Sunglasses Take Style Cues from the Past, Performance Tips from the Future
By Susan Schnier

Sunglasses manufactures know our dirty secret; we’re slaves to style. Fighter pilot wire rims, shield lenses and chunky frames continue to pervade shades. High-end, optically clear lenses and frames with custom touches like rhinestones and rivets drive up price points and quality standards. While a few manufacturers are still making ultra lightweight, sport performance glasses, most are focusing on fashion first. But even though these glasses are targeting “lifestyle” pursuits like lounging or clubbing, they perform as well as they look when tested with glare, speed or air.

Electric BSGIIElectric’s new BSG II glasses are the second incarnation of a collaboration between Electric and the skater who inspired Jackass, Bam Margera. The shield lens is elegantly curved inside large boxy frames and they’re durable enough to withstand the most asinine stunts. The three-piece raised volt logo and screws are stainless steel and the 100% UVA/B protective polycarbonate lenses are housed in a Grilamid frame. Named after three-war veteran Col. Bob Thacker, the Col. Thacker is made for the “new era of social combat.” Wire core-injected temples offer flexible comfort so you can focus on your A game.

Dragon GCDragon pushes forward with the standing rockstar/drug lord theme, with full-coverage frames and bright colors in its Bridage X-Ray and Calavera Tiger glasses. The two-tone GC shades take a uniquely robotic retro turn toward the eighties, with the kind of oversized, thin boxy frames you were probably wearing when you rode your first snowboard.

Spy BlokSpy also sticks with oversized and eighties styles this year. The company is focusing more on fashion and less on technical snow features, since it feels that most skiers and riders are wearing goggles, not glasses on the hill. Spy does emphasize performance in its glasses but combines it with hybridized, retro styles like the Claudette and Blok which hearken back to the MC Hammer and Max Headroom days of yore. The HSX is Spy’s performance piece with full-protection from large lenses and minimalist elegance in the thin frame.

Giro InstingatorGiro signed a deal to use Zeiss Certified True Sight lenses in its glasses. Made in a Zeiss mold and conforming to a high standard of optical purity, True Sight lenses offer distortion-free, full-field vision in a range of water- and grime-repellant tints. With these lenses, Giro launches its Sport Performance sunglasses. The Semi is the sportiest of the bunch, with a slightly chunky half frame for a lightweight feel. Wind Tunnel ventilated temples circulate air behind the lenses to prevent fog during the slog. The rubber nose pad and temple tips are also ventilated. For the less technically oriented, Giro’s Instigator and Convert glasses are more lifestyle-y, though they also use True Sight lenses and Wind Tunnel ventilation.

Smith InviteSmith releases six new, fashion-driven glasses this year. The frames of the Italian-crafted, oversized Witness are ergonomically curved for comfort and the lenses are optically perfect. The classic, medium-sized Don gets right to the point. There’s no fancy styling, just a down-to-business look with impact-resistant, high quality lenses and frames. Thin-ish frames on big, buggy lenses in the Talent women’s sunglass make a curvy, oversized fashion statement in a light frame. The chunkiest of the bunch, the Invite’s boxy frames are subtly curved. A small metal Smith logo sits at the bottom of the temples and a round, translucent plague marks the ends. Attention to detail and unique styling make this a standout. The Hideout is a smaller frame, flat and sleek and a bit of a throwback to the nineties. It has all the technical innovations of the rest of them, without all the flash. Polarized lenses are available in all Smith’s new glasses.

Zeal OrbNew shield shades from Zeal propel the oversized look into the new line. Zeal’s ZB-13 Polarized lenses allow a single lens to have maximum versatility. The 20-model ZB-13 Polarized line includes the men’s Lift, Tensai, Ignite ST, Flyer and Emit and the women’s Entice and Orb. Zeal also introduces the Eco Essence line. In three men’s styles and seven women’s styles, the frames (from the XB-13 Polarized line) are constructed of 30-50% recycled nylon. All cases are 100% recyclable.

Uvex OversizeWith a technical reputation, Uvex also takes a turn toward fashion this year. The chunky Oversize 7 is available in black, white and black with small vertical rhinestones down the front of the frame. The Oversize 7 features full UV protection and distortion-free, impact resistant lenses. The Uvision Pola Pro embodies Uvex’s historic sport performance focus, with a slim plastic frame across the top of the lens for a wrap-around, ultra lightweight sunglass with a polarized filter for active snow pursuits.