Unbreakable Optics

Armless Sunglasses Are an Unexpectedly-Awesome Idea


Six years ago, Jensen Brehm, co-founder of just-launched Ombraz Sunglasses, was traveling through India’s Thar Desert when a companion sat on his glasses, breaking the sidearms. Recalling a remedy that his brother had come up with, Brehm affixed a piece of twine to the hinges where the arms used to be and wrapped it around his head. The fix worked so well that when Brehm returned to civilization, he replaced the twine with more-permanent leather and continued to wear the sunglasses for years.

Brehm has since perfected his armless shades, and now he’s making them available to the anyone who wants to give them a try through an initial Indiegogo campaign that’s already fully-funded.

Ombraz sunglasses don’t use twine or leather either; instead, they employ a lightweight, water-resistant polyester-cotton blend that’s easily adjustable with two beads that cinch and expand thanks to some handy knot tying. The frames are made of cellulose acetate, which is light, durable and flexible. The lenses are a scratch-resistant polyamide manufactured by Zeiss that are lighter, but just as clear as mineral glass (they’re also polarized).

As with any innovative and would-be “revolutionary” product, I took the Ombraz with a healthy dose of skepticism. The promises that they claim are bold and their ability to fulfill them isn’t immediately assured — sidearms are such a fundamental and essential component of sunglasses, they go without saying.

I’ve been wearing Ombraz for the past month or so (on the sunny days in between Nor’easters, that is) and I’m impressed. I didn’t think the glasses would sit on my face and be comfortable without feeling restricted and pinched by the cord around my head, but they do. Ombraz recommends that the cord be loose enough to allow hands to slide underneath it at the temple, which has turned out to provide the perfect fit.

One of my favorite things about the Ombraz is that, because of their purported durability, I have no fear of breaking them. I can put them in my pocket (and they do lie flat, as claimed) without worrying if something else is in there or if they might get impacted if I sit down or bump into something. When I wasn’t wearing them though, I ended up pulling them away from my face — a quick way to loosen the cord — and bringing them down to my neck; the cord acts as built-in Croakies. I haven’t had the Ombraz long enough to bring them into many of the activities they’re supposed to be great for, but it’s easy to see their application: swimming, rafting, skiing, hiking, even surfing.

Sunglasses can’t be taken on function alone though; style has to be a consideration. While frame shape is mostly a personal choice, the Ombraz’ aviator-inspired arcs are contemporary and classic, subtle without nearing boring. The cord doesn’t look weird either — I spent an entire Saturday with friends, none of which noticed anything different about my sunglasses until I took them off and placed them on a counter while we grabbed some tacos. I’ll count that as a good sign.

I’ve been impressed by the Ombraz, and I’ll continue to wear them as summer ramps up and I spend more time outdoors. They’re forgettable, not because they are mundane or uninteresting, but because once they’re on, you forget that you’re wearing them. They just work.

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