Choosing the Perfect Shades

Choosing the Perfect Shades

Photos, left to right, from,, and

We can think of several really great reasons to invest in a pair of quality sunglasses, not the least of which is wanting to look like one of the heartthrobs above. It’s true, nothing says cool and confident quite like a pair of dark shades. But before you dole out a small fortune on something designed to make you look good, take a few minutes to figure out what will make you feel good as well.  


Ward Off the Sun’s Harmful Effects

No true sun worshipper can wax poetic about nature’s warming rays without addressing the elephant in the room. That’s right, the “C” word. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, too much of the sun’s ultra-violet (UV) radiation can cause eyelid cancer, which can spread to the eye itself, leading to vision loss, disfigurement, and in some cases death. For classification purposes, UV radiation is broken down into UVB rays that burn the upper layers of our skin, UVA rays that penetrate deeper, and UVC rays, the deadliest, which hopefully are blocked by Earth’s ozone layer. And if UV ray-induced cancer is not enough to worry about, there’s also UV ray-induced cataracts (clouding of the eye’s lens), macular degeneration (retina damage), keratitis (corneal sunburn), or thickening of the conjunctiva (membrane covering the eye). Heard enough? We certainly have. The rest is not for the faint-hearted, and it only gets worse.


The solution, however, is simple. Buy yourself a pair of snug, close-fitting sunglasses guaranteed to block out 100% of UVA and UVB rays. More importantly, wear them – every time you venture out during the high-risk hours between 10 am and 3 pm. And no, in case you’re wondering, cloud cover does not constitute protection. It seems UV rays can be just as lethal on an overcast day, maybe even more so because clouds conjure up a false sense of security. Certain sunglass features can be misleading as well. While it’s true polarized and mirrored lenses diminish glare from snow and water, these types of lenses are not a substitute for UV protection. Also, polarized lenses can make it more difficult to read a computer, cell phone, or dashboard screen. Relying solely on dark lenses for protection can be a mistake too. Not only do they not necessarily offer UV protection, they actually cause your pupils to open wider to allow more light in. So, when you go to buy your next pair of sunglasses, choose a pair with UV protection (the more, the better) and commit to wearing them religiously. Rain or shine, taking cover behind a pair of quality sunglasses is always a good idea.


Are you a believer yet? If our hard-hitting logic, skillful rhetoric and shameful use of scare tactics have convinced you that UV protection is an absolute must, then we can move on to the fun stuff with a clear conscience. We’re ready to talk about style. How about you?


Remember Johnny Mercer’s 1944 hit lyrics “accentuate the positive” and “eliminate the negative?” No? Okay, that was probably a stretch, but the advice is still sound, especially if you’re shopping for a killer pair of glasses. Since a balanced look is the goal, the first thing to think about is the shape of your face. Not sure? The men’s fashion site suggests comparing your features to those of today’s most photographed, and debatably, hottest celebrities. Do you share Mario Lopez’s strong jawline and prominent forehead? Then you have a square face and should look for rounded lenses with a minimal frame. Try a pair of attention-getting aviators. Classics are classics for a reason. What man wouldn’t want to look like an adventure-loving flyboy? However, if your facial characteristics more closely resemble Jack Black’s full cheeks, rounded curves, and delicate features, then choose a heavier, angular frame that will elongate your temples and jawline. Polygonal or square lenses might do the trick. Or maybe, your heart-shaped face and narrow chin make you a Johnny Depp doppelganger. If this is the case, go with rectangular lenses and a thin rim frame that de-emphasizes your broad brow line. If none of these sound right, perhaps you’re one of the lucky few, like Ryan Gosling, whose oval face structure lends itself to almost any shape lens and frame.

While you’re mulling over the most flattering styles, consider the materials the frames are made of as well. At the high end of the price scale are lightweight, flexible metal frames. They’re not known for their durability, but they adjust easily for a comfortable fit. Want something a little stronger? Think about nylon or acetate (used in plastic) frames. Available in a wide range of colors, they’re less expensive and slightly more durable. Or if you like the idea of using your purchasing power to make a conscientious statement, check out WeWOOD’s cotton lyra frames made entirely of natural fibers. The brainchild of a team of eco-smart entrepreneurs, WeWOOD touts its unique designs as “sophisticated sustainability.” Regardless of the frame style you choose, a few universal rules apply. The top of the frames should align with your brow line. Your eyes should sit in the center of the lenses. The frames should not extend past the widest part of your face. And your eyelashes should not touch your lenses. No exceptions allowed.


Lenses come in a wide variety of materials and colors or tints. To narrow the field, we turned to the outdoor experts at REI. Their online guide offers an in depth look at several options. Acrylic lenses are the cheapest, but offer the least amount of clarity and durability. If you’re willing to spend a little more, polycarbonate and polyurethane lenses are lightweight, impact resistant - and deliver good clarity. At the top of the price ladder are glass lenses, which offer both superior clarity and scratch resistance.

With all lenses, the more expensive the glasses, the more layers of coatings are typically applied. There are coatings available to repel water, resist scratching, reduce glare, improve durability and increase visibility. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose just one. You do, however, have to choose a lens color or tint. Brown, gray and green tints are ideal for everyday use and work well in moderate to bright conditions. On the other hand, yellow, amber and rose tints are good for low-level to moderate light conditions. Additionally, these lighter tints often improve depth perception, sharpen contrasts and make your surroundings appear brighter. When we heard this, we had one of those “ah ha” moments. That’s why unfailingly cheerful people are the way they are - they’re seeing a brighter world through rose-colored glasses. If you, however, prefer to hang onto your unpredictable mood swings, you might want to try photochromic lenses that change their color intensity depending on light conditions. Be forewarned though, their effectiveness can be degraded by cold temperatures and UV-protected windshields.

There you have it. Everything you always wanted to know about sunglasses in one simple primer. Granted, the possibility of macular degeneration probably was not uppermost on the minds of the male models pictured above when they chose those particular shades, but we’re convinced you don’t have to sacrifice form for function. You can have both – if you read the fine print.
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