Sunglasses supposedly first gained fashion cred when early movie stars took to wearing them to protect eyes made sensitive by the harsh unfiltered glare of early studio lights — and although folks still want to look like celebrities, eye protection is still the primary function of shades.
“Most people think all sunglasses are created equal,” says Sam Olendorf, an optician at Chicago’s Eye Appeal Optical. “Inexpensive ones don’t even offer ultraviolet protection — and that’s the main reason to wear sunglasses.”
According to the American Optometric Association, there are four main reasons why everybody needs to invest in a good pair of sunglasses:
Protection for ultraviolet radiation - UV light can cause a number of vision problems ranging from cancer of the eyelids to cataracts.
Ensuring comfortable vision - Solar glare can make people squint and develop watery eyes.
Protection from blue and violet light - Prolonged exposure to this part of spectrum has been linked to an increased risk of macular degeneration.
Adaption for the dark - Eyes not protected from bright sunlight can take an exceptionally long time to adapt to the dark, and make driving at night dangerous.
Sunglasses with UV Protection
Olendorf recommends that consumers pay attention while shopping and make sure that the sunglasses they’re considering have a tag that lists the amount UV protection provided. Usually, this information is on a sticker affixed to one of the lenses.
To get the most UV protection out of a pair of sunglasses, Olendorf recommends polarized lenses with backside antireflection coating — which can reduce the amount of UV light entering your eyes to a minimum. An additional benefit of adding polarization to the mix is that glare will be reduced, as well.
Sunglasses without any UV protection can be a major problem. The dark lenses dilate a wearer’s pupils, which allows a larger area for UV rays to stream into the eyes.
Curved sunglasses that fit more flush to the face offer more UV protection that those with flat lenses, Olendorf says. His style advice: Larger sunglasses will protect better than smaller ones.
In terms of fashion, celebrities still set the tone for the rest of us mere mortals. Olendorf says that many of Eye Appeal’s clients arrive with photos of movie stars and ask for the brand of shades perched on those famous faces. The trend right now is “very retro,” he says, a look very much in keeping with the fashion sensibilities on display in “Mad Men” with its “styles geared toward the 1960s like cateyes and aviators.”
But fear not, fashionistas, as there’s good news for those fretting over style decisions. “The usual rules (for choosing corrective glasses) are not nearly as important because sunglasses are covering more,” Olendorf says.
Just relax and get what you like, he advises. “I’d say it’s all personal style. Sunglasses are more an expression of yourself than ophthalmic glasses.”