Money spent on expensive sunglasses is too often money wasted. Then again, money spent on cheap sunglasses is both money wasted and inferior shielding for your eyes. The key is striking a balance by finding glasses that aren’t going to break your heart if they are lost, are resilient enough to deal with seasons spent riding around in beach bags full of sand, fit comfortably, shade your peepers with full-range UV protection, and look good on your face. For such a simple item, that’s a tall order, and few brands have really stepped to the line and proven they can check all the required boxes.
What Makes A Good Pair of Sunglasses
First and foremost, you want sunglasses that stop UVA and UVB rays from reaching your eyes. Anything less is unacceptable, because they aren’t really filtering out the sun, they’re just dimming the hurtful rays, letting the damaging parts bombard your skin and the delicate material of your eyes. They should block 99% of all UV rays or more, since there’s no reason they can’t other than sloth or cheapness on the part of the manufacturer. Look for UV400 protection, as it handles all light up to 400 nanometers, which hits the entire UVA/UVB spectrum nicely. By stopping UV rays you reduce wrinkles around your eyes and stop cataracts from forming down the line. Polarization is nice for reducing glare, but it doesn’t actually prevent harm, so read the tags. As to fit and look, here’s 13 of the best options out there.
A Note On Brands and Protection
While we specify a particular pair of sunglasses, almost every item that is offered by each brand represented here has the protection you need. If your style demands something besides what we suggest, or your face shape needs a more flattering frame, take a moment to look at the other options that each label has.
Unless otherwise stated, every pair on this list blocks 100% of UVA and UVB rays for full protection of your eyes.
Glassy Sunhaters Shredder
If you want to get so much more than you pay for, Glassy Sunhaters is a hell of a brand. Airy light yet loaded with adjustable features and UV400 protection baked into the batter, here’s where you get style and complete coverage that you can lose without a moment’s worry.
Kreed has some great ordinary stuff, but their XR Sport line is leading the pack when it comes to sunglasses specifically made for the active adventurer, or serious recreational shooter. Easy on and off, high grade protection, and a wraparound design that holds steady without squeezing your head.
Knockaround Fort Knocks / Mai Tais
The brand name tells you what you need to know here: Knockarounds are built to take abuse without asking for a pile of riches at the outset. Despite the modest price, these are FDA approved, meaning they meet more rigorous standards of manufacturing and design than those who waive FDA inspection. Polarized or not, the throwback look is vintage goodness for all occasions.
Nectar is a name to keep in your back pocket, as they not only make quality shades, but have some of the best customer support on the planet. They fit into most budgets, the company stands behind their products, and when you try the super light polycarbonate frames with TAC (Tri Acetate Cellulose) lenses, you’ll see why.
Oakley SI Gascan
Oakley lost a step for a few years, which has kept them in the penalty box long after the dust settled and the market rebounded. No one else has the Bono look done more artfully or more simply, with military-grade protection that sees plenty of time in the field.
Those who really want to stand out from the crowd might consider a set of wooden sunglasses, for which there’s only a few brands who do it well. Shwood is generally the best, with their classic Canby line offering a range of looks that run from playfully etched to professionally serious. If Shwood is a little rich for your blood, Tree Tribe matches them step for step, and is more eco-friendly! The downside is their slightly limited selection.
Julbo Vermont Classic
As close to flawless as a set of sunglasses come, these are your go-everywhere, do-everything, why-don’t-you-have-a-pair-yet dark glasses. Slap on the leather eye protector for a set of sexy driving glasses, take it off for some slick tea shades that would make Hunter Thompson take notice, or go ice climbing while the padded earpieces hold these in place. Pull the trigger, they’re worth it; particularly if you’re a serious adrenaline junkie.
Ray-Ban Flash Clubmaster
Ray-Ban is the 800lbs. gorilla of the sunglasses industry, which contributes to their price, but adds to their brand recognition if that’s important to you. Every lens they make blocks all “Blue Light” which is everything on the light spectrum up to 400 nanometers. These go further, able to prevent reflected light from blinding you for polarization that works with sun glinting off of chrome as much as snow or open water.
Warby Parker Madison
The original “By the bespectacled, for the bespectacled,” Warby Parker is a hit machine without a gap in their lineup. Free lens replacement for the first year, though you’re unlikely to need it, and a nice price that comes with devoted backing by the brand.
Toms Irwin Whiskey Tortoise
Angular and blocky, the Whiskey Tortoise is a signature piece of Tom’s because they give an aviator flair to faces that normally look terrible in aviator glasses. If your mug is a little more circular than most, these will sharpen up those soft lines for a less “baby-faced” appearance that trims down chubby cheeks using a handmade metal and acetate.
Tom Ford Rick Aviator
Get all the aviator imitators you want, Tom Ford still has the last word. Whether you want to look like Mav, Goose, or Iceman, or have no idea who those people are, this is the only way to fly.
Dahlak-L.G.R. for AMREF Flying Doctors II
Jet-setters need to make note of the Flying Doctor’s, since they are specially coated to protect against high-altitude UV rays, which are stronger than the light on the ground. They also have leather eye-guards so light can’t slip in the sides, allowing you to focus on what is in front of you without a sudden cloud movement leaving you blinded.
Chrome Hearts The Beast I
Look. They’re $900 sunglasses. So, you’re getting the absolute best that $300 can buy, and then just continuing to give them money. Their items are almost above reproach, but you’re still overspending.