Throwing Shade

No, You Don’t Need Polarized Sunglasses. Get These Instead


June 23, 2020 Style By Photo by Chandler Bondurant
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This story is part of our Summer Preview, a collection of features, guides and reviews to help you navigate warmer months ahead.

Most people think the best shades come polarized. They are, in fact, more expensive than normal sunglasses. But are they inherently better? Not at all.

“Polarized lenses are great for intense sunny days, the same way it’s great to wear a Gore-Tex coat on a wet winter day,” says Julia Gogosha, founder of independent Los Angeles boutique Gogosha Optique. The technology, a thin film sandwiched between two lens wafers, was developed in the 1930s and channels light in a way that reduces the eye fatigue that triggers headaches.

But just as you’re not always doing battle with cold and rain, you’re not always under a glaring sun, floating down a river or carving up a mountain. For daily wear, turn to something more versatile and, in many cases, more affordable: tinted shades.

Like their polarized counterparts, tinted lenses are treated to block UV rays from the sun. They just omit an extra step in the manufacturing process, meaning companies don’t have to sacrifice frame and lens quality to hit a more comfortable price point.

There’s another, arguably bigger advantage beyond value. Rather than limiting options to the polarized standard gray, brown and green, good old-fashioned tinted shades give you the option of virtually “every chromatic possibility you can see,” says Gogosha.

How you use the shades, of course, should dictate the color and saturation. “Think of it like how you would choose a band for a watch or how you use laces for a shoe,” Gogogsha says. “Are you trying to use it instead of a sunglass or do you want it more as a layering accessory?”

Early adopters of lighter shades — actors, directors, athletes and musicians among them — lean on them to reduce saturation and quickly turn the world down; or, as Gogosha puts it, to act as “hangover helpers.” Light lenses serve a function for the rest of us, too. “[People who] travel a lot, they’re going in and out of places all the time. They have very late nights,” Gogosha says. “There’s a lifestyle around just wanting to have something that you don’t have to take on and off all the time and keep track of.”

While style can inform usage, and vise versa, the most important aspect of tinted lenses is how you feel when you look through them. “Certain colors will evoke emotion or they’ll evoke mood or they’ll help calm or they can excite,” Gogosha says. “Colors do things.”

Colored lenses aren’t for everyone, but what product is? Unless your day-to-day absolutely demands a dark-colored polarized lens, it’s high time to consider something that blends functionality and style.

Start Here

Akila Legacy Sunglasses

Designed in Los Angeles, Akila’s sunglasses are produced in limited quantities and feature acetate frames with 5-barrel hinges and stainless steel temple cores. The brand’s Optical Class 1 nylon lenses are durable and come in colors like purple, red, yellow and gray, among others.

Moscot Lemtosh Sunglasses

These classic acetate frames from a five generation family-owned New York brand feature 7-Barrel hinges and diamond rivets. Available in four sizes, these sunglasses feature a blue gradient tint that is created by hand.

Jacques Marie Mage Sturges Sunglasses

Made in Japan from 10mm cured cellulose acetate, these shades pay homage to the acclaimed director John Sturges. Designed by Jerome Mage, they feature light bottle-green CR39 lenses with a backside anti-reflective treatment, 18k gold hardware, spur-shaped rivets and tension-secured custom hinges.

A version of this story originally appeared in a print issue of Gear Patrol Magazine. Subscribe today.

The Best Sunglasses You Can Buy All Come From Japan

Italy has long reigned in the realm of premium eyewear, but a profusion of average frame construction has diminished its reputation among industry experts. Their new darling? Japan, where eyewear manufacturing is concentrated in the Fukui Prefecture. Read the Story

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

John Zientek

John Zientek is Gear Patrol's style editor and in-house guitar authority. He grew up on the West Coast.

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