Ah, the aviators; perhaps the most famous of men’s sunglasses, they were originally developed by Bausch & Lomb in 1936 to protect pilots’ eyes while flying. The original design and Ray-Ban brand was acquired from B&L by Italian eyewear company Luxottica in 1999. Iconized in popular culture through films such as Top Gun, The Big Lebowski, and Terminator, the aviators are a simple, modern classic. There are three variations: classic, teardrop, and square. Personally, I think square looks the best. My brand preference for aviators is Ray-Ban, but Randolph Engineering is a close second. Check out Knockaround Mile Highs for a polarized, budget alternative. Those seeking something a bit different can look at the offerings of Persol, which have a similar lens shape to aviators with an alternative frame. Kent Wangoffers a polarized variant for $55 for those seeking a cheaper alternative without sacrificing quality.
Left to right: Tom Ford Leo, Ray-Ban New Wayfarer in Tortoise, William Painter Hook
Wayfarer (n.): a person who travels on foot. Often cited as the design of sunglasses in history, the Ray-Ban Wayfarers made their debut in 1956. Utilizing the radically-new idea of plastic frames as opposed to metal, the Wayfarers were an instant hit in the 50’s and 60’s. Sales dropped in later years til strategic product placement in 1980’s The Blues Brothers sparked a resurgence in popularity. More recently, many brands offer contenders in the classic Wayfarer design, though Ray-Ban was the original. This is my personal favorite among sunglass styles. Ray-Ban offers their line in a multitude of variations including an array of colors, foldable models, and the ability to customize a pair (at a premium). Ray-Ban offers two main models: the Classic and the New Wayfarer. Though stylistically similar, the new model has thinner dimensions for a more modern look. I’m partial towards originals, so I swear by Ray-Ban for Wayfarer models, but other quality contenders include Warby Parker Paleys, Oakley Frogskins, and Yves Saint Laurent SL 35/S. If you’re looking for a pair that’s a bit less vanilla, these William Painters are constructed of titanium, polarized, and have bottle openers built into the arms. Another viable option is the Tortoiseshell Keyholesunglass by Kent Wang, which features polarized lenses and spring hinges for a comfortable, secured fit.
Left to right: Ray-Ban Clubmaster in Black/Polar Green, Persol 3132S in Tortoise, Original Penguin Highpockets
Browline sunglasses are often referred to as Clubmasters despite that being Ray-Bans variation. Like Wayfarers, browline glasses were very popular in the 50’s and 60’s, though the frame’s use with sunglass lenses didn’t occur til several decades later. In recent years, they’ve become quite popular in men’s fashion as they’re a bit fresher than traditional sunglass silhouettes. They’re especially great for heart and oval shaped faces as the thicker upper frame draws attention away from the lower face. Notable makers include Persol, Ray-Ban, and Tom Ford.
Left to right: Maui Jim Sandy Beach in Tortoise/Bronze, Oakley Tincan in matte black, Maui Jim Breakwall in neutral gray
Though some are technically semi-rimless rather than full, rimless sunglasses are pretty self-explanatory. The frame of the sunglass is minimized to highlight the form of the lenses and create crisp silhouette. They’re also a great way to enter Matrix cosplay. I think rimless shades look pretty great, and they’re available in a wide variety of lens shapes and colors. The downside is that they’re generally very fragile as they lack the structural integrity of a full frame. Check out RB3183s, Maui Jim Breakwalls, and Oakley Tincans or Wiretaps.
Left to right: Native Eyewear Hardtop, Oakley Half Jacket, Julbo Venturi
Those with active lifestyles may be interested in sunglasses meant for movement. Trading fashion elements for utility and comfort, sport sunglasses are perfect for things like running, kayaking, and social justice. These are generally constructed of durable, yet slightly flexible plastic and fit tighter to the form of your face. This is a category of glasses I would either try out in store or purchase from an online retailer with an easy return process. Personally, I’d stick with polarized variants of sports glasses since it can really help with sunlight straining your eyes. Julbo Venturis, for example. are polarized, and feature a photochromatic lens to adjust lens tint to light intensity.
I know there are a ton of other styles of sunglasses, but you get the idea. I’d definitely recommend stopping by your local mall Sunglass Hut or similar shop to try on different frames and see which styles work best. However, I wouldn’t stick to just buying sunglasses from brick & mortar stores as it’s almost always cheaper online.
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