The chap about town’s summer look – peacock-hued shorts, linen shirt and loafers – will fail to dazzle if his shades are more Dad than Daddy Cool.
While sunglasses protect your eyes against light damage and give you the sporting edge on sunny days, they can also put you up there with the top guns (following the release of the film of that name, starring Tom Cruise, sales of Ray-Ban Aviators increased by 40%).
Modern sunglasses were introduced by Sam Foster, who sold them on the boardwalk at Atlantic City, New Jersey, from 1929; he went on to found Foster Grant. During the Thirties, the US military began commissioning glasses for pilots.
Then, in 1936, Edwin H Land patented polarised sunglasses and the first pair of Aviators, made by Ray-Ban, appeared the same year. The glasses dropped at the sides to allow pilots to read their instruments without the sun’s glare interfering. By 1937, they were available for the public to buy and they have shaded the peepers of pop stars and presidents ever since.
Choosing sunglasses, however, is like trying to run blindfolded over a field of molehills. You will need some guidance. First, think functionality. Will they, for example, need to reduce the glare when fishing or teeing-off? If you are looking for sporting sunglasses, there are a couple of obvious choices: Oakley and Costa sunglasses have an enviable sporting heritage.
The best sunglasses are essential when fishing, and Costa is making a distinct impression. With a sleek, modern look and fresh styling, its glasses come with a choice of seven lens colours for different conditions. The Costa Hammerhead (£189-£269) comes in all manner of colourways and offers wraparound protection. Try green mirror lens to add sharpness to vision when fishing inland rivers and streams or copper lenses to cut glare and enhance contrast for everyday conditions. Lenses come in 400 and 580 (see panel, page 104) glass and plastic (“the clearest in the industry”).
But glasses need not be purely functional. The Costa Cocos (£219-£299), named after a fishing lodge on the Mexico/Belize border, sports a frame made from a corrosion-resistant alloy, Monel, in palladium or gold, and your choice of lenses.
Oakley‘s come with lots of patented technology and the trade mark Oakley Unobtainium, usually on nose pad and earsocks, a grippy material that ensures they stay in place. The Polarized RadarLock Path (£225) has innovative “Switchlock” technology, which means lenses can be swapped in seconds to cope with changing conditions. The sweeping lens gives maximum peripheral vision and sidebars are thick enough to keep out glare while vents maintain airflow. For top sporting performance, Oakley High Definition Optics give exceptional definition and clarity that is ideal for clay- and grouse-shooting.
It is worth mentioning the Oakley Pit Bull (£155), too. Here, everything possible has been tried to prevent fish having an unfair advantage. “We eliminate the kind of haze and distortion found in ordinary polarised lenses by bonding our filter at the molecular level,” says a spokesman.
If function has been catered for, then form is the other criterion. When buying the best it is imperative to have an idea as to what shape of glasses you should be looking for. No one wants to enhance the egginess of a head inadvertently, which will happen if you have an oblong face and choose a frame that is narrower than your temples. So take a picture, or trace around your face in the mirror after the morning ablutions, to get a notion of your basic face shape.
Luckily, classic aviator shades – which hint at chiselled cheekbones – suit most face types and will genuinely enhance your summer look.
For the petrol-head, the Porsche “Exclusive sunglasses” from 1978 (now relaunched as P’8478) are legendary. “They are still one of the most popular sunglasses in the world and, since 2008 as P’8478, the world’s first spectacles with interchangeable lenses,” says Juergen Gessler, CEO of the Porsche Design Group.
Made from flexible beta-titanium, they are comfortable to wear and provide outstanding UV protection. “The lens material is polycarbonate, making the glasses unbreakable as well as lightweight and scratch-proof, which is perfect for this model with interchangeable lenses.”
For motoring cool, try Bugatti sunglasses and channel the laid-back air of the Seventies jet set (we’re thinking Chris Hemsworth as legendary F1 Lothario James Hunt in upcoming film Rush) or a pair of TAG Heuer Speedway (£238.50) in one of five styles.
Founded in 1969 by Graham Cutler and Tony Gross (who met in optometry school at Northampton College), Cutler and Gross provides elegant eyewear for the discerning. The frames are still hand-crafted in the brand’s family-run factory in northern Italy. Each frame goes through 37 rigorous processes, taking four weeks to make. Brand logos are absent to the onlooker, the name found discreetly on the inside of the glasses at the temple.
A new Cutler and Gross Premium collection consists of both metal frames with hand-stitched, leather-sleeved temples and some with hand-milled layered acetate. Cutler and Gross Model 1084 (£350) is covetable: a modern aviator shape with a luxurious combination of handmade matte acetate and fine metal rims, leather-sleeved temples and exceptional Carl Zeiss graduated lenses.
For those who can carry them off, Cutler and Gross model 0935 in peach acetate (£310) would cut a dash on the beach (think modern Gatsby) or, for making a statement, the Cutler and Gross 0935 in chocolate on navy (£310) is different but won’t frighten the horses. It is a classic wayfarer in a heavy, hand-polished acetate.
Oliver Peoples celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and a campaign fronted by Ray Liotta should tell you all you need to know about its brand of shade.
The Oliver Peoples Kelton (£331) is a double-bridged antique gold frame with G-15 polar glass that oozes masculine cool. The Oliver Peoples Aero 57 (£289) is a Hollywood icon for those who want to inject some LA into their style. It comes in a beguiling array of options, from gold frames with java-coloured polar glass to silver frames with chrome-sapphire photochromatic glass.
Of course, if one is feeling particularly Gatsby-esque then only
Ray-Bans will do. Whether your choice is achingly cool aviators or pleasantly safe, your sunglasses will imbue you with just the right amount of dash. Pick wisely and wear well.
- Photochromatic lenses darken with exposure to sunlight.
- Polarised lenses are treated to reduce glare.
- While polarised lenses reduce glare, they don’t automatically provide UV protection. For full protection, make sure sunglasses block 99-100% of UVA and UVB light, with protection against harmful blue light with wavelengths up to 400 nanometres (UV400). In the EU, sunglasses are required only to block 380nm and keep out 95% of UV light.
- Sunglasses should bear the symbol: CE
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