A classic style by a popular name in eyewear. Offers gradient lenses and durable metal frames. Comes in numerous color options.
They are a bit on the higher end of the price range, but it's what you would expect for the quality.
Similar in style and quality to costly aviators at a fraction of the price. Combines lightweight arms and skin-protecting nose pads for added comfort. Has a 30-day guarantee.
They run slightly small and only come in 5 colors, but you might not mind, considering the price.
A classic aviator style that comes in several colors. Metal construction has a lightweight feel and is comfortable on the face. Low price. Backed by 100% satisfaction guarantee.
Lenses produce a bit of glare in some situations, and have been known to pop out of the frames.
Similar features to the other aviators on the market but not as costly. Gradient lenses and metal frames at a mid-range price.
Doesn't offer a variety of colors like other brands available.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Aviator sunglasses have been the epitome of cool ever since they were launched in 1936 by Bausch & Lomb. Designed to be true aviator sunglasses — i.e., for pilots — they first caught the public’s attention when General Douglas MacArthur was photographed wearing them during World War II. They were soon de rigueur for style setters — Elvis Presley was an early adopter, followed by Michael Jackson, and, perhaps most famously, Tom Cruise in Top Gun.
Ray-Ban is the original Bausch & Lomb line of aviator sunglasses and tends to be the go-to brand, but other top fashion names like Prada, Gucci, and Michael Kors also make high-end aviators, and their slight variations, colors, and styles might suit your face better. Top sports and specialist sunglass-makers also have aviator styles in their lineups.
Check out our shopping guide and recommendations to find the right pair to fit your needs.
Polarized vs. non polarized lenses
Polarized lenses not only shield your eyes by blocking out light, but also reduce glare. They do this by filtering out the horizontal light that’s being reflected from the surface you are looking at, which can make an activity such as driving safer and more comfortable for your eyes. They are also a popular choice for outdoor sports and hitting the beach, because they are the best way to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Unlike polarized lenses, regular tinted sunglasses simply remove brightness and do not have any effect on glare. Usually, they are a less preferred choice. However, there are instances when tinted lenses are required — such as when flying a plane. That’s because the plane’s windshield and instruments already have anti-glare filters, and polarized lenses will block out too much light and distort depth and color. It’s the same with any LCD instruments that give off polarized light — try staring at a computer with polarized glasses, and you will see how weird it looks.
We all know how disconcerting it can be looking back at yourself in someone’s mirrored lenses, but they’re not just made for state troopers to look too cool for school. Mirror (or flash) coatings reflect the light away from the eyes, so they’re particularly good where there is very harsh light, such as skiing on a sunny day or going out on the water. Mirror coating also comes in a variety of shades — these don’t affect the way you see color, so it’s a purely cosmetic choice. The downside of mirrored lenses is that the coating can get scratched.
For those looking for impact protection, such as athletes or police and military personnel, there are strong polycarbonate aviators that can also protect the eyes from physical damage. Look for ones that meet the high-velocity and high-mass impact safety standards.
Gradient lenses, which are darker at the top and gradually become lighter, are popular for reading outdoors or driving when you need less blocked light when looking down at the dashboard.
These lenses lighten and darken according to the level of light by reacting to the UV conditions. Be aware that because most UV rays are blocked by your car windshield, they will not darken while you are driving.
Frames are often made of polyamide, which is durable and lightweight. Since aviator sunglasses follow a classic style, you’ll also find ones with thin metal frames.
You can find lenses made of plastic, which are lighter, and glass (crystal), which are more scratch-resistant. There are also polycarbonate lenses, which are up to ten times more impact-resistant than other lenses (most sports glasses use this material).
Like with all types of sunglasses, you can find cheap aviators in the pharmacy bargain rack in the $20 range. However, for a good set of brand-name sunglasses, expect to pay anywhere from $60 up to $400.
When shopping for sunglasses, you will usually see the bridge size (which corresponds to the width of your nose), the width of the lens, and the frame size listed. To measure for that, stand in front of a mirror, hold a ruler horizontally across your face, and measure the distance between your left and right temples in millimeters. As a general guide, these are the suggested corresponding frame sizes:
For 115 millimeters, choose a 49-millimeter frame.
For 127 millimeters, choose a 52-millimeter frame.
For 130 millimeters, choose a 54-millimeter frame.
For 135 millimeters, choose a 55-millimeter frame.
For 140 millimeters, choose a 57-millimeter frame.
For 146 millimeters, choose a 58-millimeter frame.
For 152 millimeters, choose a 61-millimeter frame.
Q. Are cheap aviators bad for your eyes?
A. If a lens is of poor quality, it can strain your eyes. It’s also important to make sure the lenses are 100 percent UV blocking. Some lower-end glasses may claim they are “UV blocking” but use triacetate, which will only filter out about 40 percent of the harmful rays. The darkness of the lens is no indicator either, because some clear lenses can be 100 percent UV blockers. It’s also been claimed that cheap sunglasses can do more harm than good, since the dark lenses mean the pupils will dilate due to less light while still allowing harmful UV rays to pass through.
Q. Is there a best lens color to choose?
A. The original Ray-Ban aviators used a lens tint called G-15, which is a blend of gray and green. It’s still considered one of the best lens tints for all-around use and clear color perception (which is why it’s still a favorite for pilots.) There are some other shades that have specific uses — for instance, yellow glasses increase contrast, reduce haze, and work well in low light, making them popular for night driving and target sports. Rose or brown tints work well for golfers, as they allow good contrast on the green.
Q. Is anti-reflective and polarized the same thing?
A. While polarized glasses cut the horizontal glare, an anti-reflective coating will eliminate reflections from both the front and the back surfaces of the lens. This stops light from bouncing between the two for a clearer view.