Made in the Shade

Jul 1, 2002
Outside Magazine

From left: Cébé, Bollé, Maui Jim, Adidas, and Oakley    Photo: Hacob Khodavedian

REMEMBER WHEN SUNGLASSES served only to dial back the squint? Today's featherweight specs perform a veritable OSHA list of functions: they reduce eyestrain; protect against ultraviolet, infrared, and wind; fend off dust, debris, and bugs; and block out glare. Alas, no single pair of shades will save you from all these threats. Manufacturers now specialize in making some lenses and frames that excel in sweat-drenched endurance sports, others that shine during the winter, and others still that make it easier to see on the water or on glacial ice. Does this mean you'll need a bushel of glasses to get the most out of each of your sports? Well, yes. But it also means the tricky optics on your polarized lenses weren't sacrificed to make a wraparound shield that could fit any triathlete's face. The right frame and lens, mated to the right activity, will elevate your sunglasses into vital gear you can't bike, climb, run, boat, or ski without.

In this polycarbonate world, there will always be a place for good ol' glass, with its superior visual and color acuity, as well as its natural infrared-filtering properties. That place is high in the mountains, where your next step could be your last. For this environment, we remain fans of the CÉBÉ CECCHINEL 496 ($170).

For less critical alpine pursuits, try BOLLÉ'S SLIPSTREAM ($100). Working with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team, Bollé molded the frame and lenses around the human eye and its peripheral-vision limits—hence the audacious side-mounted shields designed to ward off sneak attacks of light, bugs, grit, and wind. But the Slipstreams will fog up, limiting them to cold-weather sports or summer activities that require little exertion.

Since sailors and fishermen alike need polarized lenses to see through the water's surface glare and find the fish—whether they're out to catch them, or, in the case of a great white, to get the hell away—let a pair of MAUI JIM'S SUNSET ($129) do the job. In an effective ploy to shed water, Jim stripped the frame from the bottom of the lenses. Above water, the Maui Rose reddish tint makes everything (and everybody) more pleasing to the eye.

Sweathogs should grab the sleek ADIDAS EVIL EYE PRO ($175), which comes with variable nose and temple settings to accommodate fatheads and pinheads. Your eyes won't feel the blinding sting of sweat, since vents allow perspiration to escape, and an integrated brow sponge soaks up any remaining moisture. Tinted interchangeable lenses (light and dark) are a bonus: especially when you're chained to the desk until dusk.

Turning to the periodic table, OAKLEY forged magnesium—a metal lighter than titanium—into the SWITCH ($230) and created a frame worthy of Frank Gehry's drafting table. To meet the demands of X Gamers, the company then inserted its shatter-resistant, polycarbonate lenses, dusted with glare-cutting Iridium—an Oakley-invented proprietary coating. Pricey? Yes, especially for glasses that don't provide full coverage against the wind, but that's the cost of killer style.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Adidas, 800-223-0180,; Bollé, 800-222-6553,; Cébé, 800-543-9124,; Maui Jim, 888-628-4546,; Oakley, 800-336-3994,

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