What makes sunglasses good for you?
July 29, 2004 5:32 PM   Subscribe

What criteria are most important to you when shopping for sunglasses? Consider both a limited (under $50) budget and a limitless one. On what do you base your choice?
posted by scarabic to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I get whatever's cheapest and not stupid looking. I don't reckon I'd pay more than $5 for a pair of sunglasses that didn't have some 90s cartoon character on it.
posted by mcsweetie at 6:43 PM on July 29, 2004

oakleys makes some good sunglasses.
posted by Keyser Soze at 6:50 PM on July 29, 2004

Well, for limitless, I'd recommend going for what most pilots go for--Serengetis and Maui Jims. Both companies go on and on, blah blah blah about having 86 different coatings, etc., but when it comes down to it, they do a pretty amazing job of cutting down the bright light and glare, but still letting in an impressive amount of visual light and detail. (I'm sure there are other brands that do a good job, too--you should just try them.)

There are really two different types of expensive sunglasses--the kinds like most Vuarnets, that really cut way down on the amount of light that gets in, and the kind that actually let in a deceptive amount of "visible" light. The "dark" kind are usually better for skiing, etc., where there's a ton of glare, but after wearing the same pair of Vuarnets for 15 years, I'm now totally into the Maui Jims I splurged on a little while ago. When you're wearing a really good pair of sunglasses like that, you can find yourself still wearing them at dusk/sunset without realizing it, because in low light, there's almost no difference with them on or off.

That being said, glasses like that are a real indulgence--you can find a lot of more reasonably priced glasses out there, especially if you look between $50-$100.

(One small warning...I don't think it really applies any more, but cheap sunglasses used to present a real increased risk to your eyes. By cutting down the visible light without filtering the UV well, they would effectively trick your pupils into opening wider, and letting in more UV rays. I'm pretty sure that with improved techniques and regulations, even the cheapest sunglasses are now safe, but if your eyes ever feel like they're straining in a cheap pair, toss the glasses immediately.)

Basically, it's really a matter of taste. Try a lot of different kinds, decide what matters to you in terms of how they affect the light, and buy the best you can afford.
posted by LairBob at 7:07 PM on July 29, 2004

My criteria tends to be:
1) UV coating that stays on
2) appropriate for my activity level
3) strong frame where they won't bend when I hook an arm in my front jeans pocket
4) sturdy lenses
5) nosepads that don't jiggle or leave marks
6) don't look dumb
7) comfortable enough to wear all day

I had bought cheapies that fit the bill for years, but lately, inexpensive sunglasses seem to have gotten crappier and crappier. I just bought a pair of Oakley "square wire 2.0"s and I love them. They meet all my criteria and they are wraps, so my peripheral vision is somewhat protected.

Polarized lenses are what really drive up the price in sunglasses. They are meant to reduce glare, but the rainbow/spotting effect I can then see on car and other windows drives me crazy.

I pay over $100 for my normal glasses' frames; I have no problems spending that or more for sunglasses, since I live in Florida, where sunglasses are year-round accessories.

I'd say it's really important to buy a pair in person to test the look and fit. If you tend to wear a hat with sunglasses, bring the hat - some frames have long/thick arms that can get in the way.
posted by Sangre Azul at 7:21 PM on July 29, 2004

Definitely make sure you wear polarized lenses around before you buy them--I really like the reduced glare, but you definitely see weird spots in car windows, and more importantly, it can be hard to read LCDs, since they operate on polarized light. (For example, when I'm wearing my shades, I have to hold my head just right to read the LCD clock on my car's dashboard. On the other hand, I have _zero_ eye-strain when I'm in bright sunlight, all day long, so for me, it's worth it.)
posted by LairBob at 7:29 PM on July 29, 2004

For me, I need two things: 1) good lenses that aren't too dark. There is nothing more annoying then lenses that block bright light simply because they are tinted dark. I like being able to see what I'm doing with my sunglasses on. The lighter, the better. 2) Good, sturdy frame and scratch-resistant frames. I tend to treat my glasses like shit, but I've me and my pair of Sergio Techati's have been through hell and back and they frame and lenses still rock. If I went the cheapo route, I guarentee I would have spent well over $60 in replacement glasses sinse I bought my last pair.
Also, one bit of advice when the frames get out of alignment: Go to your local Lens Crafters (or where ever) and ask them to readjust them. They always have done for me for free and saves a lot of headaches.
posted by jmd82 at 7:32 PM on July 29, 2004

Four words:



fifteen bucks.
posted by internal at 7:55 PM on July 29, 2004

Expensive sunglasses are at least as much more pleasant than the $5 variety as pro-grade camera lenses are than the cheap and zoomy variety.

Try to find one of those sunglasses stores in an outdoors mall (like southern california's Fashion Island, or washington's Redmond Town Center) and try the nice ones on outside. If you can appreciate the quality the extra $ buys you, then go for them. If not, avoid them.
posted by Kwantsar at 8:22 PM on July 29, 2004

oakleys makes some good sunglasses.

Ah, you're a product of the marketing culture, I see.
My criteria:
  • glass lense
  • optically flat
  • medium to dark tint
  • good colour rendition
  • glass-filled frames solidly constructed
  • fit my face to eliminate light leakage.

    I used to buy the cheapest sunglasses I could find, figuring I'd just lose them in a week anyway. Then I splurged on some good Raybans. I've had them for many years, much to my surprise: I think the quality has made them important to me. I won't go back to crap.

  • posted by five fresh fish at 9:58 PM on July 29, 2004

    Oakleys are good products- just because it's marketed doesn't mean it sucks. Lifetime warranty, and they do honor it. Can't go wrong with that.
    posted by jmd82 at 10:59 PM on July 29, 2004

    Three things: Polarization, polarization, polarization.

    Everything else is just a dimness filter.
    posted by majick at 12:40 AM on July 30, 2004

    I pick them by activity. For skiing or anything on the water polarization is very, very helpful, although the LCD thing is maddening -- as is the window thing. In that category I'm on my third pair of Bollé Zumas. They're durable and lightweight, and not-jaw-droppingly expensive. They're comfortable even without those little nose grabbers, which generally don't work well when I'm perspiring (I recently lost a pair of Serengetis that had the only little nose grabbers that ever really held on). And the Zumas really cover my peripheral vision: nothing about sunglasses bothers me more than glare around the periphery.
    posted by coelecanth at 8:58 AM on July 30, 2004

    Polarization is wicked cool. It lets you see the adhesive they use to attach the tinting to car windows.
    posted by kindall at 9:08 AM on July 30, 2004

    Polarization is only really important is your going to be on or near a very reflective or wet surface for a long time e.g. fishing, skiing.

    Personally I'd very highly recommend Oakley sun specs, The lens is made from very pure polycarbonate which inherently block 100% UV light, even the clear Oakley lenses do this.

    It is worth looking for something with a hard coated lens, this will drastically increase the life of the lenses.
    posted by john_son at 9:42 AM on July 30, 2004

    They have to look good on my face and can't cost too much. I break or lose sunglasses too often to be willing to pay more than about $20 for them.

    This is sort of a baffling question; what other criteria ARE there?
    posted by Mars Saxman at 1:41 PM on July 30, 2004

    I buy all of my sunglasses at NYC street fairs. If they're more than 5$ then I have to really like them.
    posted by bshort at 1:47 PM on July 30, 2004

    Notice: the less you pay for your sunglasses, the less they walk off.
    posted by thomcatspike at 2:48 PM on July 30, 2004

    1) Polarization

    2) Not too shitty, not too Wall Street

    3) Small enough to fit on my narrow face as not to look like Milton Berle

    4) Polarization

    5) Confidence that in one year, I won't look at the style of the glasses and say, "What the hell was I thinking?". Longevity of style is important. Case in point: Bono is terminally stuck in 1995.
    posted by dhoyt at 3:01 PM on July 30, 2004

    BTW, I know I responded earlier with the wisecrack about polarization, but I have to add: the idea that $50 is not an essentially unlimited budget for sunglasses is fairly boggling to me. Your two budgets should, in a sane world, be equivalent. I recently bought the most expensive sunglasses I've ever owned for about $23. Aside from prescription lenses or perhaps ones that change from light to dark, I can't imagine what $50-plus sunglasses would even be like.
    posted by kindall at 3:09 PM on July 30, 2004

    I had the same opinion on sunglasses.

    Then I purchased a pair of MEC Glacial for backpacking, because when you're hiking on snow you really need full protection from the glare. Side shields, variable tint, tight fit, the whole nine yards.

    It was a revelation. I could wear those glasses all day for weeks at a time without any eye strain at all. My eyes were as comfortable at the end of the day as at the start.

    Now, granted, this was about fifteen years ago, and perhaps optically-correct, ground glass lenses are cheap like borsht now.

    Nonetheless, my current sunglasses are a C$90ish pair of Raybans from MEC. Ground glass, solid grey tint, glass-filled frame, tight fit, and I wear them pretty much every day without any problems ever. They've lasted through several years of fairly extreme abuse and keep on doing fine.

    I know I will never go back to cheap sunglasses. It's just not worth it.
    posted by five fresh fish at 4:43 PM on July 30, 2004

    (I should mention I also have several pairs of C$10 MEC bug-eyed sunglasses that I figured would make good disposable motorcycling sunglasses. Wider field of view, an even better no-light-leakage fit.

    I wear my Raybans, even though they're at significant risk of damage when I put them on and off while wearing my helmet. The cheap glasses just aren't as pleasant.)
    posted by five fresh fish at 4:45 PM on July 30, 2004

    I'm pretty sure those of you advocating for cheap bargain-basement sunglasses over polarization are folks who don't otherwise wear glasses. Those of us who are glassfaces tend to avoid the cheap stuff for the obvious reason: it offers no vision correction!

    Or to put it another way: If you're already going to have $120 lenses in front of your face, you might as well have them made from polarized glass and put into a stylish frame.

    Also, while the LCD thing can be annoying with polarized lenses -- to use my laptop with shades on, I have to tilt my head 45 degrees to the right -- they more than make up for it in every other respect. You don't need to be skiing, lounging on the beach, or sailing to see the benefit. Minor glare is everywhere, and polarized lenses cut down on it. If you are either driving or in any non-rural environment at all, you want polarized lenses.
    posted by majick at 5:12 PM on July 30, 2004

    Response by poster: I wish they would say polarization "cuts glare from horizontal surfaces" instead of just "cuts glare." I scratched my head over that for a long time. I'll be scratching my head for a long time to come trying to figure out why you'd ever need to operate a laptop and wear shades at the same time, though!

    Thanks for the spiffin' responses, all! Innit good to live somewhere sunny? 8)
    posted by scarabic at 7:36 PM on July 30, 2004

    Ahh...scarabic. If you've never lived in a place where you'd use a laptop and need shades at the same time, then you need to. It's something that everyone should do at some point in their lives.
    posted by LairBob at 7:50 PM on July 30, 2004

    Er, just thinking aloud here, but say I were to get some round, polarized sunglasses and rotate the lenses so they were compatible with my laptop LCD.

    Would that make it usable in bright sunlight? 'cause as-is, it's damn near impossible to use it in any sort of bright-light situation.
    posted by five fresh fish at 9:39 PM on July 30, 2004

    I used to buy the nice stuff, but I got tired of worrying about them getting damaged or something, so I gave up and started buying cheapies. My current favs are my $12 epsn aviators from safeway.

    I still have one pair of ray bans that I wear for outdoors activities that require better clarity/pimp factor.
    posted by Hackworth at 11:40 PM on July 30, 2004

    fff, the polarization on the lenses has to be at the orientation it is, because that's how it filters glare that bounces off horizontal surfaces--light that reflects off water, etc., is predominantly polarized horizontally (as I believe), so if you rotated the lenses, you'd lose the real point of using polarized lenses at all.
    posted by LairBob at 10:54 AM on July 31, 2004

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