The Truth about Eyewear Fashion Brands: Glasses used to be uncool; people only wore them when necessary. But with heavy marketing, glasses have became eyewear, high fashion. The current state of the industry is that most sunglasses are made by the same company: Italian manufacturer Luxottica.
They own Ray-Ban (most popular brand of sunglasses in the world, Ray-Ban Wayfarers being the most popular sunglasses in the world), and Oakley (2nd most popular brand), and others. They contract (design, manufacture, and market) for almost all designer brands, such as Bulgari, Dolce & Gabbana, Salvatore Ferragamo, Prada, Burberry, Chanel, Polo Ralph Lauren, Paul Smith, Tiffany, Versace, Persol, Armani, Miu Miu, Tory Burch, and Donna Karan (Source). They also own many retailers: Sunglass Hut (largest sunglasses chain in the world), Lenscrafters (largest eyewear retail chain in North America), Eyemed (2nd largest prescription eyeglass company), Pearle Vision, Oliver Peoples, Target Optical, and Sears Optical. Major competitors: Walmart, Costco, Warby Parker
Because of their monopoly, Luxottica is able to charge high prices, and as a US optician noted regarding Luxottica, “The quality of the product has no relation to the mark up what so ever, and they are focused on sales, not optical knowledge.”
Why we need Sunglasses: Sunglasses with UV protection help safeguard a person’s vision (especially for pilots), as radiation from the sun damages skin and eyes at high exposure (especially at high altitudes). Sun damage can cause macular degeneration, cataracts, growths, and others. Wide-brimmed hats and caps can block about 50% of UV radiation from the eyes, but optometrists say that is not enough protection. Cloudy days are just as potent as sunny days to both skin and eyes (so wear sunglasses), and children need sunglasses just as much, or even more (their eyes are developing) than adults. One doesn’t need to spend a lot; a 1995 study reported that “Expensive brands and polarizing sunglasses do not guarantee optimal UVA protection.” One survey even found that a $6.95 pair of generic glasses offered slightly better protection than did expensive Salvatore Ferragamo shades (Source).
Advice on Specifications / Lens Material: Opt for wraparound or close-fitting sunglasses with wide lenses that protect your eyes from every angle and 99%-100% of UVB and UVA rays (UV 400, which is more stringent than the U.S. FDA’s ANSI Z80.3). Mirrored/mirror-coated sunglasses offer no additional benefit and scratch easily. Also, not everyone needs polarized; it only reduces glare from flat smooth surfaces (water/glass/snow/pavement/car hoods) so possibly helpful for driving/cycling/boating/water-sports/winter-sports, and it commands a premium even though it doesn’t cost much more to make. The FAA even recommends non-polarized mineral glass lenses to pilots because polarized makes instruments with anti-glare filters harder to read (even LED car screens/cell phones), and glare might be helpful in close call scenarios. As for tint colors, gray distorts colors the least, making it most recommended for pilots (proper color recognition, free of distortion and imperfection) and traffic light recognition (green and brown also good, while yellow or amber not so). A light tint is best for UV protection as dark tint causes your pupils to become dilated, thus exposing your eyes to more harmful UV light. Skip polycarbonate or trivex which offer worse optics than Glass or CR-39 plastic, scratch more easily than glass (soft), and are vulnerable to chemicals. Also look for strong frames.
Note on styling (trim color): In general, gold trims (the metal part for rims, bridge, temples) go better with warm (light) undertones (more tan skin) and silver goes better with cold (dark) skin undertones (more pale skin). However, silver is more in-style, so it can match with even cold undertones currently. On Aviator Size: People tend to like huge aviators that do not fit their face, but generally you shouldn’t go higher than 58mm unless your face is really that huge (try in person if you’re not sure what size to get).
Best Cheap Polarized Sunglasses $20-$30
Cheapest $10-$20: ZeroUV $10 at ZeroUV ie Clubmaster in tortoise (similar to Ray-Ban RB3016 Classic Clubmaster), OR 80sPurple $10 at 80sPurple, OR Sunglass Warehouse $20 at SunglassWarehouse.com
Walmart Brand Online $20-$30: Foster Grant (more stylish) at DiopticSunwear or FosterGrant.com or SolarComfort (more active-wear, sport wrap) at DiopticSunwear
Buy Retail: Walmart or Costco $20 (even polarized) glasses. These stores produce their own instead of sell overpriced Luxottica ones (Sears/Target don’t make their own). Costco makes Kirkland-brand Wayfarers ($27, better quality than Knockaround, best quality cheap, looks more like the Newer Ray-Ban Wayfarers RB2132 less like the Original Ray-Ban Wayfarers RB2140) and Aviators
Stylish: PRIVE REVAUX [Amazon] i.e. “The Ace” (Black). Cool styles and polarized, but flimsy and not superbly well made.
Best Budget Aviators
AO Engineering (American Optical) ~$50-90 ie at [Amazon, ie Original Pilot]. Recommended for best value. Contracted by the military, so they’re Department of Defense certified. Note: AO’s quality has gone slightly downhill. As opposed to Randolph (below) who do everything in-house, they have their parts manufactured overseas and are assembled in the States. However, to most people, quality-wise they may be difficult to distinguish to Randolph Engineering, so go with these if you are prone to losing/damaging sunglasses (as they are half the price). The AO Original Pilot is almost identical to the Randolph “Aviator”-model, so may be the better value.
Best Quality Aviators
For aviators that you will baby and won’t drop/scratch/lose, Randolph Engineering (RE) $150-$220 makes some of the best sunglasses, also officially contracted by the Military. The founders originally worked for AO Engineering. Better than Ray-Bans (Build Quality).
1) Get the Aviator if you like a classier look (Film: Apocalypse Now) [Amazon Search] ie [Gold/Tan 58mm] or the Aviator II (Aviator with top rim) ie [Gold/Tan]. Looks like the Ray-Ban RB3136 Caravan.
2) Get the Concordes if you like the more popular teardrop style referred to when most people mention “Aviators.” They have a sportier/flashier look (Film: Top Gun) [Amazon Search] ie [Gold/Tan 57mm] or the Sportsman (Concorde with top rim) [Gold/Tan]. The “newer” teardrop aviators (Concorde/Sportsman) seem to look better on most face shapes than the older non-teardrop classics (Aviator and Aviator II). Similar to the Ray‑Ban Aviator Classic RB3025.
Don’t get: Overpriced – Tom Ford Marko (the James Bond Skyfall Sunglasses) he wears the silver frame with smoke blue lenses, Luxottica fashion brands and Luxottica’s Ray Ban (these used to sell in the 90s for half the price ~$70 until they became popular), Knockaround (cheap and bad ie Fort Knocks), Oakley Aviators (Wardens / Felons / Crosshairs / Inmates, Maui Jim (never on sale, bit overpriced), Warby Parker (not great quality), ASOS (horrible quality), Dita (bad quality), Urban Outfitters (cheapy)
Other Popular Models and Homages
9FIVE ~$100: 9five Watson are similar to Ray-Ban Wayfarers and Belmont are similar to Ray-Ban Clubmaster [9FIVE, or cheaper at Amazon, eBay]. They also have stylish reader glasses (clear lenses with no sunlight-blocking benefit or prescription) if you’re into fashionable uselessness, ie Original Watson. Colors vary with new designs and availability.
Oakley Fives Squared $80 for the pure sportiness look [Amazon] or [Amazon Oakley Fives Squared Search] OR check out Wiley X for Oakley-similar wraparound sunglasses
Kim Jong Il: Ambervision [eBay] Secondary: BluBlocker Starshield (not sure the quality on either of these)
“Men in Black”: Will Smith wore Ray-Ban RB 2030 Predator in “Men in Black” (Color: W3284 Glossy Black frame / G-15XLT lenses) – a good Predator 2 homage would be these Foster Grants $20 on [Amazon]
Also try shopping for unpopular-styled Ray-Bans at Nordstrom Rack for $60 polarized. Or if wide-frame glasses are needed, FatHeadz.
Best Prescription Eyeglasses and Contact Lenses
Eyesight Myths: WebMD Source
1) Eating carrots improves your vision (a rumor started by the British during WWII to hide the new radar technology from the Germans)
2) Sitting too close to the TV damages your vision
3) Reading in the dark weakens your eyesight
4) Using glasses or contacts will weaken my eyesight and my eyes will eventually become dependent on them – eyesight only changes due to aging or the presence of disease
5) Children with crossed eyes will grow out of it (but it may be corrected)
6) There’s nothing you can do to prevent Vision Loss (At the very first sign of symptoms, such as blurred vision, eye pain, flashes of light, or sudden onset of floaters in your vision, you should see your doctor. If detected early enough, depending on the cause, there are treatments that can correct, stop, or at least slow down the loss of vision)
7) Using a nightlight in your child’s room will contribute to nearsightedness
Best Prescription Glasses
Standard prescription eyeglasses in the U.S. are treated to provide UV protection while retaining a clear, nontinted appearance. The average frames + lenses at Lenscrafters is $300, as they are owned by Luxottica and sell their “premium” brands (and yet the plastic is the same, the hinges are the same, and the $0.00001 stones on them are the same). One can get better value prescription eyeglasses from other vendors.
Best Places to buy: Shop around, check out Costo/Sams club for good value. But if you know your prescription (or get a cheap test at Costco) for added convenience: Coastal (better than Zenni) (Con: Have to wait 1-2 weeks to receive them), Secondary: ZenniOptical or 39dollarglasses (a little more expensive, a little better than Zenni) or ClearlyContacts or Eyebuydirect (some say better, some say worse than Zenni). Don’t Warby Parker ($100+)
Anti Reflective Coating is a must for our LED light/fluorescent society we have created for ourselves. Spending a great deal of time on the computer can lead to eye strain (blurry vision, dry eyes, and irritation), as our eye muscles struggle to view specific areas of the monitor and battle the glare. A coating that reduces reflection can decrease eyestrain and make it possible to work on the computer for longer periods of time without difficulty. AR coating can help other times of eyestrain, such as due to spending a great deal of time in a dimly lit room, or can help in driving (reduce halo effect around lights). Also, AR coating allows your eyes to be visible in photographs for better appearance. Downside: picks up fingerprints and dirt more easily, requiring more frequent cleaning.
Unnecessary: Avoid photochromic (aka transitional lenses which darken in sunlight) Best for people who frequently switch between being indoors and outdoors, whether they do gardening, construction, painting, etc. But not great for purely sunglasses or piloting as they get too dark at night or under clouds. Not recommended them to most people. Not helpful for driving (they don’t work in the car). And also not in style currently.
Step 1: Size. Always go with a frame that has the best “eye size” for you. All glasses have 3 measurements printed on them that’s the Eye size (the size of the lens from left to right) the bridge (the distance between the lenses) and the Temple length (the arms). Experiment with different eye sizes and see which one fits your face the best.
Step 2: Plastic or Metal? This mainly depends on your nose. If you have a very shallow bridge and nothing can sit on it, go with metal. Plastic frames will just slide off. Nose pads on metal frames can be adjusted to fit your nose, plastic frames don’t get that benefit. However, plastic frames are much more comfortable and if you have a nose that can support it, give it a try! Besides this and style preference, material is not a huge concern.
Step 3: Durability is not about the frame material, it’s about having a spring hinge (a rectangular metal box, where the arm and the front of the frame connects, that allows the arms to spring back into place once they have been moved).
Best Contact Lenses
Some contact lenses also offer UV protection, but should be worn in combination with sunglasses to maximize protection. It depends on your prescription. If your prescription doesn’t require anything special, then JustLenses, or secondarily: 1800contacts or Lens.com! If you need something much more quickly, always go to an optical that carries your brand in stock. However, it always depends on how many boxes you are buying, some websites give discounts, some don’t. If you spend many hours in front of the computer, glasses instead of contacts may be more helpful to not dry out eyes as much.
When comparing a bunch of contacts vendors, Costco/Sams Club came out cheapest, so check them out when comparison shopping.
Best Computer Glasses
Why computer glasses for frequent/extended use of computers?
“At night, light throws the body’s biological clock—the circadian rhythm—out of whack. Sleep suffers. Worse, research shows that it may contribute to the causation of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
But not all colors of light have the same effect. Blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night. And the proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown.” Source – Harvard Health
Other tips: (take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away)
Where to buy from
Buy reading / computer glasses with anti reflective coating. Go for the models with the biggest lenses and/or wrap around the face. Buy from trusted retailers: Costco or Walmart or CVS Pharmacy or Walgreens. For online, check out Gamma Ray $20 [Amazon]. Gunnar Optiks at $60-$90 don’t make a difference over control glasses – no scientific evidence for a change in accommodation (focusing), tear volume, or electromyography of the eyelid (squinting and blinking).
Also, use F.lux Flux Download (PC/iPhone or get Twilight for Android phones) “Exposure to excessive light at night, including extended use of various electronic media, can disrupt sleep or exacerbate sleep disorders, especially in children and adolescents. This effect can be minimized by using dim red lighting in the nighttime bedroom environment. Experimental research suggests that an average person reading on a tablet for a couple hours before bed may find that their sleep is delayed by about an hour.”.
Accessories for Sunglasses or Eyeglasses
For activity, it would be best to get an adjustable retainer strap cord, such as the Croakies Arc Endless $13 [Amazon] (more durable than the Chums Orbiter Adjustable $9 yet the frame holder tends to loosen so may fall off the frame more easily). Cablz are tacky with the bright logo.
To protect your eyewear, it would be mindful to get a hard clamshell or zipper case, ie Clamshell Case: O’Meye’s Case $8 [Amazon] (better looking than the MyEyeglassCase half-moon), or more for activewear, get a zippered case with a carabiner clip-on for your belt (however many of these aren’t super hard and can be crushed). Don’t get The Witz locker case as it seems small.