From the front of the Tour de France peloton to the front row of Fashion Week, sporty, streamlined sunglasses are on the move in more ways than one.
Functional eyewear has always been the sportsman’s choice but now garish wraparound shades are beginning to secure a foothold in the style world too. Like fitness watches, they’re functional, nerdy kit and right now there are few things the fashion crowd likes more than technical performance wear.
So, whether you’re searching for something to keep the bugs out of your eyes as you try to beat your PB on Strava, or simply a means of shielding your peepers from street-style photographers’ flashes, let’s take a look at how and where you should be spending your money.
Before we delve into the actual shades themselves, there are a few things to want to bear in mind. Paying close attention to frame shape, lens type and other factors will help you walk away with the best sports sunglasses for your style and needs.
Paying close attention to what a pair of shades are made from will help you to decide if they’re going to be right for the job.
For example, if you’re planning to use them for intense exercise then you should opt for something lightweight, like shatterproof plastic.
However, if you’re hopping onto the futuristic specs bandwagon purely for aesthetic reasons, feel free to play around with styles that incorporate heavier materials.
Generally speaking, the frame tends to be the most important factor when selecting a pair of sunglasses, but brightly coloured polarised glass is what sets sporty spectacles apart from their casual counterparts.
It’s not all about looking jazzy. Different coloured lenses can improve visibility under different conditions so make sure to do your research into what type is going to work best for you.
The wraparound frame found in sports sunglasses is what defines them. And while most designs conform to the same basic foundation, there are still a few variations to consider.
First of all, you need to decide whether you want a double or single lens. Single-lens glasses provide an undisrupted panoramic field of vision, but they tend to cost more.
You’ll also need to choose between full-frame or half-frame. In full-frame, the frame is all around the lens, holding it securely in place. Meanwhile, half-frame models feature a band across the brow from which the lens is suspended. Again, the latter option provides a clearer field of vision.
The Best Brands For Sports Sunglasses
When Jim Jannard began selling ergonomic handlebar grips to motocross riders from the back of his car, he couldn’t have imagined the future empire for which he was sowing the seeds.
Oakley – named after Jannard’s dog – is now widely regarded as the best when it comes to high-performance sunglasses, goggles and extreme sports apparel. The brand’s shades are known for their wraparound styling and brightly-coloured, polarised lenses. Streetwear hype machine Palace has even worked with Oakley on a collab recently, giving further weight to the argument that sports sunglasses really are back in vogue.
Okay, so admittedly heritage sunglass brand Ray-Ban is hardly known for its sporty aesthetic. However, alongside classic aviators and the Wayfarer, the renowned brand has produced some sleeker silhouettes which have proven themselves to be cult favourites.
Take 1967’s Balorama, for example. This aerodynamic frame couldn’t be further from the typical Ray-Ban look but its streamlined design and curved shape successfully set the tone for what was to come in the world of sports eyewear.
Esteemed Italian label Prada has been known for sleek and sporty sunglasses since long before the current uptick in wraparound shades.
Obviously, these specs aren’t designed with the velodrome in mind. However, if you’re more concerned with breaking necks than breaking World Records then a pair of wraparound sunglasses from this bona fide fashion legend is exactly what you need to get those heads turning.
Born out of one powder fiend’s determination to ski in the absolute harshest of conditions, Smith Optics was the first brand to use sealed thermal lenses in its goggles. This allowed founder Bob Smith and his friends to shred when everyone else had to stay at home.
Today Smith’s goggles and glasses are the weapon of choice for everyone from Olympic snowboarders to runners and cyclists. Proof, if ever it were needed, that Smith is still one of the best in the sport sunglasses game.
We shouldn’t have to drone on about Nike’s credentials as a sports brand because whoever you are, wherever you’re from, you already know it.
Just like the rest of the US giant’s output, Nike’s sports shades offer unparalleled performance coupled with industry leading technology from the brand’s Oregon innovation lab. Think one-piece lenses with complete panoramic clarity, ventilated frames and superior comfort.
High-end German sunglasses brand Mykita is well known for its premium handmade frames and boundary-pushing approach to design.
Granted, they’re not the kind of thing you’d want to take for a session in the squash court, but if you did you’d no doubt get a few compliments.
Since 1988, UK-based eyewear manufacturer Bloc has been laying waste to the notion that perfection can only be achieved through excessive prices. The company’s offerings usually come in as much as 50 per cent cheaper than its competitors, without sacrificing any of the quality or good looks.
With a variety of models ranging from the sleek and subtle to the, well, not so subtle, and price starting as low as £40, it’s a budget option that doesn’t look it.
Founded in Italy by Rudy Barbazza in 1985, Rudy Project has been changing the face of performance eyewear for over 30 years.
The company is meticulous in its use of athlete feedback, using it to tailor products, create new problem-solving innovations and ultimately to make some of the most well-adapted and high-performance sports eyewear available to buy.
Luxury Italian sportswear label Moncler borrows its name from the French alpine town Monestier-de-Clermont, so it stands to reason that it excels in making top-shelf kit for tackling the great outdoors in style.
The label is known for its down jackets, but what good is it being nice and warm if you’re being blinded by the sunlight bouncing off the alpine landscape? Luckily the brand’s sleek, sport-inspired eyewear offers a solution to that particular first-world problem.
Self-described couture for the eyes: Cazal’s shades are probably better suited to the runway than the running track. If that sounds like your type of thing, however, you’d struggle to do better.
The label’s fashion-forward frames helped define the classic hip-hop look of the 1980s and earned it a place in the fashion hall of fame in the process. Think first-class materials, precision workmanship and some seriously wild designs.
No roundup of anything to do with sports could possibly be considered complete without the inclusion of German powerhouse Adidas.
The brand with the three stripes is one of the big sportswear frontrunners and it has the futuristic tech to prove it. Think lenses that naturally increase contrast and design touches to keep sweat out of your eyes.