The Newsroom

Return to Newsroom


by S. Charlie Weyman
Brand name products cost more than generics, and aren't always any better. Compare the brand name and generic drugs at CVS, for instance, and you'll find the same active ingredients each, just with more profit to the manufacturer mixed in for the brand name version. It's tempting to think that the same applies to the sunglasses sold next to the checkout line. And it's true that some expensive brand name shades are made with little more care than the gold-rimmed aviators spinning in front of you as you wait to buy your pack of gummy worms. But there are also some sunglasses worth paying more for, as they offer better protection for your eyes and will last longer in the event that you manage not to lose them.

UV protection: Bright sunlight burns your eyes. Over time, unprotected exposure contributes to cataracts and increase the risk of macular degeneration (both of which are leading causes of blindness in people over the age of 65). Sunglasses can prevent this damage, but not all sunglasses offer the same level of protection. Look for a label that indicates a high percentage (at least 98) of UVA and UVB rays blocked and/or UV 400 protection, meaning that the lenses block rays with a wavelength of up to 400 nanometers.

Polarized lenses: If you are bothered by glare (not the kind from judgmental strangers, but the kind from reflective surfaces), consider polarized lenses, which are designed to reduce glare.

Lens construction: The more expensive and time consuming the lens construction process, the better the optical clarity of the lenses. High quality lenses should allow you to see markedly clearer than the drugstore sunnies.

Frames: Most frames today are made from a cellulose acetate. High end ones are machine cut from blocks, while cheap ones are formed by injecting liquefied acetate into molds. The second process is cheaper and faster, but it results in a less flexible pair of frames that’s more likely to break, and must be colored with spray paint, which over time can chip and bubble.

Of course, in the end, what you’re really paying for in eyewear is design. You’re wearing these on your face, so they need to look good. But your face is important not just for being attractive, but for performing other useful tasks like seeing. Quality sunglasses allow you to see and be seen until the gummy bears finish you off.