As a parting gift after their first presidential summit, President Biden handed Russian President Vladimir Putin a pair of custom aviator sunglasses that were made in Massachusetts.
The shades were manufactured at Randolph Engineering, a 48-year-old company that has been supplying aviators for fighter pilots in the US military since 1978. The White House announced the gift exchange at the end of the summit in Geneva on Wednesday.
“The reaction is pure joy,” said Sarah Fawle, vice president of marketing and e-commerce at Randolph, in an interview. “We are excited and honored to see our sunglasses gifted on a world stage ... to represent our country in an incredible moment. These gifts are symbolic and chosen carefully.”
She said Biden gifted Putin a pair of Concorde Aviators, named after the supersonic plane, in 23-karat gold with his signature engraved on the lens and inside the frame. Fawle said that any consumer could buy a matching pair of frames online, which cost $300, but added that they wouldn’t come with a stamp from the president.
Randolph works with a third-party firm that sources gifts for special guests of the White House, but Fawle said the company has no advance knowledge of the recipients or the timing of exchanges. She knew Biden was a fan of aviators, adding that his preferred look “is very much akin to our style of sunglasses.”
Randolph Engineering was founded in 1973 by former Royal Air Force navigator Jan Waszkiewicz and machinist Stanley Zaleski, both Polish immigrants. Today, the business is run by second-generation family member Peter Waszkiewicz and employs about 75 workers.
Two-thirds of the staff works on an assembly line in a factory at 26 Thomas Patten Dr. in Randolph, making the frames by hand in a 200-step process. Fawle said that on average it takes six weeks to make one pair.
Beyond supplying aviator sunglasses to actual aviators, Fawle said the company’s e-commerce business is its fastest-growing segment, selling in more than 20 countries. And according to the company’s informal tracker, Randolph-made sunglasses have been spotted on dozens of celebrities, including Tom Cruise, Ellen DeGeneres, Kendall Jenner, and John Krasinski, either casually or in movies. Fawle said Randolph does not pay for product placements.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.