Best Aviators

Updated May 2019
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

302 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
240 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Shopping guide for best aviators

Last Updated May 2019

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.

There’s a trick to telling if a lens really is polarized. Hold two pairs of alleged polarized sunglasses together, with one pair at 90 degrees to the other. If the overlapping lenses are now solid opaque black, you know they are polarized.

Key considerations

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.

DID YOU KNOW?

If your aviators break, it may not be the end for them — there are repair kits available with screws, screwdrivers, and replacement nose pads.

Features

Mirrored lenses

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.

Impact resistant

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

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.

Photochromatic

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.

Frame materials

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.

Lens materials

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).

EXPERT TIP

The best way to clean sunglasses is to rinse them with lukewarm water. Then, gently rub some dish soap over them with your fingers. Rinse and dry with a microfiber cloth.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Recycle discarded sunglasses. Just as with prescription glasses, there’s a big need for them in developing countries around the world, plus it keeps them out of the landfill.


Staff  | BestReviews

Aviators prices

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.

How do you find the right fit?

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.

Other products we considered

You will find a big range of original Ray-Ban aviators with various features, but if the style or fit is not quite right (many find Ray-Bans slip down the nose), consider the Oakley Feedback polarized aviator, which is a very dainty style for women. The gray gradient is polarized and, as a bonus, the nosepiece has an anti-snag feature that stops it from getting caught in your hair if you tend to push your glasses onto your head. The Costa del Mar South Point aviator is another great choice from a top brand that’s a favorite of sportspeople. The metal frames are corrosion-resistant which, along with the green-mirror polarized lenses, makes them perfect for watersports.

Beware of fake goods. Sunglasses are right up there with handbags and wallets as a prime target for counterfeiters. Check the brand’s website for details on their embossed logos or serial numbers, so you can confirm that you have the real deal.

FAQ

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.

The team that worked on this review
  • Alvina
    Alvina
    Photographer
  • Amos
    Amos
    Director of Photography
  • Angela
    Angela
    Editor
  • Branson
    Branson
    Videographer
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Production Assistant
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Steph
    Steph
    Web Producer
  • Vukan
    Vukan
    Post Production Editor

BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.

Take Survey