National Sunglass Day, June 27, might have passed you by—yes, they have a day for everything—but taking another moment here, in early September, to think about stylish shades still makes sense. It is always a good idea to promote eye safety … not to mention a simple excuse to think about buying a new pair of shades. Because, after all, sunglasses are a year-round necessity. Here are some of our favorites.
1. SunSki Taravals, $58; 2. Raen Figurative; 3. Kaenon S-Kore; 4. Vuarnet Romy, Starting at $255; 5. Zeal Optics Decoy; 6. Julbo Vermont Classic; 7. Zungle Panther, $150.
Nathan Borchelt is a gear-obsessed travel writer and adventurer whose collection of shoes, backpacks, jackets, bags, and other “essential” detritus has long-outgrown his one-bedroom apartment (and his wife’s patience).
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For those of you who never buy expensive shades because you always lose them, SunSki offers an interesting alternative. Spend around $60, rather than triple digits, and you get a pair of high-quality lenses and a retro, fashion-forward frame that you'll want to keep by your side. All their silhouettes are pretty on point, but the Taravals rank as one of the more performance-oriented models, with an oversized square frame with larger lenses for total coverage. As with other Sunski sunglasses, you get polarized lenses with certified UVA protection and five-spoke lock-tight hinges. And if you do lose 'em, they're not terribly expensive to replace.
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These shades lean heavily on the fashion side of the function/fashion divide—no surprise, given they're part of Raen's Luxury Wig collection, grown from a collaboration between the eyewear company and Alex Knost, one of the icons of the surf sub-culture. The oval-shaped hand-crafted Zyl acetate frame echoes back to a well-known photo of Kurt Cobain (especially if you opt for the white ones), while the Carl Zeiss Vision CR-39 lenses deliver Visine-pure clarity and 100% UVA/UVB protection.
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From fashion-heavy to pure function, the S-Kore is the latest in Kaenon's Performance line, ideally suited for hard-charging cyclists, hikers, and travelers. The thinner, sleeker fit and styling offers aerodynamics and wrap-around coverage, with shortened temples to help 'em fit nicely while wearing a helmet or hat. They're available in Kaenon's famed high-quality polarized SR-91 lenses, which provide razor-sharp clarity and impact resistance.
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These femme-specific sunglasses trace their inspiration back to Romy Schneider, a glamorous French-German actress who stared in more than 60 films from the 1950s to the '70s—and who also wore a pair of Vaurnet 02s in Claude Chabrol's cult-classic Innocents with Dirty Hands. The all-glass lenses mean you get 100% protection from UVA and 98% of the infrared rays as well as serious scratch resistance. They come in colors that range from classic black to brick red, storm grey, amber, and tortoiseshell.
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Part hipster horn-rimmed, part tech-lover, these shades come in Zeal Optics' Automatic lenses, which combines both photochromic and polarization into one. The yellow lenses automatically adjust in color and tint as the sun (or shade) demands, with full UV protection and a backside anti-reflective coating. Proflex rubber on the temples and nose assures day-long comfort and a no-slip fit.
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These glacier glasses wear Julbo's legacy with mountaineering on its sleeve—rather, it's leather side shields. This model recently returned to the company's line as part of Julbo's 125th anniversary, with wrap-around ear loops, circular lenses with flash +AR coating to mute exceptionally bright light, and leather side shields and a nose piece.
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This Kickstarter darling raised nearly $2 million—considerably more than their goal of $50,000. The campaign has since closed, and the Panther will hit the market this November (in theory), and aim to solve a problem that apparently a lot of people have: they let you listen to music and make calls without using any additional headphones or mics thanks to to "bone-conducting" speakers that transmit sound waves to the skull through vibrations. This apparently lets you hear both ambient sound as well as your music. It connects via Bluetooth, and is controlled by a single jog dial that lets you pair the device, select songs, answer calls, adjust the volume, and turn it on and off. The USB port is smartly concealed behind of the sunglasses' hinges. As for overall performance? We'll let early adopters file the first reports.