When Steve McQueen strolled onto the set of The Thomas Crown Affair in 1968 wearing the PO714 sunglasses from Persol, he propelled himself, and the Persol brand into legend. Almost 50 years later, the Persol name, arrow and shape are still loved men who want to protect their eyes in style.
But, when you think of sunglasses, you probably think of Tom Cruise. He danced with the bold, plastic Wayfarers in Risky Business and the flew his own way with Aviators in Top Gun. With these two roles, Tom Cruise brought Ray-ban back on the map, and set sunwear style for decades.
If you want to easy answer, follow Tom’s advice and opt for a Wayfarer or Pilot shape; they fit most faces well, and will stay classic for years.
Know Your Shape
The shape of your glasses should complement the shape of your face. And, like the girl you’ll end up marrying, it’ll probably be the opposite in a variety of ways.
If you have a square face, you will want to smooth off the sharpness. Choose a round or oval frame. The pilot style frames by Randolph engineering aren’t quite round, but their smooth enough to counter your corners, and I love the engineering history of the company; their polarized aviators are standard issue for the U.S. Military.
If you have an oval face, you’re quite lucky. Pretty much any style will work for you. So pick the one you like best, and own it. If you have a longer face, like I do, you may not be able to wear smaller glasses. In this case, opt for larger pilot styles for full coverage. Toms made their name in shoes, but is carrying their One for One policy into the sunwear and eyeglasses. Pick these and you can look good while supporting sight for others.
With a round face, you’re in danger of looking heavy, even if you’re not. To counter this, look for a frame that will add length, and prefer a metal frame; a dark plastic or acetate frame will add extra weight. Do you remember those standard issue Aviators that I was talking about? These are the ones. Drive like a pilot.
You already have a lot of definition. Keep the frame round, or try a geometric style to add weight to the lower half.
Like the Heart, you have also have a lot of definition. You can also try a round or oval shape, or opt for a geometric style with more weight on top.
What Are You Made Of?
Injection Molded Plastic. If you want cheap, this is what you get. It’s easy to manufacture by manipulating petroleum into a variety of shapes and styles and it’s widely available…Well, as long as oil holds out.
Acetate. Good “plastic” sunglass manufacturers use acetate for their chunky frames. This plastic is made from refining plant and vegetable cellulose fibers like cotton. These renewable materials are also hypoallergenic and very flexible. They are susceptible to extreme heat, however, so care should be made to use a case when storing them.
Titanium. Flexible and lightweight, titanium has been used heavily in military aircraft, and it shows. Under force, titanium will bend, but not break and then it will snap back into position. It’s not perfect, but it may save your glasses from an unfortunate sitting accident. Also, as lightweight as they are, they are a pleasure to wear; they almost disappear on your face after a few moments. The downside is that titanium will never get a nice shine on it, and it’s susceptible to scratching.
Stainless Steel. It’s steel, that doesn’t stain or rust…well, at least not without a lot of effort. Sunglasses made with stainless steel will be strong and hold their shape, but they’ll be heavier on your ears and nose, and more noticeable while you’re wearing them.
Lenses: Polarized or No?
Polarized lenses really shine when dealing with highly reflective surfaces; they are ideal for driving or fishing and will drastically reduce your eye strain. They work by blocking the waves of light in a specific direction, in this case, both eyes are aligned vertically. 3D glasses use this same effect to show one picture to your left eye and a different picture to your right by by positioning the filters 90 degrees off from each other (e.g. Left is vertical, right is horizontal).
I love polarized lenses, but they’re not perfect.
When looking at screens, like your iPhone, polarized lenses will block out some of the screen’s light creating a rainbow effect. This makes them less than ideal for any activity that it going to require viewing screens regularly.
So the question of “to polarize or not to polarize” is easily answered with another question. What do you spend the most time doing? If your answer is driving (like me) or fishing (like a good friend of mine), opt for Polarized. Otherwise, get some lenses with 100% protection against Ultraviolet light (UVA and UVB) and call it a day.
Opt for mirrored lenses as an alternative if you need stronger light protection, but want to avoid the screen color distortion that plagues polarized lenses.
Yellow/Orange lenses increase depth perception and visibility making them, plus they let a lot of light in comparatively, so they are ideal for overcast days. Use for hunting or snow sports.
Brown/Amber lenses cause some light spectrum distortion but also increase contrast in objects. These are great for sports in brighter conditions than yellow/orange can cope with.
Blue lenses increase contrast on green surfaces making them ideal for golfing, tennis, mountain biking or other field sports.
Green/Grey/Smoke lenses maintain a relatively neutral color spectrum while reducing overall light intake. These are your best option for all-purpose lenses or ones that require more color awareness, like driving (think stoplights).
So now you have your checklist:
- Find You Face Shape
- Choose Your Material
- Know Your Situation
Protect your eyes and enjoy the ride this summer, Maverick.
- Buy one and they’ll give one away to someone who needs it ↩