Custom sunglasses: How to get the perfect fit for your needs

man using chisel tool on pair of glasses

Ever thought of building your own sunglasses? It’s totally doable.  

Try this: Stop by YouTube and put the phrase “do-it-yourself sunglasses” in the search field. An assortment of clever craftspeople will show you how to cut sunglass frames from blocks of wood or craft them out of plastic or metal.

You can even insert replacement lenses from top brands into your homemade shades.

But what if you don’t have the tools, skills or motivation to build your own sunglasses? Well, there’s something to be said (a lot, really) for buying shades manufactured by experts in controlled settings with stringent quality standards and a healthy fear of getting sued over the sale of shoddy products.

After all, we’re talking about your eyesight here. Your sunglasses shouldn’t put you at risk of losing it. 

There is one trade-off in buying manufactured sunglasses — you can’t get them exactly like you want them. But these days, it’s easier than ever to customize your sunglasses to buy lenses and frames in colors that fit your fashion sense, skin tone and favorite activities.

SEE RELATED: The Best Glasses for Your Face Shape and Skin Tone

Sounds great, but you’ve still got questions, right? 

Let’s walk through a couple questions, using Ray-Ban and Oakley as examples. While many online sunglass stores will let you build your own custom sunglasses, these popular brands provide a handy starting point:  

Can you customize Ray-Ban sunglasses?     

Yes. Indeed, Ray-Ban’s website has one of the most sophisticated sunglass customization systems. Just click or tap “Design Your Own” on the homepage and an array of sunglass styles shows up. When you choose a style, you can pick your favorite: 

LENSES: Each frame style has specific choices. For instance, the Wayfarer II has classic dark green and brown colors in either standard or polarized versions. If you’re into gradient lenses, check out the “Evolve” option.  

FRAMES: Here, you’ll note Ray-Ban’s legendary devotion to sunglass aesthetics. Depending on the model you choose, you can pick contrasting colors or tortoiseshell patterns in the front and a separate tone for the temple arms and tips.

The Clubmaster Metal, for instance, has a half-dozen options for the frame front, including “tortoise on gold” and “white on silver.”  

SIZE: Ray-Ban’s Aviator comes in three lens sizes, while the Original Wayfarer comes in two. Some styles come in only one size, so make sure you check all size options for the best fit. 

ENGRAVING: To personalize your Ray-Bans, you can have words engraved on the temple tips, with a choice of three typefaces. 

CASE: Choose from multiple colors and add up to two lines of engraved text. 

As you scan the options, check the product descriptions for variables like “100% UV protection,” which means your sunglasses will block the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Also, you may have to give up lens features like polarization to get features like color gradients. 

One trade-off of customization? You have to take time to learn the basics of buying sunglasses before you start.  

Can you customize Oakley sunglasses?

Oakleys, which tend to attract a sports-minded buyer, also have a raft of customization options.  Click or tap the “Custom” tab on the homepage and you’ll land on the “Build Your Own Sunglasses” page. You’ll see four categories: Sport, Lifestyle, Youth and Special Edition. 

LENSES: Oakley specializes in lenses for sports as varied as motocross racing, downhill skiing and trail running. Their Prizm lenses use special dyes to filter light certain ways to clarify the view for specific conditions (snow, water or dense forest, for example).

You can also choose polarized or non-polarized versions. Both Prizm and polarization add to the cost, so make sure you know what’s best for your needs. (Check out this insightful Prizm guide if you need help you decide.)   

FRAMES: Oakley has a thing about radical frame designs. And they have some of the wildest color options for their frames. You can also choose the color/design of the Oakley logo and accent colors for frame parts.

It’s your job to decide which colors complement the lenses and other accent pieces. It’s a bigger responsibility than you might think: Choose clashing colors and you could be stuck with them for a long time.  

SIZE: Some Oakley shades have subtle size adjustments in frames and lenses. The Custom Radar EV, for instance, has two lens shapes: Path and Pitch (Pitch is deeper). Custom Frogskins, meanwhile, have an Asia Fit frame option. 

ENGRAVING: Oakley lets you etch up to 15 characters into the bottom of one lens. This has an intriguing twist: Oakley requires you to promise you won’t violate anybody’s copyright or branding with this text. 

CASE: Every Oakley style comes with a cloth bag that has a wide range of customization options, including some national flags. 

Buying advice for building customized sunglasses

Keep these points in mind if you hope to build your own custom sunglasses: 

USE AND ENVIRONMENT: Sporting sunglasses are designed for athletes in specific competitions. Casual shades are more attuned to aesthetics and fashion.

Unless you enjoy throwing money away, avoid the urge to pay for high-end features you won’t use. At the same time, look for 100% UV protection and impact-resistant lenses. Protecting your vision has to come first.  

RETURN POLICIES: Every online sunglass store has specific rules governing returns. Make sure you understand the rules before you buy. Some policies do not allow returns, while others let you return your shades within a specific time frame. 

FIT AND SIZING: Learn as much as you can about the size and fit of the sunglasses before you buy. If the return policy is limited, be extra careful about sizing. Try on sunglasses in a store if you can. 

COST: As you add customizations, always check their effect on the listed price — and make sure it’s worth it to pay more.   

Ultimately, it’s best to know which style, lenses and frame materials you want before going through customization process. Whether you need polarization or a comfortable fit for three hours on the golf course, you must establish your core requirements first. Otherwise, you’ll get lost in a forest of choices.

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Tom Mangan

Tom Mangan is a veteran freelance writer with more than 20 years of newspaper journalism experience. Though most of Mangan's clients are in the B2B technology sector these days, he brings ... Read more