One of the most frequent questions we get is, “How can I tell if a pair of sunglasses is high quality?”. Sometimes look and feel are decent indicators, but some characteristics are only apparent after real life application. So, here’s what we recommend you look for when selecting a great pair of sunglasses.
1. 100% UV protection. If you come into one of our locations, you’ll find that we carry nothing but 100% UV lenses since we consider eye protection to be the most important reason to wear sunglasses. If you are looking elsewhere, though, and you aren’t sure, always check for a sticker or ask an employee to be sure you are getting 100% UV protection.
2. Polarized lenses (most of the time). A big bonus in most high-quality sunglasses is polarized lenses. A polarized filter reduces glare significantly, which greatly improves clarity.
If a sunglass brand only makes polarized lenses (i.e. Costa and Maui Jim), you probably won’t see anything marked on the sunglasses to indicate that. With other brands, though, it will typically be clearly marked. For example, Oakley etches “POLARIZED” on the bottom right corner of most of their polarized lenses, and Ray-Ban adds a “P” to the logo on the left lens. If you still aren’t sure, most sunglass retailers have a display that will allow you to see the difference.
While polarized lenses are often recommended, there are a few activities for which they are not always ideal, such as piloting and many sports. For these situations, the option of interchangeable lenses might come in handy.
3. Lens colors that suit your specific needs. We could write a book on this, so to put it simply, the best lenses have color filters that enhance the right colors in the right way to give the absolute best clarity. Sometimes it’s nice to buy sunglasses with a funky lens color because it’s fun and fashionable. There are other times, like sight fishing at dusk compared to deep sea fishing in broad daylight, where having the right lens for the right environment makes all the difference.
4. Spring hinges or flexible frames. This will keep your frame from stretching out over time and is also comfier in most cases. If a frame doesn’t have a spring hinge or a good bit of flexibility, then check for a wire core temple. Many high-end sunglasses have both, but the wire core will allow you to re-mold the temple if it does stretch out.
5. Hypoallergenic materials. Since many people have allergic reactions to certain types of metals, plastics, and rubber, most high-end sunglass manufacturers are careful to use only hypoallergenic materials in the making of their frames, nose pads, etc.
6. Durable lenses. Lens durability should be viewed in two different ways. The first is scratch resistance and the other is impact resistance. Most of the best brands offer different lens materials to accommodate one or the other. You do have a few rare lenses out there that encompass both scratch and impact resistance (i.e. Maui Brilliant and Smith ChromaPop+). Costa makes both lenses, the 580 (glass) and the 580P (polycarbonate), an option for most of their frames. You will always see it marked in the top left corner of the lens.
The best advice we can give you is to ask lots of questions and understand what you are paying for when you buy expensive sunglasses. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying designer shades if you are all about style, but be sure that you aren’t getting gipped on quality. We have sunglass experts that would love to help you determine these things, so get in touch or stop by to see us!