Oakley reps talk on sunglasses’ safety versus style

Jennifer Yang/for Metro Toronto


Oakley’s Adam Racioppi, Tyler Porteous and Bryan Shelton have been educating Canadians on the science behind sunglasses.

“People think lens colour has a part in UV protection but it doesn’t at all.”

Somewhere down the road, sunglasses made the crossover from “protective eyewear” to “fashion accessory.” When it comes to picking a pair of shades however, there’s much more to consider than just your own reflection.

“People are definitely preoccupied with style,” says Bryan Shelton, a technical representative with Oakley sunglasses.

“That’s very important… but there’s more to a pair of sunglasses than just how cool you look in them.”

Oakley recently traveled Canada to demonstrate the technical side of sunglasses. Your eyes can get burnt just like the rest of you and cumulative sun damage may lead to cataracts or macular degeneration.

And it’s the quality of lens — not the glam factor — that will protect sun worshippers from such dangers.

Oakley’s lenses are made from a polycarbonate material that has the UV protection built right into it. Other lens materials however (like glass or plastic) require additional overlays to filter UV rays.

If the lens surface fades, chip or scratches however, light will creep in and your sunglasses will do more harm than good. “UV is coming directly into your dilated pupil,” explains Shelton. “This is worse off than not wearing glasses at all.”

Many people also assume darker lenses equal better lenses. Not so, says Shelton. “People think lens colour has a part in UV protection but it doesn’t at all,” he explains. “It’s simply for comfort and performance.”

Flat sunglasses can also be less protective because of a tricky little thing called reflection.

“(Flat sunglasses) don’t block the light coming up from the ground, which will reflect that UV light directly into your eyes,” says Shelton. That’s why, he adds, sunglasses are especially necessary in the winter. “Most people don’t associate wintertime with sun,” he says. “But sand and water isn’t as intense as snow and ice.”

And when getting behind the wheel, a polarized lens can help protect you from glare, keeping your eyes comfortably on the road.

“That instant blindness from a flash or reflection can be minimized by a polarized lens,” Shelton says. Durable lenses are also a worthy investment — especially if you find yourself in a car accident, for example.

“Your air bag is deployed, your glasses are shattered and now that eyewear hasn’t done anything to help,” says Shelton. “It’s actually done things to hurt you more.”

Shelton makes it clear that he isn’t bashing fashion — people should just start thinking outside of the fashion frame. “If you want to focus on one or two things, how important is your safety versus your style?” he asks.

“You can cut a corner on how cool something is to make sure you’re getting something that will actually perform at a level that’s beneficial to you.”