Style » Fashion

Spring Shades :: Looking Cool as Things Warm Up

by David Andrusia
Monday Apr 12, 2010

Sexy shades are super, but eye health is more important still. How to choose the best sunglasses for your needs - and keep your eyes in optimal health - while stylin’ in the sun?

Michelle Calder Cardwell, O.D., Metro-Detroit Optometrist and owner of Urban Optiques Vision and Couture Eyewear in Northville, MI, has plenty of good advice as we head into spring and summer. To start with, she talks materials.

Dr. Cardwell says, "Back in the day, it was all about glass over plastic," but now, she says, "Lens technology has come a long way from the days of hand-ground glass lenses. Today, optical quality lenses are available in a wide-range of materials, including polycarbonates and plastics.

Because of durability and safety concerns, it’s actually rare to use a glass lens in eyewear anymore. In general, most lenses will be made from impact-resistant plastics and other polymers."

Additionally, "Lens manufacturers such as Carl Zeiss have recently introduced premium optical lenses that use a computer in the office or optical shop to take digital measurements of a person’s face, pupil distance, and several frame measurements in order to produce the most customized and personal lens possible. High definition lenses are also growing in popularity, because just like an HD TV, high definition lenses provide a substantially sharper, clearer image than traditional lenses."

The issue of ultraviolet radiation can be confusing, but Dr. Cardwell clarifies the issue considerably, noting that UV light - which is made up of the longer lightwaves at the blue end of the spectrum; so "violet" that the light is past the point of visibility - is actually "two forms of ultraviolet radiation." The difference between the two is the length of the wave; UV-A is longer wave than UV-B.

"Conventional wisdom said that UVB caused the majority of damage to skin or eyes," Dr. Cardwell continues, "but recent research suggests that both forms may pose health and vision risks, including an increased risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration.

Another danger...

"There is also a third form of radiation: high-energy visible (HEV) radiation or ’blue light,’ against which human eyes also need protection. Although HEV rays have longer wavelengths and lower energy than UV rays, they penetrate deeply into the eye and can cause retinal damage, which can lead to blindness from diseases such as age-related macular degeneration.

"When choosing sunwear, you’ll want a selection that optimally provides 100% protection from both UVA and UVB rays, as well a HEV radiation," Dr. Cardwell advises." While it’s tempting to think that the darker the lens, the better the protection, this is not necessarily true. The color and darkness of tint is not related to the level of UV protection. Light amber-tinted lenses can actually provide as much UV protection, if not more, as dark gray lenses, and amber/brown lenses block more blue light/HEV. If you’re unsure whether a pair of sunglasses provides 100% UVA, UVB and HEV radiation protection, you can work with an optometrist or optician to select the right lens."

Another issue that has confounded us for years is the difference between optical shops and department stores. Though the latter have name-brand designer frames, how good are they for your eyes- and how do we determine whether we should buy them at department stores, rather than at an optical shop?

According to Dr. Cardwell, "Like eyeglasses, sunglasses for most people are both a fashion and functional accessory. If you have prescription lenses placed in your sunglasses, they will be a medical device, as well. So whether it’s worth your money to purchase designer sunglasses from a department store really comes down to personal preference. Like designer handbags, shoes or jeans, you’re paying something for the name, but probably not as much as you think."

"Many designer sunglasses are made in France or Italy, and there is typically a pronounced difference in quality and construction between these sunglasses and those from China," Dr. Cardwell adds. "So you certainly get what you pay for with designer suns. Also, keep in mind that high-end luxury sunglasses from brands like FRED, Cartier, and Chrome Hearts are often hand-made with precious metals like gold, platinum, and sterling silver, often with temples made from exotic or rare woods, so the material and labor costs of these lines is actually quite high to begin with.

"If you are planning on placing prescription lenses in your frames, it’s even more important to choose something high-quality," says Dr. Cardwell, "since you’ll also be depending on them to see. This is one of those times when you may want to skip buying your sunglasses at the department store or gas station, and work with an optical shop. Not all sunglasses frames can accommodate a prescription lens (for example, frames that have a lot of wrap to them), so to get the clearest vision, you need to work with a vision care specialist, and not the girl at the Nordstrom counter.

"Optical shops - especially those that specialize in sunwear - will also typically have more designer product in stock, and will carry more variety than department stores. They may also be more willing to special order stock for you. And, because their staff are trained opticians, they are experts in matching frames to your face shape as well as lifestyle needs."

Now that you know about ocular health and optical choices, let’s talk fashion. Here are our faves for cool looks - across all price points - for summer 2010:

Maverick by Cinzia Designs

There’s a vintage-meets-modern element to these Cinzia Design shades that really does make them maverick. (We’re picturing Olivier Martinez sporting these in San Remo, and we’re probably not far off the mark.)

Available in four colors (black, gunmetal grey, white, red); flat metal fronts with layered acetate temples in either black or tortoise combine UV protection with glam good looks and a very Euro point of view.

$150 at optical shops and boutiques nationwide or at

Next page :: Many more styles.


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