Nonprescription sunglasses are universally popular, whether you are a celebrity in search of the latest fashion statement or an outdoor worker who needs the ultimate in sun and UV protection.
Choices of frames and lenses in this category are almost endless. You often have the option of having your regular eyeglass prescription incorporated into a sunglass frame. But many designer sunglasses that can be purchased "over-the-counter" are called "plano," which means without prescription.
While shopping for just the right sunglasses, you'll find many options in styling, designer name and frame materials.
Here's what's happening in this arena:
Shapes and styles for men and women for the past few seasons have run the gamut: sporty wraparounds, glamorous cat-eyes and "Jackie Os," sleek futuristic styles that hug the face, small retro-looking shapes, large and sometimes bulbous "bubble" wraps, rectangular and angular styles, plus embellished and bejeweled looks.
Watch this video of sunglasses worn by attendees and award winners at this year's Grammys. (Images: Wireimage and Safilo USA)
But the latest styles bring a new and different look to sunwear. Modern styles that have been popular recently, such as sleek wraps and Jackie O shapes, have gained fresh energy with details like rhinestones, cubic zirconia and tinted lenses (in a variety of colors including blue, yellow, rose, orange, purple and coral).
Rimless and semi-rimless sunglasses, which have lenses held in place by a wire or plastic thread, have some very unique lens shapes that are cut in angular, unusual ways.
And some plastic sunglass frames are featuring unusual cutouts and temple details to pump up their look.
Options for sunglass frame materials include plastic (often called zyl), basic metal (usually a combination of a variety of metals) and specialty metals such as titanium, aluminum and stainless steel. Many sunwear styles today incorporate both metal and plastic into the design of the frame.
The specialty metals have become increasingly popular in plano sunglasses because everyone is looking for lightweight options. Titanium, aluminum, stainless steel and even beryllium frames are a somewhat more costly investment, but offer the benefits of thinness and lightness as well as corrosion-resistance and strength.
Shopping for Sunglasses
When shopping for sunglasses, keep in mind that the frame should fit comfortably on your face. However, if a frame is too large, or does not fit properly to your head, it can often be adjusted:
- Metal frames can be bent slightly to better conform to your face and head.
- Plastic frames can be heated and reshaped for a better fit.
The color and shape of the frame you choose depend on your personal style and preference.
However, many sunglass aficionados say they like bolder styles, colors and details since they will be wearing them occasionally and only outside, as opposed to eyeglasses that are worn all day long indoors. Eyeglasses are considered "normal" eyewear, whereas sunglasses may be viewed as specialized eyewear, particularly for those who love the outdoors.
"First, look for lightweight sunglasses that provide all-day comfort," says Chris Abbruzzese, Maui Jim sunglasses vice president of marketing. "Make sure the lenses are impact-resistant and scratch-resistant, and the frames have corrosion resistant hinges these are key features for anglers, for example."
Current Sunglass Trends: Fall and Winter 2012
If you want to know which sunglasses are the must-have look of the season, look for these current style trends. (Click on the buttons below for videos.)
50 Shades Of... Look out for smouldering shades of gray, blue, purple, chocolate and green this season. If color's your thing, you'll love this contemporary twist on classic styling. Check out the offerings from 7 For All Mankind, Alexander Daas and Tumi.
Hipster Happenings. Express yourself in these edgy, urban-chic shades. Choose from a melting pot of creative colors, shapes and designs from brands including Seraphin, Tru Trussardi and Persol.
Click on the button for a video of new trends in men's sunglasses for Fall/Winter 2012.
Click on the button for a video of new trends in women's sunglasses for Fall/Winter 2012.
Playing the Field. Build up a sweat without losing your cool in these performance-enhanced sunglasses. Athleticism and fashion go hand-in-hand in styles from Maui Jim, Zeal Optics and Wiley X.
Statesman Style. Precious metals, rich hues of mahogany and aviator flashbacks offer a timeless style. Look like a boss in designs from True Religion, Costa Del Mar and John Varvatos.
Animal Attraction. Go tribal in funky animal-print sunglasses and cat-eye frames. Hear the call of the wild from brands including Lucky, Lafont and Sofia Vergara.
In the Circle. Rock retro-inspired circle lenses this season for a bold, high-fashion look. Our favorites include designs from Miu Miu, Tom Davies and Tom Ford.
Mod Squad. 1960s cool meets contemporary fashion with these on-trend frames. Be the "It" girl with bold shapes, opaque whites and splashes of color from Gant, Lucky and Face à Face.
Signature Style. From bejewelled temples to oversized aviators, these sunglasses make a statement without saying a word. Check out the fashion-forward designs from Sama, Vera Wang and Yves Saint Laurent.
Special thanks to The Vision Council for their assistance with fashion updates.
[Page updated March 15, 2013]
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