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Shades of fashion: Sunglasses come in wide variety of styles

  • Eagle correspondent
  • Published Saturday, May 17, 2014, at 3:26 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, May 18, 2014, at 6:34 a.m.


Why you should wear sunglasses

People sometimes buy sunglasses the way they buy the rest of their fashion accessories: a new pair every spring with an emphasis on fashion over function.

People need sunglasses for:

• UV protection: The sun’s UV radiation can cause cataracts, benign growths on the eye’s surface, cancer of the eyelids and skin around the eyes and photokeratitis, sometimes called snow blindness, which is a temporary but painful sunburn of the eye’s surface. Wide-brimmed hats and caps can block about 50 percent of UV radiation from the eyes, but optometrists say that is not enough protection.

• Blue-light protection: Long-term exposure to the blue and violet portion of the solar spectrum has been implicated as a risk factor for macular degeneration, especially for individuals who are “sun sensitive.”

• Comfortable vision: The sun’s brightness and glare interfere with comfortable vision and the ability to see clearly by causing people to squint and the eyes to water.

• Dark adaptation: Spending just two or three hours in bright sunlight can hamper the eyes’ ability to adapt quickly to nighttime or indoor light levels. This can make driving at night after spending a day in the sun more hazardous.

Optometrists advise people to wear sunglasses outdoors whether they are working, driving, participating in sports, taking a walk, running errands or doing anything in the sun.

Source: Kansas Optometric Association

Ever since Sam Foster helped launch sunglasses into mass production in 1929, it’s been a close call as to whether these tinted accessories appeal more to fashion or function. This summer, it’s both.

While it’s nice to see favorite styles come back into fashion – Tom Cruise in “Top Gun,” anyone? – polarized glasses are all the rage as people look for sunglasses to do much more than shade the eyes and look groovy.

“Polarized sunglasses have definitely taken off,” said Cassie Denhaese, manager of Sunglass Hut in Towne West Square and co-manager of the Towne East Square location. Polarized sales have increased by 20 percent so far this year, she said.

Polarized lenses, which decrease glare and improve clarity by filtering light waves, cost about $50 more than nonpolarized sunglasses but are popular among sports enthusiasts and just about anyone who has done a comparison test, Denhaese said.

“Polarized lenses help people have clearer vision,” she said. “They improve eyesight, increase longevity and prevent squinting. They cost a little more, but it’s worth it.”

So what styles are trending this summer? Those in the spectacle trade say large-frame styles reminiscent of the 1970s are coming back into fashion as wearers flock to large lenses in classic styles. Old favorites like Wayfarers and aviators also are making a comeback, as are pastel-colored frames, experts say.

“There’s a lot of versatility out there,” said Robin Agpoon, an optometrist with Grene Vision Group, which employs almost 400 opticians in 18 locations around Kansas. The group moves a lot of glasses and has product buyers who specifically stay on top of trending styles.

“A lot of the same lines that would’ve been out in the ’70s are making a little comeback,” she said. “Aviators are still pretty popular, and you’ve got your sporty glasses, which are extremely popular. The sportier brands are coming out with a lot more frames that appeal to women as well.”

Fashion writers out of New York reported this year’s glasses trends range from chunky-bold and oversized-round to cat’s eyes and bedazzled styles.

That is evident by looking at the embellished glamor adorning designer styles this year such as Versace and Coach to bold and sassy looks from brands such as Ray-Ban and Prada.

“Trending right now is large embellishments, studs and sparkles,” said Denhaese, the Sunglass Hut manager. “Many of our metals are selling better with the gold look, and several new styles are very bold. Basically, it defines you.”

Fashion aside, eye experts warn that sunglasses need to be safe to wear no matter what the style, color or trend. Buyers should consider whether a pair of sunglasses offers protection from harmful ultraviolet radiation and are resistance to shattering.

While standard in most sunglasses, the lenses should have 100 percent UVA and UVB protection, Agpoon said. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can damage not only the skin around the eyelid but also the cornea, lens and other parts of the eye.

Polycarbonate lenses are up to 10 times more impact-resistant than plastic or glass lenses, and they provide 100 percent protection from UV rays, experts say. This is particularly important for kids or adults who are active in sports.

“Regardless of price, you need to look at the safety aspects of what you’re getting,” Agpoon said, warning buyers to watch out for knock-offs that don’t have the level of lens safety that name brands usually do. “You also have to look at the optical quality of what you’re purchasing. A good quality pair is going to last longer.”

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