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.
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).
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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."
Slideshow: What to Wear With Those Shades?
Check out our slideshow "look book" of clothing, accessories and sunglasses designed to help you fill out your winter wardrobe:
Plus, here's a slideshow of winter frames for women, with ideas on what to wear with them. Happy shopping!
Liz Segre also contributed to this article.
[Page updated March 23, 2015]