Whether your intentions are fashion or functionality driven, sunglasses have been an important accessory throughout the ages.
In ancient China, they were crudely fashioned together out of flat slabs of smoked quartz, and in prehistoric times, the Inuit people made snow goggles out of spruce and ivory. Even Emperor Nero of Rome wouldn’t watch a gruesome gladiator fight without a pair of emerald stone specs on!
The benefits of wearing sunglasses are obvious, but not always well known. They protect the eyes from harmful UV rays (and not just when the sun’s out) and wearing them outdoors will give you clearer vision and block pollutants like pollen and wind from irritating. They will decrease the dangerous effects of glare, and can even prevent cataracts and glaucoma. On a more superficial level, good sized sunnies can also stop wrinkles like crow’s feet from forming around the eyes as you age.
However, depending on the shape, style and lens type you choose, a pair of designer sunglasses can have the ability to make or break your overall look.
So, not sure you’ve been wearing them right? Read on for a full breakdown of frames, lens, brands and prices to help you pick out your perfect pair…
Style and Shape
Comfort should be a key deciding factor when buying a new pair of sunglasses. They should fit snugly on your face without pinching your nose or leaving indentations, and they shouldn’t dig into your cheeks when you talk or smile. Just as importantly, they shouldn’t be too oversized or slip down your nose either. The width of a pair of designer sunglasses should be approx. as wide as your face, and the height roughly from the centre of your eyebrows to two thirds of the way down your nose.
Knowing the best frame for your face is handy too. Ideally, you want them to complement the shape of your face, but be classic or adaptable enough for you to be able to wear them for many years and with many different outfits, regardless of the in-season trends.
It's easiest to describe styles via the most famous faces they’ve been on. Round sunglasses are often associated with John Lennon, Elton John and Ozzy Osbourne, whilst square and oversized sunglasses are more Anna Wintour, Victoria Beckham and the Kardashians. Clubmasters were common amongst activists and actors alike (most notably Malcolm X and James Dean), aviators have a more military vibe (think Tom Cruise in Top Gun) and cat-eye sunglasses are very Old Hollywood glamour (à la Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's).
When it comes to identifying which of these styles might best suit your face, here are the most common conclusions:
- Square faces = round and rimless frames
- Round faces = retro square, rectangular and aviator
- Oval faces = round, but most styles will suit
- Long faces = round and clubmaster / browline
- Heart-shaped faces = cat-eyes and aviators
- Triangular faces = rectangular and clubmaster / browline
If you’re still not convinced or aren’t a fan of the styles recommended, you can’t go wrong with a pair of wayfarers – they suit all face shapes! Throughout the 50s & 60s, they were the frames of choice for the likes of Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe and Roy Orbison, and they’re still one of the most popular and iconic styles today.
When it comes to the frames themselves, black, brown or tortoiseshell coloured rims can be worn with anything, whilst designer sunglasses with lighter frames like white, yellow, beige or clear look particularly stylish paired with a summer wardrobe.
Lens Types and Tints
Much like the need to wear sunscreen in winter as well as summer, sunglasses have a place on your face all year round. Whilst designer sunglasses that are mirrored, tinted, gradient/ombre or coloured don’t guarantee premium UV protection, they do have the following eye health benefits:
- Grey lenses = reduces brightness & glare, ideal for driving and outdoor sports
- Green lenses = filters blue light, reduces glare & eyestrain in bright light conditions, good for precision sports like golf
- Brown/amber lenses = brightens vision on overcast days, ideal for fishing, hunting and cycling
- Yellow/orange lenses = increases contrast in hazy, foggy or low-light conditions, ideal for snow sports or night-time activities
- Red lenses = blocks out blue light and digital device glare, ideal for driving and frequent computer use
Polarised sunglasses do a lot of the above combined, such as reducing glare from light and reflective surfaces and minimising the effects of eyestrain and colour distortion. Sunglasses with light tints of a category 0 or 1 rating are called ‘fashion spectacles’ and provide little to no protection. Sunglasses with darker tints are labelled as category 2, 3 or 4, and these are the ones recommended for daily use.
Ideally, when shopping for sunglasses, you should be able to easily identify the manufacturer or supplier and the lens category number. Look for lenses with "100% protection against UVA and UVB" labels, otherwise at least a CAT2 or above grade. And if you’re a glasses wearer, consider prescription sunglasses so you don’t have to compromise on style or safety.
Budget and Brands
Buying branded or designer shades may sound expensive, but they don’t have to be – and it’s an added bonus if they come from an Australian sunglasses business.
Firstly, you can’t go past Le Specs, the country’s oldest and most well-known eyewear brand. Their pairs are very stylish yet very affordable, with all men’s and women’s sunglasses coming in under $100. Similarly, at Quay, anything from their collection is under $120, and all standard pairs in Bailey Nelson’s range are under $200.
If you’re environmentally conscious, Good Citizens, Szade and Ozeano Vision sell sunnies with recycled frames, and Local Supply, AM Eyewear and Mari & Clay make polarised sunglasses with plant-based resin frames.
Both South Cali and Pared Eyewear boast UV400 rated sunglasses (the highest UV protection you can get), and Pacifico Optical get their lenses from premium optics manufacturer Carl Zeiss Vision (with an extra hard coating to prevent scratching and an anti-reflective coating to prevent glare).
So, next time you sit on your sunnies or are in need of a new pair or two, get yourself some Australian made sunglasses with just the right shape, style and lens type for you!