Spy Dirty Mo 2 ($170)
For years we derided black frames as timid, fun-deficient defaults. Why go colorless when bright options abound? Spy explains why with the special-edition Dirty Mo 2 and its soft-matte frames that suck up light like an eyewear-shaped black hole. These sunnies forced us to abandon other notions, too. We used to look down on grayish lens tints for being blah and not truly sport- or speed-worthy, because they flatten the view and reduce contrast. Well, blah has been killed by techy optics like Spy’s polarized, color-neutral synthetic lenses, which are high-def, deep, and color enhancing nearly to the point of synesthesia. It’s also time to back off snottiness about these curvy-lens sport wraps being embarrassing relics of the nineties, fine for outdoor sports and recreation but not for the street. Spy squares off the retro design while retaining functional wrap-back lenses for wide, unobstructed vision and protection from sun and wind. This is a true multisport wonder, great for most casual and hardcore athletic pursuits, that also shows style savvy. The look is too much for normal business and dress-up, but so is most maximum-strength fun.
Dragon Alliance Monarch XL ($159)
Best for Big Guys
We tip our hat to Dragon, which appeals to the wide faced and melon headed with the Monarch XL. These shades, with their glossy black frames, are clean, handsome, and high quality, especially the optically sharp synthetic polarized lenses in dense gray, which slay glare and tame brightness. We DQ this one for serious outdoor activities, though—the frames are too slippery, and the flat lenses let in wind and light at the sides.
Bollé Ada ($79)
Best for Laid-Back Weekends
Casual women’s frames in the same flat gray as a Navy warship? Bolle rocks it with flashy blue mirroring, which does a good job of mitigating glare. Gray-tinted synthetic lenses make your world easy on the eyes, even when the sun is shining bright. That tone makes for simple on and off, with almost no color-shift weirdness. Large lenses afford coverage, but do it quietly. Everything about the Ada is chill.
Raen Friar ($185)
Best for the Urban Jungle
These fashion glasses aren’t cheap, but this level of sumptuous detail and design could easily cost twice as much. Wire cores in the temple pieces—bendable for the perfect fit—are things of beauty shining through bluish hand-cut acetate. Ditto the Frank Lloyd Wright–looking ornamental metal at the hinges. The warm brown tint (not the usual citified gray) of the polarized synthetic lenses pumps up visuals. Driving in hellish suburban glare, we had a sleepy passenger try on the Friar. She sat up and yelled, “Wow!”
Oakley Clifden ($193)
Best for Mountains and Snow
Glacier-glass-style side shields are having a moment, and the Clifden is worthy of the alpine. Oakley improves on the past: these shades are much lighter than the Arctic kind, and the synthetic lenses curve generously, for better peripheral coverage and wider vision. The side shields come off for a less calculated look, while the view through the mirrored silver and tinted wine-red lenses is wondrous, even without a trace of snow on the ground.
Tifosi Aethon ($80)
Best for Riding and Running
Any nicely featured, single-lens racing shield for $80 is notable, but this one has a synthetic lens that automatically changes tint with available light. It lets in about 28 percent of full-strength sunlight, and 75 percent—almost clear—when the levels are low. The design’s sex appeal falls short of performance shields costing three or four times as much. But the Aethon punches way above its price point, with crisp optics, huge coverage, security, comfort, and low weight.