage victory in the 2012 Tour de France is an image that has become legendary in cycling.
2013 - Oakley Radarlock Path - Signature Collection
In 2013, Oakley’s relationship with Cavendish reached new heights with the brand launching Mark Cavendish Radarlock signature glasses finished in a special colour to pay homage to the green Tour de France sprinter's jersey (Cav's season goal that year). They were finished in ‘Cavendish Green’ a black colour with flecks of green paint and the Manxman’s signature was laser etched on the left hand side of the Jade Iridium lens. In the end, Cavendish finished in second place behind Peter Sagan in that year’s Tour de France green jersey competition, though he did still take two stage wins. He may not have achieved his goal that season, but these are some nice looking sunglasses.
2014 - The first sign of the Oakley Jawbreaker
When it comes to the Tour de France, 2014 might have been a year to forget for Cavendish, but when it comes to Oakley sunglasses, it was one of the most exciting so far. Cav crashed out of the Tour in the mass pile-up that took place on stage two of the race in Sheffield, putting an end to any hopes of stage victories that year. However, during his short-lived appearance, he was spotted wearing some unreleased Oakley sunglasses. These featured industrial styling on the arms and a new size ‘O’ logo. Cav was wearing a stealthy all black pair, presumably trying not to draw too much attention to the prototype frames
2015-2020 The Oakley Jawbreaker (officially)
The Oakley Jawbreakers were finally officially released to the public in 2015, said to be the result of “more than 100 design iterations, 9,600 hours of lab and field testing, 27 eyewear components” and two years of development with Cavendish himself. They featured a frame which fully encloses the impact resistant single lens, protecting it and providing structure, an increased field of view and new lens technology. With the Jawbreakers also came the introduction of Oakley's Prizm lens technology. You could say that Jawbreakers were the beginning of the return of big frame classes into cycling fashion.
Cavendish wore the Jawbreakers for five years of his career, during which he rode for three different teams. Tour de France stage wins in 2015 and 2016 were the highlights of the British rider’s career during this period, as he was struck with Epstein-Barr virus for the following years, struggling to return to his previous form or get any notable results. A tumultuous season with Bahrain-Merida closed the chapter on Cavendish’s time in Oakley Jawbreakers, which could be described as a rollercoaster five years.
2021-2023 - Oakley Kato
Oakley officially launched its Kato sunglasses in 2021 which were claimed to be the result of decades of product research and development. They feature a uniquely shaped lens which follows the contours of the face much more than traditional sunglasses, including a bridge which is moulded around the profile of a rider's nose. Mark Cavendish wore them during his return to winning ways at the Tour of Turkey in 2021 where he took his first victory in over two years. That win was the start of an incredible season for Cav, who took four Tour de France stage wins with his Deceuninck-Quick Step team after many had written him off as a rider who could ever contend for Tour victories again. Oakley couldn’t have asked for a better billboard for their new shades.
That brings us to 2023, where Cavendish seems to be remaining in Oakley Kato sunglasses for now. He will wear them in his first season with Astana-Qazaqstan where he aims to get a 35th Tour de France stage win to better the joint record he holds with Eddy Merckx. Only time will tell if Oakley and Cavendish have any other collaborations or models coming out in the foreseeable future – Cavendish is likely to just be relieved he’s able to continue wearing the brand of sunglasses which he has such a rich and meaningful history with. Oakley and Cav, simply a match made in heaven.