What’s the first thing that comes to your mind with the thought of aviator sunglasses? Is it Don Draper, the entire cast of Top Gun, or just fighter pilots in general? Well, no matter who or what it is, the beauty of this timeless silhouette lies in its off-screen history, having been around for nearly a century and originally crafted with U.S. Army pilots in mind. Considering these shades have ultimately stood the test of time, it’s only right for us to shed some much-needed light on the best takes on this essential tactical-inspired accessory.
There is an endless number of sunglasses manufacturers that need to be accounted for this summer, many of which have proven to be adept at emulating the aviator’s unmistakable style, evoking a sense of coolness that few other silhouettes are capable of capturing. As a result, we chose to narrow down the absolute best pairs of aviators from both a fashion and heritage perspective, going to show this is a pair of sunglasses that will simply never die as long as people hope to look fly (or, you know, actually fly). Without further ado, let’s take a look at our guide to the 10 best aviator sunglasses you should be wearing all summer long.
Warby Parker Belmar
Warby Parker serves as a solid start in any eyewear category, and the Belmar stays true to this quintessential silhouette. These sturdy shades are impressively durable thanks to their razor-thin, stainless steel construction, precisely-cut temples, and akulon-coated screws. For added convenience, the Belmar can even accommodate most prescriptions with its polarized polycarbonate lenses, easily configured directly from WP’s website.
Ray-Ban Aviator Classic
This might be the first aviator silhouette that comes to mind, and for good reason. Ray-Ban’s iconic pair of sunglasses invented the form and have been around since 1937. Fusing classic aviator styling with the American-Italian label’s brand of meticulous craftsmanship, these shades come available in a whopping 13 different colors, and that’s not including the opportunity to customize a pair to your liking.
American Optical Original Pilot
American Optical finds itself in a similar realm to Ray-Ban from a heritage perspective, having been around since 1833 and crating timeless styles ever since. The brand’s Original Pilot has served as a go-to choice for American military pilots since hitting the scene in the late-‘50s, and they were even the first sunglasses worn on the moon. The shades boast AO’s proprietary SkyMaster Glass lenses, offering 100% UVA and UVB protection, smudge-resistant coating, and anti-reflective capabilities. Polarized versions are also available for reduced glare.
In a similar vein to the previous two picks, Persol’s iconic PO0649 shades are some of the most well-known sunglasses known to man, with them and their folding 714 counterpart having been worn by the likes of everyone from Steve McQueen to Anthony Bourdain. These acetate glasses come available in a wide variety of colors and sizes so you can tailor the timeless silhouette to your liking. Rounded out with the Italian manufacturer’s proprietary crystal lenses and trademark arrow decoration, there is no room for error with this chic take on the aviator, and so has been the case since 1957.
Randolph Engineering Classic Aviator
Randolph’s handcrafted collection of sunglasses is one of the niche world’s most well-made, and its chic pair of aviators exudes this notion whole-heartedly. As a testament to American heritage — they’ve been a U.S. Military favorite since their 1980s introduction — and timeless style, the specs come available in a variety of different colors, including some with jewelry-quality 23k gold plating and Randolph’s signature SkyTec glass lenses that utilize a proprietary anti-reflective and Blue Wave lens tech, deeming these a perfect pair to wear when you’re out on the road.
Maui Jim Mavericks
Maui Jim’s fanciful Mavericks sunglasses — which may or may not be named after Tom Cruise’s character from Top Gun — stay as true to the silhouette as any brand can, implementing MJ’s signature lens elements without sacrificing the aviator’s integrity. By using a pair of MauiGradient lenses and implementing the proprietary PolarizedPlus2 tech to deliver the most natural colors possible, these Illinois-made shades are the perfect choice to rock on the beaches of Maui or the streets of New York — and just about anywhere else, too.
Porsche Design P´8686
The P’8686 is one of the Austrian-bred design studio’s signature shades, and it sure has proven to be quite a great choice. With its ultraviolet radiation protection, anti-glare capabilities, and dual-coated impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses, these specs are just as functional as they are beautiful. By implementing the brand’s signature VISION DRIVE lens tech, it’s hard to find a pair of driving sunglasses that outdo any option from Porsche Design — realistically, the brand’s name says it all.
Salt Optics Francisco
SALT is a brand that is well aware of what it takes to ward off the sun’s pesky rays. When you account for its California roots and Japanese manufacturing, owners get the best of both worlds, as these are some of the most stylish, well-made sunglasses around. That said, the Francisco is one of the boutique’s most popular choices, and it’s crafted from top-tier materials like aerospace-grade Japanese titanium and beta-titanium. What’s more, these shades boast oleophobic and hydrophobic coatings, meaning they repel oil and water to stay stain- and smudge-free.
Dita Midnight Special
DITA is one of the most popular boutique eyewear manufacturers, and the Japanese brand’s Midnight Special serves as one of its most coveted options overall. Its frame and temples are composed of glistening titanium, with its side lens rim finished off with diamond detailing for an extra touch of luxury. Most importantly, these provide immaculate protection thanks to 100% UVA- and UVB-blocking lenses with an anti-reflective coating.
Jacques Marie Mage Jagger
Jacque Marie Mage’s mystique is indisputable. Charging such exorbitant prices for an essential product usually comes as the result of impeccable craftsmanship, and the L.A.-based label’s limited catalog puts that on full display. The bewilderingly exclusive Jagger shades are composed of a silver beta-titanium frame, then rounded out with a custom nose pad and 4-base lenses with an anti-reflective treatment. Sturdy composition aside, these are simply some of the coolest-looking frames around, embodying ‘70s-era club life to the fullest. The Jagger comes available in three chic colors: blue, green, and a tropical shade of orange.
The 20 Best Men’s Sunglasses
Sure, aviators are cool and all, but there are countless other shapes to account for when considering a new pair of sunglasses. Luckily for you, we’ve got the absolute best shades to pick up narrowed down for you in this guide.
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