The real right stuff

American Optical Original Pilot for Duluth Trading Company


June 21, 2012 Style : Accessories By Photo by JH & NASA

Whether credit goes to Don Draper or not, there’s no denying the current popularity of aviator sunglasses. And while there is no shortage of brands to choose from, if you want the original, there’s only one choice: American Optical. The US military started issuing AO Aviator sunglasses to its pilots, sailors and soldiers way back in 1958 and the brand has been making them in the USA to the same spec ever since: bayonet temples, rectangular frames, sturdy welds and real glass lenses.

Want a testimonial? AO Original Pilots were the first sunglasses worn on the Moon, by astronauts Aldrin and Armstrong, and a pair resides in the Smithsonian — that’s astronauts L. Gordon Cooper Jr. (right) and Charles Conrad Jr. sporting a pair in the above photo. You may only ever wear yours to commute to the office but it’s nice to know they’ve been tested in the scorching UV rays of outer space. Better still, you can pick up a pair from Duluth Trading Company for little more than (military contract-inflated) 1969 pricing.

Buy Now: $53

Jason Heaton

I’ve always been a bit of an adventure fiend, a Midwestern boy seduced by the exoticism of adventure magazines and Hemingway novels. So, I feel like I’ve arrived now that I’m writing for Gear Patrol. It justifies as “research” a lifetime of tramping about the planet, climbing mountains, diving wrecks, and having a basement that looks like your local outdoor shop. Though I lean towards the Polarfleece aesthetic, I’ve been known to enjoy the occasional urban weekend in a tweed jacket or an evening in (gasp!) a tie. I only wear mechanical watches, drive my adequately patina’d Alfa Romeo Spider right up until the snow flies, and always keep an open bottle of single malt close at hand. My sporting cred runs the gamut from velodrome bike racing to Nordic skiing. I’ve done adventure races; I golf twice a month in the summer, have summited Colorado 14ers,and have even been scuba diving everywhere from Sri Lanka to Boston Harbor. I’ve traveled extensively in Europe, the US, and Asia, somehow earned an English Literature degree and learned German, French, and Latin along the way. I have studied photography and can make a mean saag paneer. I can’t say where Gear Patrol will take me. But as someone once said: “it’s not an adventure if you know the outcome.” And that’s just the way I like it. I’m here to serve you, my fellow adventurers.

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