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How to Choose Your New Favorite Sunglasses

Three women wearing sunglasses lounging on the deck of a boat
Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

It’s sunshine o’clock—do you know where your favorite sunglasses are? Whether you’ve misplaced your faves or never found a pair to love last summer, we’re here to help you pick the best shades.

If you’re like us, chances are your former favorite sunglasses have been lost, damaged, broken, or otherwise compromised since last summer. Or, maybe you just don’t love them as much as you did last year. When you’re busy living life, it’s hard to keep track of something as small as a pair of sunglasses, and shopping for the perfect replacement can seem like an annoying chore.

But wait—put down those “just okay” sunglasses you picked up at the gas station on the way to the beach. We’re here to help you find a pair you’ll love that won’t break the bank, without wasting any precious summertime. Ready to find sunnies that will have you looking cool into September and beyond? This guide is for you.

Style

First, you need to narrow down your list to the kind of sunglasses that speak to you. Deciding on a shape or style is a great place to begin.

Trending shapes change from year to year and, every once in a while, a new, interesting one dominates for a season or two. But there are a lot of timeless styles that look flattering and are never off-trend, like these.

Aviator

Aviator sunglasses were first designed for pilots in need of eye protection, but they quickly became popular with everyone else. Almost 100 years after its invention, this sunglasses style is still going strong.

Wayfarer

Ray-Ban is a company name that has become an everyday word, like Xerox and Kleenex. Although the Ray-Ban brand creates a lot of sunglasses styles (they invented aviators!), they’re best known for the classic, squarish Wayfarer shape. This style has inspired countless knockoffs, many of which look just as good as the real thing.

Clubmaster

Ray-Ban also popularized the Clubmaster style, but you can find the same design from countless brands and at different price points. You might also see this style referred to as “browline.” The heavier frame along the top edge helps define and accent your face, like your eyebrows.

Circle

Round frames always seem to strike the perfect balance between retro and modern. They look chic and classy, but different enough to stand out. Recently, circular shades have been more popular for women’s sunglasses, but they provide a cool, artsy look for men, too.

Cat-Eye

Unlike the rest of these styles, cat-eye shades read more feminine than unisex. But this style is much more versatile than it used to be. Thanks to new variations on the cat-eye shape, they range from demure and old-fashioned, to bold and modern.

Color

Dozens of sunglasses laid out on a store table
Delpixel/Shutterstock

Whether you choose one of these timeless styles or something more unique, you’ll also have to decide on a color.

Just like shape, there’s no right or wrong choice—it’s all about what you like. However, if you’re looking for a wear-every-day pair, you might want to think about a more neutral shade. It’s often easier to pair frames in black, tortoiseshell, or metal with your outfits than frames in a loud or unusual color.

In addition to the frames, you’ll also need to think about the color of the lenses. Some people prefer dark or reflective shades that hide their eyes completely, but sheer lenses (sometimes with a colored tint) have been popular lately, too.

Fit

Now you have your ideal style and color in mind. But don’t rush out and buy the first pair that catches your eye. If you want to get sunnies that you love, it’s essential to make sure they fit well.

There’s no need to match a particular frame to your face shape—just pick what feels best. If you’d like to consider your face shape in the selection process though, it’s pretty simple. Round glasses soften a triangular or square face and accentuate a round or oval face. Rectangular glasses soften a round or oval face and accentuate more angular faces.

Instead of focusing on face shape, however, we recommend focusing more on fit. You should make sure that the edges of the frames sit near the edges of your face. If they extend way past the contours of your face, they’re too big, and if they land well inside the contours, they’re too small.

It’s also important that your sunglasses fit without pinching, slipping, or sliding around. They should feel comfortable from the moment you try them on. If you have small fit issues, you can get them fitted at most glasses retailers. You can also make some minor adjustments at home—check out this infographic for more details.

However, the better your sunglasses fit at first, the more comfortable they’ll be. Don’t buy a pair that requires lots of adjustment before you can wear them. Just look for a better-fitting frame in the same style.

Quality

Since sunglasses are so easily lost and broken, they need more frequent replacement than most accessories. This means that the quality of your sunglasses doesn’t matter as much as the quality of a long-term investment item, like a pair of leather boots. However, it’s still worthwhile to check for quality before you buy new shades.

Your sunglasses should be made of sturdy yet flexible materials. They need to bend a little so you can adjust them to fit your face, but shouldn’t feel brittle or flimsy when you hold them.

Sun protection is another mark of a high-quality pair. Check the label: it should say either “100% protection against both UVA and UVB” or “100% protection against UV 400.” You can get unlabeled sunglasses tested at an optical shop. And remember, polarization is not the same thing as UV protection.

If you have your heart set on a pair with no UV protection, we hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you should skip them or only wear them for short amounts of time. Your everyday pair needs to protect your eyes. Dark shades make your pupils open up to let in more light, so if there’s no UV protection, your eyes will get damaged faster than with no sunglasses at all.

Cost

Finally, the price will also play a role in which sunglasses you choose. But the good news is that inexpensive, non-designer sunglasses can look and feel just as good as a pricey pair.

It’s rarely worthwhile to buy expensive or designer sunglasses. They’re too easy to damage or lose, and the quality range for sunglasses isn’t as wide as it is for other accessories, like handbags. If you want those designer shades, go for it, but don’t feel like you have to spend big bucks to find a pair you’ll love.

How to Maintain Your Sunglasses

No matter the cost, once you find your new favorite sunnies, you’ll want to keep them as long as possible. Sure, nothing can prevent a stray ocean wave from sweeping them off your face. But you can maintain them while they’re in your possession with these tips:

  • Buy a case: Keep your sunglasses in a case when you take them off, so they don’t get scratched or otherwise damaged.
  • Set down with care: Never set them lens-side-down, which will quickly result in scratches.
  • Remove with both hands: This helps keep them from getting bent out of shape on one side.
  • Get a glasses repair kit: The screws that hold sunglasses together will eventually come loose. You can tighten or replace screws with a basic eyeglasses repair kit.
  • Clean carefully: A soft microfiber cleaning cloth and cleaning solution is the best way to remove fingerprints and grime from lenses. You can also wash them with plain dish soap, like Dawn, and dry them with a soft, clean cotton shirt.

A great pair of sunglasses will protect your eyes, pull your look together, and (barring common mishaps) last you for years to come. But if something happens to your favorite pair, don’t worry—this guide will have you in some new favorites in no time. To lock down the rest of your summer look, don’t miss our guide on developing your personal style.