Holy moly cyclists wear some ugly sunglasses. For every treasured Oakley Eyeframe or Briko Sprinter selling on eBay, there’s a whole heap of plastic rightly consigned to the landfill. Maybe it’s just because I’m too myopic to consider wearing any of these expensive bits of fluorescent plastic, but I can’t say the idea has ever really appealed.
Of course, it didn’t use to be this way. Cycling’s golden era is full of famous faces furnished with beautiful sunglasses. Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi in wire-frame aviators or acetate Moscots. Or even better, the understated Dutchman Jan Janssen in his square numbers. Very nice indeed. It’s hard not to think that these guys are to today’s cycling stars what a bottle of Pelforth is to a can of Redbull.
So, as someone possessing eyes that need complex lenses, a face that benefits from a bit of set dressing, plus an unhealthy interest in expensive eyewear, here’s a cycling-inspired list of the best casual sunglasses.
£131, Shop Ray-Ban
The last of the real greats. Bernard Hinault began his long career with a penchant for gold-rimmed aviators and ended up wearing a set of plastic Rudy Project wraparounds.
If you want to emulate the earlier of these two styles Ray Ban’s ubiquitous Classic Aviator glasses are hard to look past. Originally designed for U.S.pilots in 1937, their polarized versions provide optimum visual clarity along with 100% UV protection.
Alba Optics Ferro
£169, Shop Alba Optics
Despite being made for active use, if the prospect of a set of aviators with glass lenses is too nervy, Alba Optics offers all of the style, but with a scratch-resistant polycarbonate Vzum lens.
More shock absorbent, this almost unbreakable material provides excellent resilience, while the frames capture the aesthetic of the golden era.
From £69, Shop POC
Looking like you've nabbed them from an upmarket opticians, yet secretly possessing many of the traits you’d expect from a pair of cycling-specific sunglasses, Poc’s Require supply the best of both style and practicality. Available in a range of frame colours, from classic tortoiseshell through bright blue and yellow, there’s an equally wide range of lens options.
Each made by German lens specialist Carl Zeiss you can be sure of their optical quality, while rubber details on the nosepiece and bridge mean they unlikely to move no matter how much you sweat or the rain pours.
Persol Key West
£200, Shop Persol
A pretty good fit for the shades worn by Jan Janssen, these models from Italian makers Persol are also very lovely in their own right. The browline frames Janssen actually sported were generally made by Provop, a French brand imitating American designs, or came from the firm American Opticals.
Given that you’re looking at a lot of money plus years of searching eBay to find either of those, we think these make a great stand-in. They’re also the shades worn by Nicolas Cage in the very good but very depressing film Leaving Las Vegas.
£140, Shop Roka
One of the vanishingly small numbers of companies making active sunglasses in traditional styles, Roka’s Oslo models are 19 grams of retro-modernist goodness. With sticky inner arms and adjustable grippers on the nose, they’ll be secure enough for even the most strenuous of activities.
You also get five lens options that you can match to the conditions or your mood. Available for clear prescription lenses too, they match modern performance with low-key looks.
Ray Ban Outdoorsman
£131, Shop Ray-Ban
Subtle differences but important ones. 1978’s World Road Race Champion, Gerrie Knetemann favoured Ray Ban’s Outdoorsman aviator variant. Identifiable by its acetate brow bar, they’re otherwise very similar.
They're also available directly from Ray-Ban with your prescription pre-fitted.
Curry & Paxton, Alex Glasses with Green Clip-Ons
£215, Shop Curry & Paxton
Unless you’re Alex Zülle it’s hard to work the prescription insert look. A solid alternative for people requiring complex lenses and keen to avoid the hassle of purchasing and carrying multiple pairs of glasses, clip-ons seem very popular at the moment.
So much so, some people have taken to wearing them on glasses without prescription lenses, which somewhat defeats the object. These natural cellulose acetate frames come ready to be fitted with your prescription and are bundled with matching bottle-green clip-ons.