The best polarized sunglasses for you are going to vary based on the shape of your face and the activities you plan to engage in. Our favorite all-around unisex pick for those who plan to do a bit of everything is Ray-Ban's Clubmasters with an aluminum frame. You can also check out our guides to the best men's sunglasses.
While sunscreen and skincare have been a popular topic in light of a recent FDA ruling on ingredient listing requirements, many of us neglect to give our eyes the protection they deserve. Cheaply designed sunglasses that we don't mind scratching may seem like the way to go when they're so easy to lose and scratch regardless of cost, but poorly designed sunglasses often leave our retinas exposed to harmful UV rays that can lead to macular degeneration, cataracts, and myriad other troubles down the line. Then there are more immediate matters for concern, like snow blindness, especially when we're near water, which is highly reflective in all its physical states. While snow blindness clears after a few days, it will leave you with the unpleasant sensation of having something along the lines of smoldering embers trapped inside your eyes, which is a mild nuisance at very best. When choosing a pair of sunglasses — no matter how much you want to spend, and whether they're polarized or not — make certain that the lenses have a UV rating of 400, which indicates that they effectively prevent the maximum wavelength of UV rays (measured in nanometers) from passing through to your own lenses. Also, take into account frames. Full wrap-around frames are the best option for protection, as they keep out stray light that would otherwise have you squinting all day. But then they're not exactly necessary (or savvy) on the street, and we get that, so we have thin-framed options below, too. Polarized lenses add another level of protection by reducing glare brought on by reflection, or horizontal light. While not always necessary (and often frustrating, especially when trying to operate electronics), polarized lenses are generally worth having, even if you go for a cheap pair. The main difference with a cheap pair of polarized shades is that you won't have the clarity of a high-grain glass or quality resin, which might leave you squinting a lot, and you'll have a harder time seeing your phone screen while wearing them, which, in our opinion, is worth dropping a few extra dollars for most people. If you're specifically looking for polarized prescription sunglasses, we named Warby Parker as our top choice, but you can also find more options at GlassesUSA.com, EyeBuyDirect, and Yesglasses. Here are the best polarized sunglasses you can buy:
Best polarized sunglasses overall: Ray-Ban Clubmasters with aluminum frames Best budget polarized sunglasses: Gamma Ray Polarized Cheaters and Wrap Around Sports Best polarized sunglasses for outdoors: Smith Optics ChromaPop Best sustainable polarized sunglasses: Costa x Bureo's Untangled collection Best prescription polarized sunglasses: Warby Parker prescription sunglasses Best folding polarized sunglasses: Persol 714
Updated on 6/1/2020 by Amir Ismael: Updated links, formatting, and prices. Added in a note on where to buy prescription sunglasses.SEE ALSO: The best sunglasses for women DON'T MISS: The best sunglasses for men The best polarized sunglasses overall
The lightweight but sturdy aluminum frame and thick, scratch- and shatter-resistant metal-rimmed glass lenses keep the timeless Ray-Ban Clubmasters on par with the best. Thick glass lenses held by an aluminum frame make the Ray-Ban Clubmasters an easy, nearly indestructible choice for people on the move, and while they're still among the more popular — and arguably tired — designs, they at least give the Aviator and Wayfarer shapes a rest. I was gifted a pair a couple of years ago, and while it's safe to say almost every pair of shades I've owned before or since has taken on a scratch or two at least, this pair has survived just about everything. I should add that I'm extremely rough on sunglasses. I even managed to sit on this pair — strictly for testing purposes — and unbend it from an unnatural 45-degree angle without creasing, let alone snapping the bridge piece. I've also dropped and kicked them (again, for testing) across fiberglass decks, marble floors, and concrete sidewalks, and they've somehow survived it all. These things are just simply not like the others. Aesthetically, the Clubmasters seem to suit just about every face shape and outfit, no matter how formal or relaxed, and perhaps that's why they're so iconic. While they lack the full wraparound protection of sportier options, we don't assume most of you will be bopping about town in what could reasonably be mistaken for a tinted pair of safety goggles pilfered from your father's workshop — we certainly won't be. But we'll never judge, and if we're completely out of touch, there's an option below for you, too. Pros: Fit for any occasion, sturdy Cons: Pricey, a small amount of light passes through the sides, which doesn't make for the best protection in direct sunlight The best budget polarized sunglasses
Gamma Ray's Polarized Wraparound Sport and Cheaters are fully serviceable shades for an exponentially lower price than the rest of the sunglasses we recommend, so losing them won't keep you up at night. If you're looking for a cheap pair of driving lenses, or just aren't willing to dish out for another pair of Ray-Bans or Maui Jims because you've lost and broken so many that it hurts, a pair or three of either Gamma Ray's Polarized Cheaters (a Wayfarer-style) or Wrap Around Sports (the sportier version pictured above) should do you well. While they're nowhere near as durable as the other sunglasses we're recommending here, they do come with a lifetime warranty (though we haven't tested it, yet) against both scratching and shattering. If you can manage to find a case for them, they might last a whole lot longer. Gamma Ray has gotten praise from both Wirecutter for the Cheater model, and Lifehacker for its computer glasses. Meanwhile, more than 1,200 Amazon buyers gave the Wrap Around Sports an average of 4 stars, and more than 400 Amazon buyers also gave the Cheaters an average of 4 stars. Pros: Metal-reinforced hinges, budget-friendly Cons: Cheap nylon frames will break if you're not careful The best for outdoors
Smith Optics' ChromaPop lens technology filters two wavelengths of light that cause color confusion, while the brand's array of lens tints is designed to cover every kind of light (and water) condition you might face in the great outdoors. In 1965, orthodontist and ski bum Dr. Bob Smith developed the first sealed thermal lens and vent foam goggles, what came to be known and revered as the modern ski goggle. But he didn't stop there, and his line of sunglasses is no less revolutionary. Smith's ChromaPop lenses come in six different tints, all geared toward different lighting, so whether you're inshore fishing on a gray day or offshore on a bluebird one, they've got the lens for you. On a recent fly fishing trip in Hawaii, I realized, perhaps a little too late in the day, that the shades I'd brought along were not defining the elusive bonefish I was trying to spot — not as well as my guide's Smiths were. We switched glasses at the end of the day and I was suddenly spotting the "gray ghosts" left and right. I'm still kicking myself. Granted, to run the gamut of light situations you'll encounter as an angler, you'll need at least two pairs of sunglasses. This, of course, isn't cheap, but then performance optics hardly ever are. But Smith doesn't just cater to anglers; the brand also has a performance line designed for runners and cyclists with removable lenses — I only wish they'd offer interchangeable lenses with their ChromaPop fishing line. Around the web, Amazon users give Smith a formidable 4.7-star rating overall, and premier fly fishing publication Hatch calls Smith's Techlite Polarchromic Copper lenses "the most versatile pair of fishing sunglasses on the market." Pros: Lens tints for all light, fishing-, performance-, and lifestyle-specific frames Cons: Can be pricey The best sustainable polarized sunglasses
Detailed but still sleek, Costa x Bureo's polarized sunglass frames are made with plastic recovered from fishing nets off the coast of Chile and Costa Del Mar's top-notch plastic or glass frames. Sunglass manufacturer Costa recently teamed up with skateboard company Bureo, which has been producing these sunglasses with frames made entirely from recycled fishing nets. Now that Costa is popping its high-end glass lenses into the glasses, they're a little pricier, but we think they're much more scratch-resistant now, and they're worth it. Plus, you get to help out the environment and a Chilean fishing community through your purchase. A slightly sportier take on classic Wayfarers, Costa x Bureo's are tumble-finished for a detailed finish and grip to keep them neatly propped on the bridge of your nose. The lenses are Costa's patented 580 Lightwave plastic or glass, and they offer full 400-nm UV protection while selectively filtering out high energy visible light (blue light) and yellows to cut haze and offer better crispness, which any angler ought to appreciate. Oh, and In-Fisherman digs them, too. For a less-expensive, similarly eco-friendly and sustainable pair of sunnies, check out Swell Vision's glasses, which are made from bamboo. They're ultra-lightweight, come with sturdy double-jointed metal hinges that allow for a little play in the temples, and did we mention that they float? Pros: Sustainably made, high-end lenses, full 400-nm UV protection Cons: Pricey The best for prescription lenses
If you don't want to spend upward of $500 on a pair of prescription sunnies, Warby Parker has a ton of styles ranging from $175 for a basic prescription to $375 for progressive lenses. Born out of necessity by traveling students who were fed up with replacing overpriced glasses, Warby Parker has established itself as the budget-friendly, socially-responsible option for prescription lenses and sunglasses alike. While you'll spend a small fortune ordering prescription lenses along with some of the other frames on this list, Warby Parker covers a good swathe of styles while staying kind to your wallet. The company also promises that for every pair of glasses sold, a pair will be donated to someone in need. If you can afford them, it would be hard to build a case for not buying your sunglasses from Warby Parker, but they do fall short of offering a set of frames that cater to sportier souls who might like or require a pair that offers a little better protection from stray light. In almost every aspect, Warby Parker should probably have you covered. We like the sleekness of the unisex Durand model, but they touch on everything from aviators and wayfarers to Lennons and Jackies. Pros: Affordable, durable Cons: No warranty (apart from one-year scratch repairs), no thick frames for protection from intense, direct sunlight The best folding polarized sunglasses
Persol's folding 714 sunglasses are made with scratch-resistant crystal lenses, robust hardware, timeless style. While we recommend Ray-Ban overall for polarized shades, we've found Persol to hold better quality and hardware, especially since they're still made the same way they were when the brand was founded over 100 years ago. Their hardware is more robust, and their lenses are more scratch-resistant. Ray-Ban's a wonderful brand again, despite having undergone some changes and some serious quality fluctuations in the early aughts that would have spelled death for most any other brand, thanks almost entirely to Luxottica (ironically or not, also the proprietor of Persol, for what it's worth). But with folding shades — which you're going to end up putting in your pocket, without a case — require a robust set of hardware, and heavier-duty lenses, of which Persol's crystal ones are exemplary. The 714 sunglasses are a folding version of the brand's 649, save for a few minor details. And this iteration of them is hardly any different from the original, other than that they fold inward, rather than downward, which seems to make more sense overall. Still, make sure to have a sunglasses screwdriver on hand to keep the screws in place (you'll only have to do this every once in a while). I've been wearing the McQueens for several months now and I've had them in and out of airports, shirt pockets, car consoles, and the sea. And, more often than not, as is my wont, I've done so without a case (yes, shame on me indeed). I've yet to scratch them. My Ray-Ban Aviators and Wayfarers? I'm sad to say they live deep in my glove compartment (also careless) for emergencies, rest their souls. If you're looking for a sturdy pair of shades you can toss around (but most certainly shouldn't) and won't get scratched like plastic or regular, thinner glass, the Persol 714 sunglasses will remain timeless through your final years, however distant they may be. Pros: Scratch-resistant crystal lenses, robust hardware, timeless style Cons: Spendy What else we considered
I've been testing polarized sunglasses since I started wearing them to fish when I was about 10 years old, and in the interim, I've tested dozens upon dozens of them. There are a few key features that make a good pair of polarized shades, and the brands below all tick those boxes, but for reasons discussed below, they're not on our main list of picks.
Maui Jim (starting at $249.99): While polarized lenses are a given, the best sunglasses for a day at sea are only as good as their frames. And since most of us won't probably succumb to wearing cataract sunglasses or the like — at least not until our rightful time — Maui Jim's World Cup shades more than suffice. The only reason we didn't include them as a main pick is that the brand doesn't offer as much style versatility as Ray-Ban or Persol, nor does it make shades for specific light levels. Native Eyewear (starting at $89): A similar, more affordable on-the-water option is Native Eyewear's Sightcaster, which is similar in design and profile, but about half the price. The Sightcasters come with Native's interchangeable N3 lenses, which is something we wish Smith Optics would do, but Natives aren't quite as technical compared with Smith's. Still, they're wonderful fishing-specific glasses, and if you're on a budget but still want some high-quality lenses, look no further.
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