Whether you’re heading on a hike or striking a pose, we get expert tips on shades that will protect your eyes and turn heads
The heatwave may have passed, but there are many more sunny days ahead, which calls for a good pair of sunglasses. They are, of course, a stylish accessory to wear with summer outfits, but, more importantly, they’re essential for protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays.
Whether you’re out walking, driving or just lounging in the garden, you can find fashionable and functional sunglasses at all price points. We’ve rounded up the best for all tastes, needs and budgets.
With the trend for tiny sunglasses behind us, fashion has turned its attention to colourful tinted lenses and metal frames, explains Grainne Maguire, Optical Director for Crowley’s Opticians, which has four locations across Newbridge and Cork.
“Metals are making a comeback — rose gold, regular gold and silver — but they’re coming with a little bit of a twist.
“[Designers] have added colour to the metal, so it’s not all just plain gold, and they’ve also added plastic, so they might have a plastic front with metal sides,” she says, recommending two cat-eye styles by Longchamp (both from €190, Crowley’s Opticians): the LO636S-272, which has a tan and royal blue frame, gold arms and brown lenses, and the LO661S-036, which has gold wire frames and crystal grey gradient lenses.
Her other favourites are the Gabrielle 04 — a blue acetate and gold metal cat-eye frame, and the angular, oversized Lidy 02 with emerald frames and green tinted lenses by Woodys Barcelona (both from €170, Crowley’s Opticians).
Grainne notes that the tinted lenses still provide full UV protection and all styles are also available with polarising lenses.
“Polarising lenses give you a true vibrant look — when you’re looking through a polarising lens, you’re cutting out all the glare so it appears much sharper,” she explains.
Some people, she adds, can’t wear polarising lenses, such as those who are looking at digital screens or cyclists, in case there’s an oil spill on the road that polarised lenses can make difficult to see. Grainne recommends mirrored lenses as an alternative, which tend to be more suitable for sport.
Oversized frames have long been a beacon of Hollywood glamour and Vicki Notaro, Editor of Stellar magazine, names the Valentino 0VA4053 Irregular (€310, Brown Thomas) as her favourites. “I love that they’re absolutely enormous, have an unusual hexagonal frame and I adore the V detail at the side because it’s my initial,” she says.
For a cheaper head-turner, she recommends the Harper by Quay Australia (€46, QuayAustralia.co.uk). “I love cat-eye sunglasses — I think they draw the eye upwards and are really flattering. Quay Australia is a really reasonably priced brand with stylish frames and decent lenses. I have these in black fade and they’re nice and quirky,” she says.
If you prefer a classic shape, Vicki calls the Ray-Ban Original Wayfarer (€145, Ray-Ban.com) her “number one”. “These are hard-wearing, go with everything and always look super slick,” she says of the unisex model, which is available in standard and large sizes. “I like the large size because it suits my face better.”
Stylist and creative consultant Aisling Farinella recommends the Miu Miu MU 01VS (€200, Brown Thomas). “My favourite sunnies this season are a pair of Miu Miu tortoise shell cat-eye frames,” Aisling says. “They are a new purchase and I love that the style is super-current, but still a classic shape, which I’ll get tons of future wear from. They are a small frame and super lightweight so have been great to wear in the very hot weather we’ve been having.”
If you’re more concerned with everyday practicality than making a style statement, Grainne suggests the Ho’okipa by Maui Jims (from €177, Crowley’s Opticians) — a rimless model with four lens options ranging from smoky grey to bright blue.
“That’s a more durable, lightweight [style] — the Maui Jims are not as high-end fashion, but they’re very practical frames and the optics in them are really top end. They’re polarising, they have glare filters and they have anti-reflective coatings on the back so you don’t see yourself blinking.”
Richard Davis, Marketing Manager at Hillwalk Tours, names the Oakley Flak 2.0 XL (€175, VisionExpress.ie) as his top pick.
“I have been hugely impressed by them,” he says. “They are lightweight and sit comfortably on your face with minimal to no movement when walking or running. In general, they work very well at keeping dust and wind out, while the lenses can also be replaced if either get scratched.
“They are probably priced a little higher than most other sunglasses, but it’s worth it in the long run as they can serve many other purposes such as for driving too.”
Cliff Waijenberg, host and owner of Walking Holiday Ireland tours, notes that as well as shielding eyes from the sun, glasses can help to keep driving rain off the face when walking. He favours wraparound styles by Trespass, which include the Anti Virus (€39.99, Trespass.ie). “They cannot be beat for value,” he says, adding that he eschews polarised lenses as they “spoil the colours of the landscape too much”.
For cycling, Grainne says the Bollé Shifter (from €120, Crowley’s Opticians) is particularly effective. “A lot of the time with wrap lenses, if you’re using cheaper wraps, you get colour fringing on the sides and a wavy kind of sensation — that’s because they’re cut from sheets of plastic, whereas we’re using ophthalmic lenses, so you don’t get colour fringing and you get a truer image in the periphery when you’re looking out to the side, so it’s a better field of view,” she says of the style, which is available in nine colours.
For contact sports or activities where you’re running or jumping, she suggests the Bollé Playoff (€120, Crowley’s Opticians), which comes with a strap so the glasses can be held in place, and a vented lens to prevent fogging.
A lower-cost option is the range by Cébé, including the Wild and Cinetik frames (both from €70, Crowley’s Opticians).
“Those come with three interchangeable lenses: a dark tint for bright days and a yellow tint colour enhancer for dull days to brighten things up, and a clear one to stop flies going in your eyes when you’re cycling or running,” Grainne says.
“Also, you can get a prescription carrier, which is a little piece that hooks into the back of it that you can put your prescription in, so you can still change your lenses and have your prescription — that’s another €100.”
As well as being useful for sports, she says they can be a great help for seasonal allergy sufferers. “With hay fever, you want as much coverage as you can get. Either a heavy side or a complete wrap will help, so you’re not getting any dust or pollen that’s in the atmosphere.”