Our eyes are important, and having worn glasses and contacts since I was in 2nd grade, I’m intimately familiar with what it’s like taking care of them. Eye drops, saline solutions, artificial tears, and so many other things go into our eyes to keep them lubricated and running.
Although light is what helps our eyes see, it can also be dangerous, especially ultraviolet light that comes from the sun. Sunglasses help prevent not only UV damage, but glare from reflective surfaces like water and cars, crows feet from squinting to see, and more.
I decided to ask around and find out what advances have been made in sunglasses and instead hit the infamous wall of Luxottica, the retail giant who runs LensCrafters, Sunglass Hut, Pearle Vision and other optical retail shops while also owning brands like Ray-Ban, Persol, and Oakley. They also make sunglasses for designers like Armani, Burberry, Versace, and Dolce and Gabbana.
While I did get one special pair of Luxottica sunglasses, I did my best to avoid them and see what the rest of the world is using. In doing so, I found some really interesting companies producing some great brands I hadn’t necessarily heard of before.
Wood Worn (WoodwearSunglasses.com)
Started in 2014, Woodworn (also called Woodwear) makes sustainable bamboo sunglasses and watches in a variety of shapes, colors, and styles. Each pair is designed and named for an area of California like Hermosa Beach, Melrose Place, and the Gaslamp District in San Diego.
Stainless steel hinges and polarized lenses are standard in these unique fashion pieces, providing 100% UVA/UVB protection and durability. Each pair is hand-stained and laser engraved with the Wood Worn logo.
Despite being made of wood, these frames are lightweight. They feel sturdy as well. These are great sunglasses for those tired of the usual plastic or wire-frame glasses, so long as you don’t mind shelling out $100.
There’s nothing worse than dropping your sunglasses in water and having them sink to the bottom of the ocean or lake where they’ll never be found. Reflekt created a unique frame material they call VaporLite which makes the sunglasses light enough to float.
Not only that, but they’re polarized and come in 14 different styles named with a nautical theme, such as Vapor, Nomad, Kraken, Mariner, and Seafarer (pictured). The nose grips are also specially designed to grip on wet skin.
There are other unsinkable sunglasses on the market, but not all of them come with the lifetime loss guarantee Reflekt provides. Priced from $100-$140, these are noticeably lighter than the other plastic frames we got in. There are ultralight wire and frameless models from other companies that are lighter though.
Electric California (ElectricCalifornia.com)
Since 2000, Electric California has been designing premium luxury sunglasses to represent the Southern California surf, skate, boarding, and active outdoor lifestyle. They also make watches, bags, and other accessories, and although designed in Cali, they’re actually made in Italy.
Electric’s Road Glaciers are shown above and the Stackers are shown below. Each pair includes different design variations of the side shades that keep water, snow, dust, and other elements from getting between your eyes and the glasses.
In addition, Electric incorporates Melanin-infused OHM lenses to block UV and HEV light. They’re also polarized to reduce 99 percent of surface glare.
Electric’s sunglasses are priced from $80-$325. The Road Glaciers are their high-end pair, and they come with a variety of extras to justify the steep asking price. Electric Sunglasses are ideal for active outdoor adventurers that need maximum protection without wearing goggles.
Sunski was created in 2012 on Kickstartr in San Francisco by two adventure junkies looking to create high-quality shades that don’t come with exorbitant price tags. These guys are all about promoting life outdoors, whether in the surf or snow.
The company also donates 1 percent of annual revenue to Adventurers & Scientists for Conservation, Save the Waves, and Leave No Trace. These organizations are dedicated to keeping our planet (land, air, and water) preserved and in good condition for future generations.
The Headlands are shown below, and the Seacliffs are above. Six other styles are made, each in a variety of colors, and each ranges just above or below $50. Sunski holds true to their word of providing low-cost options, undercutting the closest competition by half.
If money’s tight or you support the idea of keeping our planet clean, Sunski sunglasses are a great way to make a statement.
Tifosi Optics (TifosiOptics.com)
In 2003, Tifosi was created by Joe and Elizabeth Earley to bring function and style to sunglasses for cycling, running, golf, and other outdoor sports and activities. These specialty glasses are sturdy, come in solid cases similar to Oakley’s with tons of spare parts.
Marzen is one of their latest golf styles, a squared frame with polarized and/or reflective lenses. These are a classic and clean look for basic, everyday sunglasses.
Taking a step up in price, you can get the Crits, which have interchangeable lenses and rubberized grips at your temples and nose. The lenses are also vented to prevent fogging through better air ventilation.
If you want a pair of sunglasses specific to the sport or activity you’re participating in, Tifosi is the way to go. Priced in the $60-$100 range, they’re affordable and come with enough spare parts to last
Although I went out of my way to avoid Luxottica, I did get one pair of sunglasses in from the fabled brand of Oakley. That’s because these are no ordinary sunglasses – Radar Pace was created in partnership with Intel and is the result of years of research.
Initially I thought they were AR glasses, but they’re actually filled with sensors and contain a voice coach when paired to your smartphone. Radar Pace also acts as a hub for other sensors on your feet, wrists, etc.
High Definition Optics, impact protection, and Plutonite UVA/B/C protection, vented lenses, and an interchangeable clear lens round out the basic sunglass features, but the voice-assisted run, cycling, and fitness coach is what sets these apart from everything else on the market.
Since the tech is so advanced in these sunglasses, I’ll be doing a fuller review soon, but for now I just wanted to introduce you to them. I’ve never been a fan of Oakley’s sunglasses for fashion (I’m more of a casual Ray-Ban guy), but I fell in love with Radar Pace as soon as I put them on. For $450, it may be one of the smartest wearables you buy.