Good quality sunglasses that are worth the price?
August 20, 2013 10:05 PM   Subscribe

According to my eye doctor, my $10 Target sunglasses need to go (he saw some very early indications of possible macular degeneration at my eye appointment today) in favor of higher quality sunglasses. He specifically mentioned brands like Oakley, Rayban, and Fendi as having good quality sunglasses. I'm willing to pay to get good quality protective sunglasses, but I want to pay for quality, not a name. What are some good quality sunglasses (either brands or specific pairs) that are worth the money (and not just the name brand)?
posted by McPuppington the Third to Shopping (32 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
You don't need glasses made by those (actually a that: Luxotica) brands. Buy your glasses online. I'm a big fan of Eye Buy Direct.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:07 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

(He was probably just trying to sell you the glasses he has in stock)
posted by oceanjesse at 10:08 PM on August 20, 2013

Does your eye doctor sell those brands per chance? What he's saying is frankly arrant nonsense. In Australia we have minimum standards for sunglasses that can be called sunglasses- and any that adhere to them are branded clearly. This includes target sunnies. I assume you are not in Australia but where ever you are is the same.
posted by smoke at 10:14 PM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]

I live in Southern California and can easily tell the difference between good and bad sunglasses. With bad ones, my eyes get a stinging or burning feeling. I've worn Oakleys and they are good, but I like buying Raybans at Costco because that's the best value I've found.
posted by Dansaman at 10:20 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

As far as I know, all you need to do is check that your sunglasses block UVA and UVB. Around here, that includes $15 sunglasses, but not $2 ones.

I have a minor cataract, which can be caused by UV exposure, and I wear $15 no-name sunglasses. My ophthalmologist didn't say they were a problem.

I would get a second opinion, preferably from an ophthalmologist (MD specialising in eye diseases) if you have access.
posted by jb at 10:23 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

the $15 ones from my local drug store list that they block UVA and UVB on a sticker on lens when you buy them.
posted by jb at 10:24 PM on August 20, 2013

I'm not sure if they still do this or if I'm just grandfathered in at this point but I bought a pair of Native sunglasses 4 or 5 years ago. They came with a lifetime guarantee for everything except glasses that are lost or stolen. The optics are great. I take decent care of them but inevitably they get scratched or sat on or whatever. I send them back and for a small shipping and handling fee they've sent me a brand new pair, every time. If you're going to invest in a pricey pair of sunglasses, I can't recommend Native's any more.
posted by hangingbyathread at 10:28 PM on August 20, 2013

I live in Southern California and can easily tell the difference between good and bad sunglasses.

You're almost certainly noticing the difference between polarized and unpolarized lenses. This can make a big difference in glare reduction and visual clarity, but has nothing to do with UV opacity.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:37 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Raybans are worth every penny. You really need to try them -- you're categorically not just paying for the name, the lenses are something else.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 10:40 PM on August 20, 2013 [8 favorites]

I agree with smoke.

Here in Australia, you can buy sunglasses from the Cancer Council that cost about $15 and are rated Category 3 (with 1 being the lowest and 3 the highest). Many of the high-end-brand sunglasses are not rated that highly.

The lenses might not be as crystal-clear to look through as Ray-Bans, but as far as actual UV protection goes, they every bit effective.

Read up on the relevant standards where you live. In Oz, it is illegal to sell sunglasses without a swing tag that states which Category they're in.

(Not saying this to rag on Ray-Bans, either; you can pry my beautiful polarized Ray-Bans from my cold dead hands, but I know that the extra $300 I paid for them wasn't about protecting my eyes,)
posted by Salamander at 10:50 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

p.s. If you're around water a lot, though, polarization is totally worth it. My non-prescription and prescription sunnies are both polarized; once you try it, you can never go back.
posted by Salamander at 10:52 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

You're almost certainly noticing the difference between polarized and unpolarized lenses. This can make a big difference in glare reduction and visual clarity, but has nothing to do with UV opacity.

Rayban makes polarized and non-polarized versions. Indeed I much prefer the glare reduction and visual clarity of the polarized version and I am totally willing to pay what I recall is $10 more at Costco for the polarized version, but I don't think that's what the stinging/burning of cheap sunglasses is about. I believe it's probably about your eyes getting tricked by the light shading effect of cheap sunglasses into thinking they are protected and thus the pupils expand and that makes the situation worse. The OP's doctor told her not to get cheap sunglasses, and that's because you generally get what you pay for - cheap sunglasses may be labelled as having a certain level of UV protection but in fact may not have it.
posted by Dansaman at 10:55 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

A trusted optometrist told me that by regulation, all sunglasses sold in Canada (even my cheapo $10 pair from Superstore) block UVA and UVB rays. Cheap frames might be less comfortable, less durable, and less stylish, but the lenses in the cheap frames shouldn't be causing you any eye problems.

More about Luxottica and what you're really paying for when you buy their brands.
posted by keep it under cover at 11:32 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Years ago, I put my $15 REI sunglasses in a UV spectrophotometer and recorded absorption across a range of UV wavelengths. I did the same with my coworkers much pricier glasses. The cheap glasses blocked as much, or more, UV than the others. The experiment is really easy to repeat, provided you have a friend who works in a lab with a spectrophotometer. Last I looked, they were pretty standard in chem and bio teaching labs, as well as biochem, cell and molecular biology labs.

Chinese manufacturing has brought a lot of sub-par goods to US stores, but in my experience, many well established name brands seem quite happy destroying their hard-won reputations in pursuit of a quick buck by forgoing reasonable quality control. Needless to say, I have less faith in Rayban and Oakley than Dansaman.
posted by Good Brain at 12:23 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Anything above the quality of "would be handed out at a for free as swag at a convention" in quality is fine(and i wear generic aviators from a stupid booth at pax regularly >_>).

It's true that all the cheap ones block UV rays nowadays for the most part, but there is a real difference in quality between the target ones and some of the slightly more upmarket ones. What you're looking for is eyeglass quality sunglasses.

I lose tons of sunglasses, but i've bought a few nice pairs. I've also gotten a lot of quality pairs and some not-so-quality ones thrifting.

There is a definite, noticeable difference in optical clarity between the cheapies and the nice ones. And it has nothing to do with polarization. I like my raybans, but i've had a pair of practically brandless aviators that were just as good if not even better since they weren't cheapies.

Go try on some nice ones, then go try on some $20-50 ones at REI. I bet you'll be surprised at how little difference there is once you get out of the absolute bargain bin. But the difference between the mid-level ones and the several hundred dollar ones is quite small going right up to nothing. I also find it basically impossible to believe that raybans or oakleys would be using any higher quality materials or possibly even finishwork than some $50 sunglasses from zenni optical(several friends who wear prescription glasses swear by this site, it's like the monoprice of glasses).

Really though, when you buy $300 sunglasses you're mostly paying for a name and some proprietary design in the frames. It's a lot like audio equipment. There's a big difference between a $10 and a $50 pair of glasses if you're shopping at the right places, but the difference between a $50 and a $300 pair is questionable, a lot like the difference between $500 and $2000 speakers, and possibly even smaller than that. And your eyes are like the amplifier/receiver or your audio source is when it comes to determining the quality of speakers. Your ability to tell the difference between the good quality and high end stuff degrades as your visual acuity goes down. If you don't have perfect eyes, you may not even notice the slight difference between the quality ones and the high end.

Go buy some $30-$50 zenni optical shades that list polarization and UV400 on their specs, or go thrift some real raybans(mine were $1.99!! another pair i had was $20, for real ones!) and sleep soundly knowing your eyes aren't getting baked. This isn't something you throw $300 at to solve.

It's also worth noting that i'm someone who is fairly paranoid about this, who wears sunglasses a good portion of the year in seattle when it's even remotely glare-y out. Like a lot of things i use regularly, i've done some fact checking on what and to what extent is worth throwing money at. There's a lot of scammy shit going on when it comes to sunglasses.
posted by emptythought at 1:09 AM on August 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

Carrera (a Safilo brand) has quality sunglasses at the same price level or slightly lower than comparable brands like Ray-Ban.

I bought two pairs of Carrera sunglasses about two years ago, and would buy again.
posted by iviken at 1:45 AM on August 21, 2013

What do sunglasses have to do with macular degeneration? As far as I can see there is nothing to suggest that wearing sunglasses will help slow the progression or prevent it. Sunglasses help with other things like cataracts and comfort but this reads like a guy trying to sell you something.
posted by SyraCarol at 3:18 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd never had a decent pair of sunglasses before, so earlier this summer I sprung for a pair of Randolph Engineering ones. They are exceptionally well made, and the optics are very sharp.
posted by scruss at 5:01 AM on August 21, 2013

Regardless of price, sunglasses are required by law to block 100% of UVA and UVB light, per federal standards. With higher quality sunglasses, you do get some higher quality materials, and anecdotally the lenses seem to hold up better without the coating wearing away, but there are no health reasons for you to buy expensive sunglasses.
posted by deanc at 5:01 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

I love my Smiths Optics sunglasses. They wrap just a touch to block out most of the light and the lenses are about as scratch proof as I have found. They make optical products for sports (think snowboarding goggles and driving visors) and have a wide range of lenses for a variety of uses. (Though I will agree that cheap sunglasses to the job just fine. Also, if this screening showed 'beginning signs' of macular degeneration then you need to see a retinal specialist NOW. Do NOT wait. Don't mess with your eyesight.)
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:09 AM on August 21, 2013 [6 favorites]

Back before I had prescription glasses I'd wind up buying off-the-shelf, non-prescription sunglasses every couple of years. The really cheap ones were more likely to have weird headache-causing distortion in the lenses, so it was usually worth spending, say, $20 versus $5. But beyond that, it sure sounds like your eye doctor is trying to sell you some brands he just happens to carry.
posted by usonian at 6:33 AM on August 21, 2013

Maui Jims! I have these and they are amazing, not just for the sun protection but for the augmentation of color.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 6:45 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'll second Maui Jim. They also have really good customer service. One of the cheaper pairs I bought had plastic temples, and after they broke twice, they replaced them with titanium temples for free.
posted by kaszeta at 7:00 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I also upgraded from $10 polarized Target sunglasses and both my husband and I went with Maui Jims in titanium. I never trusted myself with expensive sunglasses before, but these are totally worth it.

One of the huge improvements over plastic-lensed cheapo sunglasses, even ones with UVA/UVB and polarization, was the absolute lack of visual aberrations. I never really noticed it until I got the good ones, but my previous ones had some skew and warping to them.

Also seconding the color augmentation - I brought mine to Hawai'i and the lens tint kicked the already awesome colors to beyond-words amazing.
posted by bookdragoness at 7:21 AM on August 21, 2013

I love my Smiths Optics sunglasses.

Ditto, in particular, the Smith Optics Parallel. The difference in $10 and $50 glasses is the that frames don't instantly die, the difference between $50 and $150 is that the lenses are optically good, and the frames stay on your head, even if you're active.

I just lost my first pair (grumble) and ordered the replacements that day. I can't recommend them highly enough. They're just that good, and everyone who's tried them on has noted how much better they are than what they're wearing. Even the $300 Oakley/Ray Ban wearers.

They're not cheap, but to me, they're worth every dollar. The one issue is they don't fold flat, because they're wraparound, which means you don't have a lot of light leakage around the frames, but they're buliker to carry. This is true of anything that wraps around more, and gets worse the more they do.

If for some reason you don't want these, I'd go to REI and look at the 5 star rated ones. For example, there's the Suncloud Zephyr, which has high marks and costs $50. These aren't quite as wraparound as the Smith Optics ones (an 8 instead of a 9) but are $70 cheaper.

And, of course, you can go there and try them on.

Also, if this screening showed 'beginning signs of macular degeneration then you need to see a retinal specialist NOW. Do NOT wait. Don't mess with your eyesight

THIS TIME 100!!! And if your optician can't recommend one, ask the mods for an emergency AskMe, get to Yelp, etc.
posted by eriko at 8:32 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't neglect the opinions of a good optician. I've found having a good optician (disclaimer: which I finally found through a friend's father's shop) is at least as important as having a good eye doctor. Up until recently I'd been following the normal procedure of

Go to eye doctor -> get script -> pay for exam -> walk 3 feet to their display case of glasses frames -> purchase frames from counter-worker -> pay for frames -> fin

Now I just get my script from the eye doctor and pass it on to the optician that I trust and knows about my needs/preferences/style. For example, and maybe TMI here, I have an oily face so I use the hook style temples that hold the glasses in place which helps align my prisms as well, larger lenses are also preferred (but, as my optician said, not too large or my script will make them crazy thick/heavy), and all the ohter bells and whistles for my use case, not to mention proper fitting and maintenance.

If you get a good optician they can basically put any lens into any frame, prescription or not, and also sell you quality over name brands or woo (of which there is plenty), because I'm the same way in that I could care less about names or rebranded whatever just give me quality. I'm lucky that I've finally found one that can help me jump through the hoops I need to.

Sorry if this sounds like an advertisement, but to be perfectly honest/blunt it kinda is, memail me if you'd like to know who I use.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:55 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am happy with my REI shades. I used to wear Ray-Bans, but these are tougher, cover the sides of my eyes better, and I am less worried about them (so I actually wear them more often!). Check it out:
posted by wenestvedt at 10:03 AM on August 21, 2013

i have the zeal maestro and they are well worth the price. Outside magazine gear of the year award. Great quality and great warranty.
posted by radsqd at 10:20 AM on August 21, 2013

By the way Rayban/Revo/Oakley and thousand other brands all get sunglasses from the same conglomerate called Luxxotica. Better to go with smaller companies like Zeal Optics.
posted by radsqd at 10:30 AM on August 21, 2013

One of the reasons I went with Maui Jim's is because they offer UV-C protection, which my eye doc said I need.
posted by trinity8-director at 11:29 AM on August 21, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks all! You confirmed some of my suspicions (that he was trying to sell me on the particular brands they carry) but you also gave me some good places to look for good sunglasses.


And thank you for the concern about my eyes--I actually get a dilated eye exam at least once a year for other reasons (which was part of my surprise with his comments since I had one done in May and there were no issues with that). I'm going back to the optician to pick up my contacts and will ask for more information then. Based on that I may call my ophthalmologist and get another one done asap based on what he tells me at my follow-up appointment. But I definitely agree that you don't want to mess around with your eyes!
posted by McPuppington the Third at 11:54 AM on August 21, 2013

Um this thread on reddit bestof was good.

"Honestly, I think it's worthwhile to save up and go for Persol if you can. I believe some people here have found reputable eBay sellers that have them for $120-$150. Everything about Persol will be better. I like Oliver Peoples, too, which Luxottica technically owns but hadn't been terribly involved with (Oakley bought OP, Lux bought Oakley, Oakley runs OP) but Persol is absolutely a better product. Persol was perfectly positioned for the RayBan overflow. Around 2010 or 2011 RayBan really hit critical mass in NYC, where every single person on a sunny day in Manhattan had a pair. Persol became the exclusive, then. If you lived in Manhattan, you wanted to be seen in RayBans, but if you wanted to seem just a bit cooler, and more important, you had Persols. It's douchey, sure, but walk down to Wall Street and look at anyone under 35 - they're in Persols. "
posted by Vroom_Vroom_Vroom at 1:19 PM on August 22, 2013

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