The Point of Distinction

Here at Put This On, we’re all about encouraging a simple, classic aesthetic. You won’t find Ed Hardy t-shirts or Versace suits here. But what makes a simply constructed outfit something special? I call it a “point of distinction.”

It’s an idea I first read expressed by my friend MistahWong, who’s one of the best-dressed men I know. The principle is simple. One’s style should be impeccable. Fit should be inarguable. So on and so forth. But there should be something about your outfit that says “this isn’t generic, this is me.”

Back when MistahWong was wearing business suits for work, he wore almost exclusively solid navy and gray with white shirts. Perfect fit, conservative cuts. Heavy black or burgundy longwings. But he also wore casual silk knit ties. Or, as above, a felt flower in his lapel. A simple point of distinction.

Above is what I’m wearing on a cool morning in Southern California. Literally a white t-shirt, khakis, and a black chamois shirt. Add some bold sneakers and sunglasses and you have distinction.

Accessories, of course, are the easiest choice. I find that adding the glasses above (which are made by the California maker Kala) to an otherwise very conservative outfit works well. I’ll sometimes add a vintage stickpin to my lapel. There are trendy choices, like colored laces or bracelets, though those have run their course to some extent. The goal isn’t necessarily to be outrageous, but simply to demonstrate that you care.

It’s easy to pile wild choice on top of wild choice, or conversely to make nothing but down-the-middle clothing decisions. To choose to demonstrate understated mastery and nonetheless show distinction is much more difficult.

The Old Penny Trick

Ray Ban makes some of my favorite sunglasses, but I hate that little logo they put on every one of their frames. It’s small, to be sure, but being a white print against a dark lens, and positioned so that it’s right at your temple when worn, it feels like the most conspicuous logo in the world. And conspicuous logos are the worst logos in my book.

Luckily, when I bought a pair of Clubmasters two weeks ago, I remembered a little trick I learned from Mister Crew (who in turn learned it from The Trad, who in turn learned it from a few guys at Ask Andy). Apparently, back in the day, you could take off this logo with a bit of rubbing alcohol and a Q-tip. That doesn’t work anymore (as The Trad noted), but you can scratch it off with the edge of a penny. It’s a bit harder as you near the edge of the lens, but with a little persistence, you can get the whole thing off. Thirty seconds later, your Ray Bans look a ton better and you no longer have to wear a logo on your face. 

Finding An Eyewear Case
It’s been unexpectedly wet and cloudy in San Francisco, but to prepare for what should be a real summer, I recently went in search for an eyewear case. Having to wear eyeglasses all the time means that I need some place to put my regular frames when I put on sunglasses, and although eyewear often comes with cases, none of them are particularly attractive.
I found mine through Ghurka. It’s a tan leather sleeve with a sueded interior and nicely turned edges (meaning the leather on the edges is turned inward and stitched down, rather than being left exposed). I like that it’s simple enough that I can use just one hand to hold the sleeve and slip my glasses in (useful if you’re on the run and carrying a bag of some sort). It also fits comfortably in my interior coat pocket. The leather quality leaves much to be desired, however, and for the price, I was hoping for something better.
Still, I decided to keep it, as it seemed to be the best option for my needs. In my search though, I found a number of options that might work better with a backpack or briefcase. La Portegna, Glenroyal, Freeman’s Sporting Club, Makr, and Emil Erwin, for example, make softly shaped cases that give a bit more protection. They’re not exactly hardcases, per se, but  should your case ever wind up at the bottom of a bag, their fuller shape should fare better than a simple sleeve.
I also like this unique design by Tanner Goods, but it requires a bit more work to open and close. Probably not good for someone who’s always on the run, but it looks nice.
If you’re interested in other sleeve designs besides Ghurka’s, there’s Daines & Hathaway, Barrett Alley, and Col. Littleton. I also liked the uniqueness of these silk repp striped sleeves sold by Ben Silver, Shibumi, and E. Marinella.
Finally, for something just cheap and simple, you can find these Ralph Lauren cases all over eBay for about $25 (just search around). The material isn’t that great, but the front side is completely hard, which is nice if you’re a bit rough on your things.

Finding An Eyewear Case

It’s been unexpectedly wet and cloudy in San Francisco, but to prepare for what should be a real summer, I recently went in search for an eyewear case. Having to wear eyeglasses all the time means that I need some place to put my regular frames when I put on sunglasses, and although eyewear often comes with cases, none of them are particularly attractive.

I found mine through Ghurka. It’s a tan leather sleeve with a sueded interior and nicely turned edges (meaning the leather on the edges is turned inward and stitched down, rather than being left exposed). I like that it’s simple enough that I can use just one hand to hold the sleeve and slip my glasses in (useful if you’re on the run and carrying a bag of some sort). It also fits comfortably in my interior coat pocket. The leather quality leaves much to be desired, however, and for the price, I was hoping for something better.

Still, I decided to keep it, as it seemed to be the best option for my needs. In my search though, I found a number of options that might work better with a backpack or briefcase. La Portegna, Glenroyal, Freeman’s Sporting Club, Makr, and Emil Erwin, for example, make softly shaped cases that give a bit more protection. They’re not exactly hardcases, per se, but  should your case ever wind up at the bottom of a bag, their fuller shape should fare better than a simple sleeve.

I also like this unique design by Tanner Goods, but it requires a bit more work to open and close. Probably not good for someone who’s always on the run, but it looks nice.

If you’re interested in other sleeve designs besides Ghurka’s, there’s Daines & Hathaway, Barrett Alley, and Col. Littleton. I also liked the uniqueness of these silk repp striped sleeves sold by Ben Silver, Shibumi, and E. Marinella.

Finally, for something just cheap and simple, you can find these Ralph Lauren cases all over eBay for about $25 (just search around). The material isn’t that great, but the front side is completely hard, which is nice if you’re a bit rough on your things.

Put This On: Rudiments: Sport Sunglasses

Excerpted from S2E3 of Put This On: “(New) Traditions”

Dave Hill offers thoughts on when you should and should not wear sports sunglasses.

Casual Summer Weekends
This is a great photo of maomao. Here he’s wearing a madras shirt, pair of sunglasses, and a beat up Panama hat. It’s a casual, easy-going summer style that’s perfect for weekends. Good for an afternoon drink with friends, stroll in the city, or general laying around at the park. 
What I like most is that every item here is easily obtainable at almost any price point. I’ve already written about where you can get madras shirts. I was recently at Ralph Lauren and J Crew, actually, and was fairly impressed with the colorful patterns they’ve chosen for this season. If you decide to not get something custom made, these are some pretty good options off-the-rack. Just make sure you know how they should fit before you buy. 
You can also read this post about Panama hats. Panama Bob is generally recognized as one of the best places to buy an authentic Panama, and he has two stores. His main store sells hats made from finer weaves. These will look better, and you’ll get to own something that’s from a dying cottage industry. If you can’t afford those, he also has an eBay store with more affordable options. These will be made from rougher weaves, but on the upside, they can be more breathable on those hot, humid days. Note that it’s generally easier to buy hats online if you’ve already had some experience with them. If this is your first hat, you may want to buy one from a local shop, just so you can try a few on in-person. Pay particular attention to the shape and height of the crown, as well as the width of the brim. 
Finally, I co-wrote this five-part series on sunglasses with my good friend Agyesh Madan. That should put you well on your way to getting a good pair. Of course, you can also search eBay for deals. Not everything in that search link looks good, but it contains the brands that Agyesh and I talked about in our series. You can use eBay’s navigation filters to make the search results more managable.
Not pictured here are maomao’s pants and shoes. I imagine he’s either wearing cotton or linen trousers, and maybe some leather slip-ons (e.g. penny loafers, boat shoes, driving mocs, and the like). I’ll cover those another time, but in the meantime, consider madras, sunglasses, and a straw Panama for your casual summer weekends. If you need to, you can throw on a linen sport coat, but even without one, you can look quite good. Just check out maomao. 

Casual Summer Weekends

This is a great photo of maomao. Here he’s wearing a madras shirt, pair of sunglasses, and a beat up Panama hat. It’s a casual, easy-going summer style that’s perfect for weekends. Good for an afternoon drink with friends, stroll in the city, or general laying around at the park. 

What I like most is that every item here is easily obtainable at almost any price point. I’ve already written about where you can get madras shirts. I was recently at Ralph Lauren and J Crew, actually, and was fairly impressed with the colorful patterns they’ve chosen for this season. If you decide to not get something custom made, these are some pretty good options off-the-rack. Just make sure you know how they should fit before you buy. 

You can also read this post about Panama hats. Panama Bob is generally recognized as one of the best places to buy an authentic Panama, and he has two stores. His main store sells hats made from finer weaves. These will look better, and you’ll get to own something that’s from a dying cottage industry. If you can’t afford those, he also has an eBay store with more affordable options. These will be made from rougher weaves, but on the upside, they can be more breathable on those hot, humid days. Note that it’s generally easier to buy hats online if you’ve already had some experience with them. If this is your first hat, you may want to buy one from a local shop, just so you can try a few on in-person. Pay particular attention to the shape and height of the crown, as well as the width of the brim. 

Finally, I co-wrote this five-part series on sunglasses with my good friend Agyesh Madan. That should put you well on your way to getting a good pair. Of course, you can also search eBay for deals. Not everything in that search link looks good, but it contains the brands that Agyesh and I talked about in our series. You can use eBay’s navigation filters to make the search results more managable.

Not pictured here are maomao’s pants and shoes. I imagine he’s either wearing cotton or linen trousers, and maybe some leather slip-ons (e.g. penny loafers, boat shoes, driving mocs, and the like). I’ll cover those another time, but in the meantime, consider madras, sunglasses, and a straw Panama for your casual summer weekends. If you need to, you can throw on a linen sport coat, but even without one, you can look quite good. Just check out maomao. 

We Got It For Free: Dolabany Arnold Glasses

I’m a big fan of mid-century American eyewear. I personally wear Shuron’s Revelation, which is an updated verion of their Ronsir model. My other favorite is Tart’s Arnel. Both were very popular in the 1950s and ’60s. In fact, if you’ve seen many photos from that period, you’ve probably already seen someone wearing one of these.

I wrote about Tart’s Arnel a while ago, and one of the companies I mentioned, Dolabany, contacted me after reading my piece. The original Tart Optical company went out of business in the 1980s, and I wrote that replicas typically come close to the original, but are often just a detail or two short. There is, of course, the newly relaunched Tart, which is a new venture started by the owner of a popular vintage eyewear store in Los Angeles, Four Your Eyes. As I understood it, their frames, which were just released last summer, are the only ones who got it right.

It turns out that Dolabany, who has been making theirs for the last three or four years, also has exact replicas (their model is called Arnold). These have functional rivets on the front and sides in order to secure the hinge plates, not glued-on mock trims like other companies’. Same shape, size, seven-barrel hinge, and functional rivets - these are correct down to the details.

The original Arnels can still be found, but they cost up to $1,000. Dolabany’s Arnold, however, costs between $110 and $350, depending where you’re at. As far as I know, these are the most affordable, correctly detailed replicas on the market. I’m planning on turning the grey crystal pair into sunglasses and the demi amber ones into prescription frames. Pretty dang excited.

The Shady Series, Part V: How to Clean and Maintain Your Sunglasses
With  most sunglasses retailing between $100 and $300,  actually  buying a pair can be quite expensive. So for the last installment to this series, Agyesh and I would like to talk about how to get the most out of your purchase.
The  first matter is knowing how to properly clean them. The key here is to make sure you don’t scratch your lenses, as they can be expensive to replace. If you’re in a normal climate, use a  soft microfiber cloth. These will be better than, say, wiping your lenses with your shirt. When these cloths get dirty, gently wash them with water, but don’t put them in the dryer, as you’ll ruin the microfibers. 
If  you live in a dirtier climate, you may have hard particles  on your glasses. In this case, don’t just rub the lenses with a cloth. You may end up scratching them. Instead, rinse them under running water and use a little liquid soap (though not the kind with scented crystals). Once  you’re done, dab  (don’t rub) your sunglasses with a soft cloth.
You should also not leave your sunglasses in particularly   hot environments, such as the dashboard of your car. You can warp your   lenses if they’re plastic, or at least degrade the protective films or   coatings. Additionally, don’t prop your sunglasses on top of your head (doing so will stretch out the temples) and keep them in their hard protective cases when you’re not using them. If   you don’t like hard cases, at least get the soft ones; don’t just  shove  your glasses into your pockets unprotected. 
Lastly, take your sunglasses to an optical shop and  have them regularly  adjusted. Remember, all this usage will take a toll  on the temples and  nose pads! Most shops will do this for  free, so stop by  when they’re not busy and take advantage of the  service. 
So  that’s it. We’ve gone through how to determine quality,  covered a ton  of models, and discussed how to choose a pair that’s right  for you. Today, we’ve also reviewed some basic maintenance tips. Remember that while  they make for  great accessories, sunglasses are also practical. As any  optometrist  will tell you, UV rays can permanently damage your eyes  over time, so  you need to have a good pair of sunglasses throughout the year. With this  guide, now you can  buy yourself the best pair. 
* Original artwork above by Agyesh Madan

The Shady Series, Part V: How to Clean and Maintain Your Sunglasses

With most sunglasses retailing between $100 and $300, actually buying a pair can be quite expensive. So for the last installment to this series, Agyesh and I would like to talk about how to get the most out of your purchase.

The first matter is knowing how to properly clean them. The key here is to make sure you don’t scratch your lenses, as they can be expensive to replace. If you’re in a normal climate, use a soft microfiber cloth. These will be better than, say, wiping your lenses with your shirt. When these cloths get dirty, gently wash them with water, but don’t put them in the dryer, as you’ll ruin the microfibers.

If you live in a dirtier climate, you may have hard particles on your glasses. In this case, don’t just rub the lenses with a cloth. You may end up scratching them. Instead, rinse them under running water and use a little liquid soap (though not the kind with scented crystals). Once you’re done, dab (don’t rub) your sunglasses with a soft cloth.

You should also not leave your sunglasses in particularly hot environments, such as the dashboard of your car. You can warp your lenses if they’re plastic, or at least degrade the protective films or coatings. Additionally, don’t prop your sunglasses on top of your head (doing so will stretch out the temples) and keep them in their hard protective cases when you’re not using them. If you don’t like hard cases, at least get the soft ones; don’t just shove your glasses into your pockets unprotected.

Lastly, take your sunglasses to an optical shop and have them regularly adjusted. Remember, all this usage will take a toll on the temples and nose pads! Most shops will do this for free, so stop by when they’re not busy and take advantage of the service.

So that’s it. We’ve gone through how to determine quality, covered a ton of models, and discussed how to choose a pair that’s right for you. Today, we’ve also reviewed some basic maintenance tips. Remember that while they make for great accessories, sunglasses are also practical. As any optometrist will tell you, UV rays can permanently damage your eyes over time, so you need to have a good pair of sunglasses throughout the year. With this guide, now you can buy yourself the best pair.

* Original artwork above by Agyesh Madan

The Shady Series, Part IV: How to Pick the Right Sunglasses

We’ve covered how to determine quality in sunglasses, and reviewed some of our favorite models. Now to the most important part: how should you choose the best sunglasses for yourself? Here are four aspects to consider.

Sizing

On a correctly sized pair of frames, the temples should go straight back and not flare from strain. The frames should sit snugly on your nose and ears, but not pinch or rub, and the weight of the sunglasses should feel evenly distributed between your ears and nose. They should also look proportional to your face. Take a step back from the mirror and make sure your sunglasses aren’t overpowering your facial features, or vice-versa. If you have to err, however, it’s generally better to go a bit bigger on sunglasses rather than smaller. This will not only look better, but also give you better protection from the sun.

Facial type

Generally speaking, you should always try to offset and balance out your dominant characteristics. Don’t overdo it, however; it should be a soft balancing act. To show this, Agyesh has made some illustrations, which you can expand by clicking each image above.

  • Square: For people with angular faces, broad foreheads, and strong jaw lines, try oval or rounded frames. You want something that counters the angles in your face, so avoid geometric or square shaped frames.
  • Oval: If you’re lucky enough to have an oval shaped face, you can more or less wear anything. Just be sure to keep an eye on proportions, as you don’t want frames that are too large or small for your features.
  • Oblong: If you have a narrow, oblong shaped face with angular features, wear frames that add some width. Broad sunglasses or browlines can help (the latter especially if you have a pronounced chin).
  • Round: For full cheeks, soft chin, or perhaps just a straight-up round head, wear angular or geometric frames that sharpen your features. Rectangular shaped styles or even classic aviators can be good here.
  • Diamond: If you have a small forehead and chin, but dramatic and wide cheekbones, you should wear oval frames that maintain balance. Avoid narrow frames that emphasize your narrow eye line.
  • Triangular: For someone with a narrow forehead and eye line, but wide cheekbones and a strong jaw line, wearing top heavy styles such as browlines can help balance the width of your jaw.

Weight

It’s also important to take note of your body type when choosing sunglasses. For example, if you’re heavier, and have a roundish face, don’t wear overly chunky sunglasses, as you’ll look cartoonish. It’s best in this case to have thinner, rectangular glasses. Likewise, if you’re skinny and have a thin face, don’t wear thin, wiry glasses, as you’ll look like a fragile scientist. The key is always to offset your characteristics, not emphasize them, but again, don’t overdo it by having too much of a contrast.

Lenses

Finally, you should choose a type of lens that’s appropriate for your lifestyle.

  • Gray lenses will provide the best “true color” representation. These are the most neutral and best for general use.
  • Green lenses will make the color transmittance curve of the lens closer to the natural curve of your eye. As a result, your vision will stay sharper for a longer time and you’ll reduce eye fatigue.
  • Tan lenses improve your visual acuity by increasing the contrast. These will be good for hazy, foggy, or generally overcast days.
  • Orange or yellow lenses increase contrast in tricky, flat-light conditions. They also provide excellent depth perception. As such, they can be good for activities such as skiing.
  • Flash mirror lenses are mainly for styling purposes. They do reduce some of the light that comes in, but they won’t improve your UV ray protection.
  • Polarized lenses protect you from the glare on reflective or polarizing surfaces such as water, roads, snow, or tinted surfaces. Thus, these will be ideal for boating, fishing, driving, etc. Note, however, that polarized lenses themselves don’t block UV rays; they’re just added to the lenses described above.

Tomorrow will be the last installment to our series, and we’ll talk about how to maintain your sunglasses once you get them. Don’t forget to check back!

* Original artwork above by Agyesh Madan

The Shady Series, Part III: Models to consider   
Choosing  sunglasses can be a bit intimidating once you step beyond Ray-Bans and  Persols. There must be hundreds, if not thousands, of models at this  point. Thus, to make your choice a bit easier, Agyesh and I have pulled  together a list of our favorite brands and models, and then broken them  up them up into three price tiers. The price tiers are a bit rough,  since each company makes a range of glasses, so it might worth clicking  around to see if any of the neighboring categories have something that  fits your budget. 
Note  that nearly all sunglasses on the market today, including the ones below, are made by three companies - Luxottica, Safilo or Marcolin. It  would be a mistake, however, to assume that this means all sunglasses are the same quality. Manufacturers can make frames according to a wide  range of standards, so be careful about being reductive. To really determine quality, follow our earlier guide instead. 
Priced under $150
Classic Specs: Beaumont, Amherst, Exeter, Irving, Brighton
Randoph Engineering: Aviators, Concorde, Sportsman, collaboration lines with Michael Bastian (more expensive)
American Optical: Original Pilot, General, Saratoga
Warby Parker: Griffin, Jasper, Thatcher
Polo Ralph Lauren: Retro, Classic Aviator, Thin Round
Shuron: Escapade, Freeway, Ronsir, Revelation
Ray Ban: Wayfarer, Clubmasters, Caravan, Aviators, Cats, collaboration line with Brooks Brothers (check Sartorially Inclined to read about various Wayfarer models)
Priced between $150 and $350
Bob Sdrunk: Jaja, Malcolm, John
Tom Ford: Hunter (check Overstock.com for lower prices than retail)
Persols: 649, 714, 749
Mosley Tribes: Crane, Hensley
Allyn Scura: Mid-Century
Garret Leight: Brooks, Hampton
Priced above $350
Ralph Lauren Purple Label: Classic and Keyhole
Selima Optique: Chad, Money 2, Steve, collaboration with J Crew
Moscot: Jordan, Drew, Zulu Flash SE
Oliver Peoples: Benedict, Gregory Peck, Sheldrake Sun, O Malleys, Riley
LGR: Freetown, Kampala, Keren, Massawa, Orano
Silver Lining Opticians: Hydrogen Matte Black, SLV x OC Aviators
Tart Optical: Arnel, FDR
We’ll be back Wednesday with another installment. 
* Original artwork above by Agyesh Madan

The Shady Series, Part III: Models to consider   

Choosing sunglasses can be a bit intimidating once you step beyond Ray-Bans and Persols. There must be hundreds, if not thousands, of models at this point. Thus, to make your choice a bit easier, Agyesh and I have pulled together a list of our favorite brands and models, and then broken them up them up into three price tiers. The price tiers are a bit rough, since each company makes a range of glasses, so it might worth clicking around to see if any of the neighboring categories have something that fits your budget.

Note that nearly all sunglasses on the market today, including the ones below, are made by three companies - Luxottica, Safilo or Marcolin. It would be a mistake, however, to assume that this means all sunglasses are the same quality. Manufacturers can make frames according to a wide range of standards, so be careful about being reductive. To really determine quality, follow our earlier guide instead.

Priced under $150

Priced between $150 and $350

Priced above $350

We’ll be back Wednesday with another installment.

* Original artwork above by Agyesh Madan

The Shady Series, Part II: Determining Quality
As  with everything, some things are made better than others,    and you can’t  just infer this from price. You have to know how things    are made. To determine the quality of  sunglasses, you should know  what   goes into the main components -  the  frames, lenses, and hinges. Frames: Aim for block-cut zyl, titanium, and stainless steel 
Frames  can be made from a number of materials, but we’ll focus    on plastics and  metals because they have standardized production    techniques and are  most commonly used.
Most  plastic frames are made from zyl (also known as    cellulose acetate). The  best zyl is made by Mazzucchelli’s Italian    factories, as well as smaller artisanal houses in Japan. In a  high-end pair of frames, the temples and fronts will  be machine cut from  blocks of such zyl, which you can can see in this video about Nackymade.     In a cheaply made pair of frames, granular zyl will be liquefied and     injected into a mold. These frames come out matte and colorless, so     they have to be spray painted and treated in order to have any  design.    Most cheap plastic things you’ve seen are made through  injection    molding techniques.
The  two approaches produce different qualities. First,    block-cut frames are flexible, so they can be easily adjusted to fit the     contours of your head. Injection molded frames, on the other hand,    will  just snap if you bend them. Second, there is the appearance. The     color on block-cut frames has depth, richness, and character. Hard,     injection molded plastics will look flat, as they’ve been spray  painted    to achieve any color or gloss. You can think of this like  leathers -    some will have richer colors and more visible depth, while  others will    look uni-dimensional. Third, there is durability.  Remember that    high-quality acetate frames achieve their character  naturally, whereas    cheap, hard plastics must be painted and treated  to have any color or    shine. As a result, the coatings on hard  plastics will chip, bubble,  and   generally degrade over a period of a  few years. Cloudy, white  films  can  also appear. This is especially  true if you wear your  sunglasses in   particularly hot or humid  environments, or have an oily  face. As such, when buying plastic  frames, always aim for ones that have  been block-cut from a  high-quality (ideally Italian or Japanese) zyl. 
The second most common material for frames is metal.   Nearly   all metal frames will be lightweight, strong, and   corrosion-resistant,   but each kind of material will have different   nuances their   character. Titanium and stainless steel are   best, though the latter   tends to be a bit springy and can feel less   sturdy. These two metals   can be expensive, however. There are cheaper alternatives, but not   without some trade-offs. Aluminum, for example, cannot be   easily   welded or soldered, so hinges and nose pads have to be fastened   with   rivets or screws, thus increasing the chance that those pieces fall     out and the frames to fail. Monel is also workable, but the nickel in   monel can cause allergic reactions in some people. 
If  you’re accident prone, look for frame that have Flexon    metal in the  temple shafts and nose bridge. Flexon is a trade name for a    flexible  “memory metal” that returns to its shape after being bent  or   twisted.  This can be useful if you think you’re likely to sit on  your   sunglasses  or be a bit careless. Lenses: The trade offs between glass and plastic
 Most lenses  are made from either glass or plastic.  Glass is  best for  optical  clarity and scratch resistance, but they can  shatter  on impact.  They  are also heavy, which can cause your  sunglasses to  fall down your  nose.  Plastics, on the other hand, are  lighter weight  and less likely to   shatter. The lighter weight form  factor may be  useful for people who   need strong prescription lenses.  The downside  to plastics, however, is   that they have to be treated  with a harder  tint coating and, at times,   an anti-scratch coating as  well. These  coatings can degrade over time   and affect the appearance  of your  lenses along the edges. 
Regardless  of the material you choose, it’s critical that your     lenses offer full UV protection on both UV-A and UV-B rays. UV rays     damage the cornea and retina. Normally, when you’re not wearing     sunglasses, your iris will naturally close when there is too much light     coming in, or you’ll squint. If you buy cheap sunglasses    without  good UV protection, however, your iris will open up in order to let more  light    in, but not filter out the UV rays. Wearing cheap sunglasses  can thus   be  more dangerous than not wearing any at all, so make sure  your   sunglasses have a label that says they offer UV 400 or 100%  UV    protection.
You  may also want to make sure your frames allow you to    replace your  lenses. Should your lenses get damaged, it will be cheaper    to replace  just the lenses than the entire pair of sunglasses
Hinges: Look for smooth, consistent movements
Finally, there are the hinges. Hinges  are a small but    critical component to the quality of sunglasses.  Poorly made ones    will wear out, rattle, and disengage easily. This leads  to very    difficult, if not sometimes impossible, repair jobs. 
There  are generally three types of hinges: barrel,    interlocking, and spring.  Barrel and interlocking hinges are durable,    but lack flexibility. Spring  hinges, on the other hand, give a more    customized fit, but are more  expensive. The best of these hinges are    made in Germany, but it’s often  difficult to find out from    manufacturers, let alone some retailer, where  the hinges come from on    any particular pair of frames. The best way to determine  the quality,   then, is  to look for smooth, consistent movement as you  open and  close  the  temples.  
Conclusion
To buy the best sunglasses, you should always aim for block-cut  zyl for plastic frames, and titanium or stainless steel for metal ones.  The material for your lenses will largely depend on what you prefer,  but always be sure you have full UV protection. Finally, play with the  hinges for a bit to make sure they operate smoothly and reliably. 
On Monday, Agyesh and I will talk about some of our favorite frames at different price points. Be sure to check back!
* Special thanks to Andrew from Classic Specs for talking with us about technical production details for this article.
** Original artwork above by Agyesh Madan

The Shady Series, Part II: Determining Quality

As with everything, some things are made better than others, and you can’t just infer this from price. You have to know how things are made. To determine the quality of sunglasses, you should know what goes into the main components -  the frames, lenses, and hinges.

Frames: Aim for block-cut zyl, titanium, and stainless steel

Frames can be made from a number of materials, but we’ll focus on plastics and metals because they have standardized production techniques and are most commonly used.

Most plastic frames are made from zyl (also known as cellulose acetate). The best zyl is made by Mazzucchelli’s Italian factories, as well as smaller artisanal houses in Japan. In a high-end pair of frames, the temples and fronts will be machine cut from blocks of such zyl, which you can can see in this video about Nackymade. In a cheaply made pair of frames, granular zyl will be liquefied and injected into a mold. These frames come out matte and colorless, so they have to be spray painted and treated in order to have any design. Most cheap plastic things you’ve seen are made through injection molding techniques.

The two approaches produce different qualities. First, block-cut frames are flexible, so they can be easily adjusted to fit the contours of your head. Injection molded frames, on the other hand, will just snap if you bend them. Second, there is the appearance. The color on block-cut frames has depth, richness, and character. Hard, injection molded plastics will look flat, as they’ve been spray painted to achieve any color or gloss. You can think of this like leathers - some will have richer colors and more visible depth, while others will look uni-dimensional. Third, there is durability. Remember that high-quality acetate frames achieve their character naturally, whereas cheap, hard plastics must be painted and treated to have any color or shine. As a result, the coatings on hard plastics will chip, bubble, and generally degrade over a period of a few years. Cloudy, white films can also appear. This is especially true if you wear your sunglasses in particularly hot or humid environments, or have an oily face. As such, when buying plastic frames, always aim for ones that have been block-cut from a high-quality (ideally Italian or Japanese) zyl.

The second most common material for frames is metal. Nearly all metal frames will be lightweight, strong, and corrosion-resistant, but each kind of material will have different nuances their character. Titanium and stainless steel are best, though the latter tends to be a bit springy and can feel less sturdy. These two metals can be expensive, however. There are cheaper alternatives, but not without some trade-offs. Aluminum, for example, cannot be easily welded or soldered, so hinges and nose pads have to be fastened with rivets or screws, thus increasing the chance that those pieces fall out and the frames to fail. Monel is also workable, but the nickel in monel can cause allergic reactions in some people.

If you’re accident prone, look for frame that have Flexon metal in the temple shafts and nose bridge. Flexon is a trade name for a flexible “memory metal” that returns to its shape after being bent or twisted. This can be useful if you think you’re likely to sit on your sunglasses or be a bit careless.

Lenses: The trade offs between glass and plastic

Most lenses are made from either glass or plastic. Glass is best for optical clarity and scratch resistance, but they can shatter on impact. They are also heavy, which can cause your sunglasses to fall down your nose. Plastics, on the other hand, are lighter weight and less likely to shatter. The lighter weight form factor may be useful for people who need strong prescription lenses. The downside to plastics, however, is that they have to be treated with a harder tint coating and, at times, an anti-scratch coating as well. These coatings can degrade over time and affect the appearance of your lenses along the edges.

Regardless of the material you choose, it’s critical that your lenses offer full UV protection on both UV-A and UV-B rays. UV rays damage the cornea and retina. Normally, when you’re not wearing sunglasses, your iris will naturally close when there is too much light coming in, or you’ll squint. If you buy cheap sunglasses without good UV protection, however, your iris will open up in order to let more light in, but not filter out the UV rays. Wearing cheap sunglasses can thus be more dangerous than not wearing any at all, so make sure your sunglasses have a label that says they offer UV 400 or 100% UV protection.

You may also want to make sure your frames allow you to replace your lenses. Should your lenses get damaged, it will be cheaper to replace just the lenses than the entire pair of sunglasses

Hinges: Look for smooth, consistent movements

Finally, there are the hinges. Hinges are a small but critical component to the quality of sunglasses. Poorly made ones will wear out, rattle, and disengage easily. This leads to very difficult, if not sometimes impossible, repair jobs.

There are generally three types of hinges: barrel, interlocking, and spring. Barrel and interlocking hinges are durable, but lack flexibility. Spring hinges, on the other hand, give a more customized fit, but are more expensive. The best of these hinges are made in Germany, but it’s often difficult to find out from manufacturers, let alone some retailer, where the hinges come from on any particular pair of frames. The best way to determine the quality, then, is to look for smooth, consistent movement as you open and close the temples.  

Conclusion

To buy the best sunglasses, you should always aim for block-cut zyl for plastic frames, and titanium or stainless steel for metal ones. The material for your lenses will largely depend on what you prefer, but always be sure you have full UV protection. Finally, play with the hinges for a bit to make sure they operate smoothly and reliably.

On Monday, Agyesh and I will talk about some of our favorite frames at different price points. Be sure to check back!

* Special thanks to Andrew from Classic Specs for talking with us about technical production details for this article.

** Original artwork above by Agyesh Madan