The Best Sunglasses of Winter 2022
Optics are better than ever
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This year’s batch of shades marks a historic breakthrough for color-neutral cool gray tints. For the first time, the majority of the sunglasses that earned a spot in this year’s best-of mix feature gray tints that are truly sportworthy. This means you see more detail, faster.
Why? Well, gray ain’t what it used to be. So-so gray lenses tend to be flat. But now, the best of the best—for example, this year’s Gear of the Year winner—boast select light filtration. This does for light wavelengths what a mixing board does for audio. You get a view that seems natural but is actually engineered to pump up color, depth, and detail, without any obvious color shift.
Bollé Prime ($140)
Before recent advances in fine-tuned color filtration, gray lenses tended to produce flat optics—a no-go for high-speed outdoor action. Meanwhile, more vivid tints often made for an unnatural view skewed toward certain colors. But by using artificial intelligence, Bollé managed to provide the best of both worlds. At the brand’s optics lab in France, designers machine-simulated 20 million possible combinations of wavelength filters. They wound up with a lens tint that punches up colors across the spectrum while retaining a natural balance with enhanced contrast and depth. (Glare-reducing polarization helps.) The resulting view is truly amazing.
Designers went big on the aesthetics, too: a silhouette reminiscent of seventies aviators, with flashy blue-purple mirroring. But those large lenses serve more than just looks. They’re also extremely protective, and gently curve with the frame for more coverage at the sides. You might feel overdressed for the group ride or run, but that’s on you, because these shades hold their own against pure performance models you can’t wear on the street. We also love the featherweight nylon build, grippy rubber nose and ear pads, and springy temples that hug the head for security. All told, that’s significant value for less than $150.
District Vision Takeyoshi Altitude Master ($220)
Best for Racing
Like early sports wraps, these shades’ curving synthetic lenses nest close to the eyes for maximum protection and field of view without a huge frame. An antifog coating helps keep your breath from condensing. Bendable rubber nosepieces and wire cores inside slender temples conform to your face and hold shape for a perfect fit.
Costa Del Mar Fantail Pro ($269)
Best for Driving
A packed freeway on a bright day is an instant headache without the right shades. The Fantail Pro’s premium glass lenses are polarized to reduce glare, and boast a gray tint that punches up depth. They’re expensive, but glass will perform for years since it’s less prone to scratching.
Electric Oak ($250)
Best for Style
Slick frames and small lenses make the Oak more of a lifestyle shade than a technical one, but it still wound up in our regular rotation. A stainless core runs through clear acetate temples, while rounded lenses and a keyhole bridge lend a classic look. We also love the synthetic polarized lenses, with a gray-green tint reminiscent of vintage sunnies.
Smith Flare ($179)
Best for Trail to Town
Smith’s Flare riffs on a flamboyantly large Jackie O design that turns out to be wonderful for runs, hikes, and rides. The sizable polarized gray-tinted synthetic lenses offer ample protection and sharp vision. Smith uses its own wavelength-filtration formula to boost color and contrast. Rubbery nosepieces add grip.
100 Percent Rideley ($120)
Best for Sport and Style
The Rideley’s chunky frames are simultaneously a little retro and on trend. Artful ombre coloring—the frames fade from black to a frosty clear—elevate the look. Aesthetics aside, the mildly wrapped rectangular synthetic lenses offer just-right protection for everyday sports.
Dragon Alliance Meridien LL ($129 and up)
Best for Water
These superb polarized synthetic shades boast a neutral gray tint that’s easy on the eyes. Our favorite trick: the H20 Polar version ($205) has frames made from a low-density plastic that’s extremely lightweight and floats when you drop it. Why aren’t all watersports shades buoyant like this? It’s costly to engineer durable frames out of such light material.