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

The Shady Series, Part I: An IntroductionAlthough  many people think of sunglasses only as a summer accessory, they’re  actually important year-round. You should wear them in the fall  whenever it’s clear and sunny, and in the winter when glare is  reflected off of the snow. In both cases, proper sunglasses will provide  important protection for your eyes.Thus, a good friend of mine, Agyesh Madan, and I thought we’d publish a special five-part series on sunglasses. Together, we’ll discuss how to determine quality and what models you  should consider. We’ll also cover how you can choose an appropriate pair  of frames, as well as how to maintain your  glasses once you get them. Like The Necktie Series,  I hope these posts will be a resource for those who want to know  how things are constructed, how to make the best purchases, and how to  take care of their items. Sunglasses are often neglected by menswear  writers, and we hope to fill that void. Come back tomorrow for part two  of this series, where we’ll talk about how to determine quality in a  pair of sunglasses. It should be a great series!
* Original artwork above by Agyesh Madan.

The Shady Series, Part I: An Introduction

Although many people think of sunglasses only as a summer accessory, they’re actually important year-round. You should wear them in the fall whenever it’s clear and sunny, and in the winter when glare is reflected off of the snow. In both cases, proper sunglasses will provide important protection for your eyes.

Thus, a good friend of mine, Agyesh Madan, and I thought we’d publish a special five-part series on sunglasses. Together, we’ll discuss how to determine quality and what models you should consider. We’ll also cover how you can choose an appropriate pair of frames, as well as how to maintain your glasses once you get them.

Like The Necktie Series, I hope these posts will be a resource for those who want to know how things are constructed, how to make the best purchases, and how to take care of their items. Sunglasses are often neglected by menswear writers, and we hope to fill that void. Come back tomorrow for part two of this series, where we’ll talk about how to determine quality in a pair of sunglasses. It should be a great series!

* Original artwork above by Agyesh Madan.

robhuebel:

D.B. Cooper had pretty cool sunglasses.

robhuebel:

D.B. Cooper had pretty cool sunglasses.

On Randolph Engineering

I have to admit that I’ve always been an American Optical man when it comes to aviator sunglasses. They go for as cheap as $35 or $40 on eBay, and they’re made to the same military specs as Randolph Engineering (they had the contract themselves for a time).

A story like this, though, is pretty impressive. Dave read Derek’s post about RE and writes us:

You had a post about Randolph Engineering the other day.  Well, my grandfather was a career Air Force pilot, and when he passed away my dad gave me his aviators.  They were great except the nose piece was broken.  I tried taking them to a few eyeglass shops to fix them with no luck.  I eventually figured out they were Randolph Engineering glasses so I contacted the company.  They were unfortunately unable to fix the nose piece, but entirely unexpectedly they sent me a brand new pair in the mail.  They’re now the only sunglasses I wear and they are identical in every way (except the nosepieces apparently) to my grandfather’s pair, which must have been forty years old.

So, anyway, I think pretty highly of those guys.

That’s pretty impressive.

We Got It for Free: Randolph Engineering 

I’ve been thinking about doing a buyers’ guide to sunglasses and, fortuitously enough, Randolph Engineering contacted Jesse and me out of the blue. They said they wanted to send over some glasses for a review. Talk about good timing.

General review

First, let me give a general review. These are my first Randolph Engineering sunglasses, and I own two aviators besides these. Quality wise, Randolph’s feel much sturdier and better built. The frame is less flimsy and while the metal is flexible, there is a sturdiness to it that inspires more confidence. Relatedly, the glasses feel more secure when I put them on. All in all, my impression is that these are just better built. 

They also have better warranty coverage. Randolph has the same one-year warranty as their competitors, but in addition, all solder joints are guaranteed for life. Individual replacement parts are also available for order through the company. In general, I get the sense that these really are the kind of sunglasses that could last you a lifetime. Unless, of course, they get stolen. In which case it should last the thief his or her lifetime. 

I also really like how Randolph is the prime contractor to the US Dept. of Defense for military-style aviators. In other words, these are the aviators worn by US military pilots and NASA astronauts. I’m not too shy to say that makes me feel kind of awesome when I put them on. Besides the fantasy element, the military contract also gives me a bit more faith in the quality of their lenses, which I’ll talk more about in a bit. 

Specifics

Randolph’s sunglasses are all made-to-order. I was allowed to choose two, so I picked the Aviator in matte chrome, skull temples, and gray glass lenses, and the Concorde in bright chrome, skull temples, and AGX lenses. 

On first impressions, I favored the Aviator over the Concorde. In hindsight, I think this is because they were a bit more unique than my other teardrop aviators. After wearing both for a bit, I think I look better in the teardrop models. They have a stronger vertical shape that helps balance out my rounder shaped head. 

Additionally, I favor the bright chrome over matte chrome. If you’re going to wear awesome sunglasses, you might as well go whole hog. I also like the skull temples, but can see bayonets working well if you wear motorcycle helmets or something. Those are the style of temples pilots use, after all.

Lastly, there are the lenses. Gray will give you true color reception and are excellent for general use. Gray flash mirror is the same but has a mirror coating for a bit of style. In hindsight, I think I should have gotten those. AGX has a slight green tint that helps bring things into sharper contrast. It’s easier on the eyes during very bright days. Polarized gray is for even brighter days and environments with high glare. I can imagine these being ideal if you often go boating or skiing. Lastly, tan is for overcast or hazy environments. It has the advantage of giving a bit sharper contrast, much like the AGX lenses. 

I choose gray and AGX lenses and they’ve been working wonderfully. This is where the military contract really means something, in my opinion. I feel much more comfortable wearing these when I bike to school knowing that they’re designed to perform well enough for US military pilots. 

Conclusion

Randolphs cost about $115, depending on which model you get, and I think they’re worth the money. Their construction and warranty is better than their competitors, and I like that they have to meet more serious performance tests through the US Dept. of Defense. 

The company has also has a really awesome collaboration with Michael Bastian, the winner of this year’s prestigious CFDA award for Menswear Designer of the Year. Bastian has been wearing Randolph Engineering’s Intruder glasses since college, and putting them on his fashion show models since 2006, so the collaboration has been very natural. The special line has 15 artfully designed models. Some of these are built from Randolph’s current made-to-order options, and have been designed to reflect a “signature series.” The other models takes Randolph’s popular Aviator and Intruder models and makes them in white, yellow, red, black, or (my favorite) navy. I think they’re nice mix of fun and tradition, in a reserved way that still makes the frames very wearable. 

I’m still working a buyer’s guide for sunglasses, so check back in the next week or two for that. 

Sunglasses Brands Made By One Company: Luxottica

  1. Ray-Ban
  2. Oakley
  3. Bulgari
  4. Dolce & Gabbana
  5. Salvatore Ferragamo
  6. Prada
  7. Burberry
  8. Chanel
  9. Polo Ralph Lauren
  10. Paul Smith
  11. Stella McCartney
  12. Tiffany
  13. Vogue
  14. Persol
  15. Miu Miu
  16. Tory Burch
  17. Donna Karan
  18. Oliver Peoples
  19. Revo
  20. Arnette
  21. ESS
  22. K&L
  23. Mosley Tribes
  24. Sferoflex
  25. Anne Klein
  26. Brooks Brothers
  27. Chaps
  28. Club Monaco
  29. D&G
  30. DKNY
  31. Ralph Lauren Purple Label
  32. Ralph
  33. Ralph Lauren
  34. Versace
  35. Versus

To say nothing of these retailers:

  1. LensCrafters
  2. Pearle Vision
  3. Sears Optical
  4. Target Optical
  5. Optical Shop of Aspen
  6. Oakley
  7. ILORI
  8. Sunglass Hut
  9. N3L Optics

Source: Luxottica.com

Clearing out my “sunglasses that don’t actually fit me” pile at the moment.  I’ve listed two pairs on eBay with a 99 cent start price and no reserve; they end tomorrow.

As long as we’re going all Gatsby-colonial today, I might as well post these beautiful sunglasses by Cutler & Gross, via GQ.  $435, though.  Dag.

As long as we’re going all Gatsby-colonial today, I might as well post these beautiful sunglasses by Cutler & Gross, via GQ.  $435, though.  Dag.

It’s On eBay
Polarized Persol 649
(…and like that, they were gone.)
$119 Buy It Now (Free Shipping)

It’s On eBay

Polarized Persol 649

(…and like that, they were gone.)

$119 Buy It Now (Free Shipping)

It’s On eBay
Ray-Ban Classic Aviators
$69 Buy It Now

It’s On eBay

Ray-Ban Classic Aviators

$69 Buy It Now