The Best Sunglasses for Any Style and Budget
Few accessories have the same level of impact on your style as a pair of sunglasses. Throw on a pair of badass frames and you change up your entire look. The right pair can highlight your best features and make you feel more confident. If you’re looking to give your style a boost, here are some of the most iconic sunglasses known to man.
Before we go into more detail, here’s a quick roundup of our pick, best budget choice, as well as best luxury upgrade.
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10 Best Sunglasses for Men
Ray-Ban Wayfarer is to sunglasses what the Submariner is to watches and the Stan Smith is to sneakers. The Wayfarer is so famous, it almost defines the entire category of sunglasses.
After years of producing functional aviation sunglasses, Ray-Ban launched the Wayfarer in 1952 as a departure from the aviation frames that dominated the faces of military personnel. This new offering was molded out of a few pieces of simple plastic. They did away with the geometric symmetry commonly found in other frames, opting instead for edgy flares and thick, bold lines.
The shift from the conventional was enough to catch the eye of certain Hollywood filmmakers and celebrities. Just a few years after the initial launch, the then young, up-and-coming actor James Dean wore Ray-Ban Wayfarers in the film, “Rebel Without a Cause.” Not long after that, Audrey Hepburn wore them in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” By the early 1960s, Ray-Ban’s sunglasses had not only become immensely popular, but they were also considered the “it” accessory for Hollywood and beyond.
Part of the reason these sunglasses continue to be as popular as they are is that they are the embodiment of the nonconformist “cool” style. In fact, the Wayfarers are the rare marriage of simplicity and style. Unlike other frames, they don’t overpower the wearer. Instead, they serve as the perfect fashion statement accessory. Today, they’re one of the most instantly recognizable, most iconic sunglasses ever produced.
Vuarnet Legend 06
No singular pop culture icon has been responsible for more style influences than James Bond. While the Wayfarer took an army of celebrities and musicians to the summit, James Bond has single-handedly elevated everything from the Rolex Submariner to the tailored spy suit to the Vuarnet Legend 06. Even though Daniel Craig wasn’t the first to wear these classy frames on screen, many people still associate them with his James Bond.
Vuarnet first launched in 1957 with the hopes of creating exceptional ski glasses. With this goal in mind, the company’s founder, Pouilloux, invented the Skilynx lens to block out ultra-violet light and blue light to reduce eye strain and glare without losing out on the contrast and depth perception skiers need.
In 1960, Pouilloux provided their new creation to Olympic Skier Jean Vuarnet, who would go on to win the gold medal. Soon after, Pouilloux and Vuarnet joined forces to launch the Vuarnet brand of sunglasses.
The Vuarnet Legend 06 is known for its minimalistic, vintage design, clean lines, and durable frames. These frames are designed for maximum comfort and are resistant to damage. Since they have an understated style, they also don’t draw any attention away from the wearer’s face or clothes, making these the perfect accessory for those who want their sunglasses to complement their attire, rather than define it.
Vespas, brown leather gloves, and well-made linen suits are all hallmarks of Italian fashion, but they’re not alone. Persol sunglasses are just one more example of Italy’s tremendous influence on pop culture and fashion.
The iconic Persol began in Italy in 1917 when optician Giuseppe Ratti developed the state-of-the-art Protectors. The Protectors were made with comfort and functionality in mind, and were originally meant for sports drivers, aviators, and motorcycle racers. Over time, others started wearing them as well, including artists and poets.
It didn’t take long for Persol’s unique design elements to catch the attention of celebrities, including one of the greatest fashion icons in history, Steve McQueen. When McQueen wore them in his film Thomas Crown Affair, he put them on the map.
Now, Persol sunglasses are widely recognized for their timelessness and iconic design. Although the brand keeps to its artisan roots, it also has an ever-evolving style that emphasizes quality, comfort, and function.
With decades of innovation behind them, the brand designed and produced Persol 714 sunglasses in the 1960s. They were engineered to be the first-ever folding glasses. Along with adhering to the highest Italian fashion standards of the time, they also boast a bold aesthetic. Today, Persol’s sunglasses are the perfect accessory for any formal setting or special occasion.
The movie Top Gun is arguably responsible for contributing two of the greatest pop culture moments in all of history: “The Need for Speed” and the Ray-Ban Aviator.
The Aviator was one of Ray-Ban’s first forays into sunglasses. The brand started providing them to military personnel to protect the pilots’ eyes from the glare of the sun at high altitudes. But, like the peacoat and the bomber jacket, the Aviator transcended functional military wear to become mainstream in the world of fashion.
Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses have dark, reflective lenses and slim, nearly invisible metal frames. As a result, while the Wayfarer and the Persol ooze 1950s and 60s cool, the Aviator matches more of the minimalistic, confident style of later decades.
American Optical Original Aviator
While Ray-Ban has the famous Aviator, American Optical is another pioneer in the sunglasses world.
The company was first contracted by the U.S. military in 1935 to produce highly functional sunglasses that would keep out the sun’s rays and bolster military personnel’s vision. Originally termed the U.S. Army Air Corps D-1, these sunglasses resembled the flight goggles used in the early days of flight where the sun and flying debris would hinder a pilot’s vision.
Similar to Ray-Ban, American Optical discovered they had a winning design and began to refine it until they had the General, which is the design you see today. Since the very first iteration, every ensuing design has sought to improve functionality, reduce weight, and improve comfort.
Eventually, American Optical’s Aviator General became considered as one of the most functional sunglasses on the market. Most notably, Neil Armstrong wore them on Apollo 11. Since then, American Optical has continued to design quality and iconic sunglasses and innovate on their designs, from their old Saratoga line to their vintage-style AO-1002 line.
Oliver Goldsmith Round Sunglasses
Black suits, floppy hair, and Wayfarer sunglasses turned the Beatles into fashion icons. But their frontman, John Lennon, would later become an influencer for another eyewear brand and style, Oliver Goldsmith. These sunglasses – and future derivatives of them – have been synonymous with hipster fashion for decades thanks to Lennon sporting the circular frames.
Yet, before Lennon started wearing their sunglasses, Oliver Goldsmith has already made a name for themselves by making glasses as medical devices. Not only that, but the brand was already making fashionable frames that stood out due to their distinctive colors and circular, minimalistic frames.
These round sunglasses were buoyed by fashion publications and became an instant hit. Demand for the frames grew and then, in 1966, the company gave John Lennon a pair and they became his defining look.
The circular sunglasses appealed to numerous other celebrities as well, including Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. Thanks to this, they became synonymous with the idea of 1970s cool.
Even today, Oliver Goldsmith’s round frames are the go-to fashion accessory for counter-culture hipsters who often pair them with military fatigue (as popularized by Lennon). These sunglasses are also perfect for vintage looks or for rooting an outfit with the fashion of bygone eras.
For many people, larger frames are tough to pull off. They require a certain boldness that many people don’t have. Carerra knew this and, while they made sunglasses that worked for those who wanted something more traditional, they also started designing larger frames marketed towards athletes and sportswear gurus.
In many ways, the Carerra brand was always destined to become synonymous with auto racing and car enthusiasts. After all, Carerra was inspired by these influences. Through innovation, the brand pushed the boundary of lens size and shape in their iconic Champion.
They offered the Carerra Champion in larger-than-usual sizes to offer more protection for the eyes. At the same time, the new sporty design caught the interest of race car driver and enthusiast Paul Newman. Newman gravitated toward the larger frames because of their look and the fact that they remained in place while driving at high speeds.
Due to their size and shape, these high-quality sunglasses are perfect for individuals with larger heads or who gravitate toward larger frames.
Smart fashion designers frequently look to history for their inspiration. Military attire, rustic cowboy uniforms, and royal elegance have all inspired a lot of the styles we see today. Oliver Peoples, a more recent addition to eyewear, took note of this and reached into the film archives to establish one of the best-selling models of sunglasses today.
One of their most successful discoveries was when they visited the set of the film North by Northwest starring Cary Grant. In the film, Grant often wears a pair of small, understated sunglasses with thick tortoise frames. Oliver Peoples collaborated with the Grant estate to reproduce these glasses and it has become a fashion staple ever since.
The sunglasses work particularly well because they marry the Wayfarer flare with circular frames. As a result, they are perfect for individuals who want a unique blend of a classic style and bold stylistic choices but also seek to diverge from the Wayfarer crowd.
Disruption is a good thing in nearly every industry and fashionable eyewear is no different. In 2010, Warby Parker arrived on the scene and offered an alternative to the way people bought eyewear.
Armed with clever branding and support from Gen Zers and Millennials with hipster tendencies, it didn’t take long for the brand to achieve cult status. Now, Warby Parker is one of the go-to brands for people looking for modern, stylish eyewear.
Warby Parker’s success can be accredited to three critical elements: style, fit, and exceptional customer service. The materials they use are durable, comfortable, and high-quality.
Additionally, Warby Parker makes it easier than ever for consumers to buy sunglasses. When you buy Warby Parker, you have your pick of styles and sizes, from the Durand to the Locke and Percey. Plus, the brand takes out the guesswork when it comes to purchasing the perfect pair of frames.
Jacques Marie Mage
Some brands truly break the mold when it comes to innovating on and individualizing well-established fashion accessories. For example, Virgil Abloh reinvented the sneaker industry and Egard did the same with watches. But when it comes to sunglasses, there’s no greater innovator than Jacques Marie Mage (“JMM”).
Founded in 2014, JMM has received a vast amount of attention, praise, and publicity for its sunglasses – and for good reason. The company’s founder, Jerome Mage, started the brand to disrupt pre-established designs. He wanted bold eyewear designs that resembled modern art without dropping the functional elements of eyewear.
FURTHER READING: Are Jacques Marie Mage Sunglasses Worth It?
Mage’s unique approach has been a major hit at outlets like GQ and Forbes, earning the eyewear brand immense fame. Stylistically, what makes JMM so attractive is the attention to detail. They create bold frames with recessed lenses. But they also add fine details like gold accents and floral stem patterns to make their eyewear really stand out.
Besides this, each pair of sunglasses comes in premium packaging that evokes the feeling of luxury. These sunglasses are perfect for anyone who subscribes to the “art you wear” school of fashion. They’re also made to flatter any face shape.
From luxury brands like Carrera and Ray-bans to more laidback options like Warby Parker, there are plenty of sunglasses to choose from. Whatever else, your frames should be of the utmost quality and should complement your overall style.
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He Spoke Style