Whether you’re looking for a snazzy branded pair or an affordable option for your holiday, these are the best sunglasses on the market
Knowing how to buy sunglasses isn’t always that easy. Between high-street retailers, online outlets and opportunistic pop-up shops, it’s hard to know who offers the best sunglasses for your needs, and it’s even more difficult to know what’s a fair price. Are you paying for quality or just the brand name?
When the sun comes out, you want to look your best. You don’t want to be squinting and blinking without any shades, and you certainly don’t want to be pulling a scratched and scruffy pair out of a dusty drawer. Most importantly though, you want to make sure that your eyes are always protected from harmful UV rays.
If you’re buying sunglasses, but don’t know where to start, then don’t worry because we’re here to help. Read on to discover our top tips for buying shades, and some expert picks of the best sunglasses on the market.
How to choose the best sunglasses for you
There are numerous things to consider before investing in a new pair of sunglasses. So you shouldn’t rush into a purchase until you’ve found the perfect sunnies, ones that match your budget as well as your individual needs and tastes.
How can I tell if a pair of sunglasses are safe?
Sunglasses lenses will use one of a variety of tints labelled between category 0 and category 4, with the higher numbers blocking more light. It’s therefore important to choose something that’s suitable for your intended activity – for instance, category 4 lenses should never be used while driving because they absorb up to 97% of ambient light, impairing your ability to see vulnerable road users.
However, it’s equally important that you pick sunglasses that will offer sufficient protection against harmful UV rays. To check this, make sure they carry the CE mark, which means they meet the European Standard BS EN 1836:2005.
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How much should I spend?
Whether you’re looking to spend less than £20 or more than £500, you’ll be able to find sunglasses to match your budget. If you’re prepared to spend more, you’ll find more designer brands and less generic designs on offer. Of course, if you’re not worried about following the latest trend, you can find highly practical options that won’t break the bank.
Sunglasses can also vary substantially in price according to the materials, size and colour you choose. A pair of Ray-Ban Sonnenbrille Clubmasters, for instance, can set you back anywhere from £76 to £270, depending on the colour and lenses you go for.
Are polarised sunglasses better?
Polarised sunglasses are coated with a clever chemical film that reduces glare, allowing you to see better in bright conditions and helping to reduce the harmful effects of UV light. If you’re looking for a pair of sunglasses for driving, boating or any other outdoor activity, opting for a polarised coating is a wise move. Thanks to the glare reduction, you won’t have to squint and that leaves you free to focus on whatever it is you’re doing.
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How long should a pair of sunglasses last?
Are you looking to make a one-off purchase to see you through a week’s holiday, or are you looking for some long-term eyewear to tide you over for years? If you’re leaning toward the latter, you’ll want to keep an eye out for warranties and insurance offers that can help to ensure you get the very most out of your new glasses. You should also remember that, barring some exceptions, well-known brands will often produce sturdier glasses that probably last a little longer compared to some cheaper options.
What if I need prescription lenses?
A common problem faced by the bespectacled among us is that it’s not possible to simply wear any old pair of sunnies. If you’re a regular glasses wearer, you can either pop contact lenses in on a sunny day or have your sunglasses refitted with prescription lenses.
The good news is that most frames from designer brands such as Ray-Ban or Oakley can be fitted with prescription lenses (at a cost, of course). However, cheaper frames might be less well built and not necessarily compatible with changing lenses, so it’s always worth checking with the manufacturer.
Of course, another option is to buy clip-on/flip-up sunglasses. In recent years, these have become a very popular choice. If you’re a glasses wearer who doesn’t want to fork out extra for prescription sunnies, then clipping a pair of sunglasses onto your existing spectacles can save you money. Going for a flip-up option also means you can switch quickly and easily between tinted sunglasses and your normal glasses, which can come in handy when you’re driving or reading, or when the weather is changeable.
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The best sunglasses you can buy in 2023
1. Ray-Ban Clubmaster Sunglasses: Best all-round sunglasses
Price when reviewed: From £147 | Check price at Ray-BanThe Clubmaster range is ideal if you want to blend Ray-Ban’s iconic style with some unique colour splashes of your own. They offer plenty of different colours to pick from, and both the lenses and the frames can be customisable to your own tastes. If you pick carefully, you can end up with a pair of sunglasses that are suitable for every kind of summertime engagement.
You also get a sleek case to house your new shades and a two-year warranty as standard. This warranty lets you get a replacement pair if your glasses break due to a manufacturer’s fault, which protects your purchase nicely and should give you some peace of mind.
Key specs – Warranty: 2 years; Case included: Yes; Polarised: No
2. Hawkers Dark Lax: Best affordable aviators
Price when reviewed: £50 | Check price at HawkersAsk people what their favourite type of sunglasses are, and “aviators” are sure to rank highly. Originally developed by Bausch and Lomb for pilots to protect their eyes while flying, the style has been popularised by Hollywood and brands like Ray-Ban, whose glasses often cost well over £100.
Thankfully, brands like Hawkers make aviators that still look and feel great while costing significantly less. Indeed, owing to their rigid stainless steel frames and glare-reducing lenses (which offer 100% UV protection), Hawker’s Dark LAX are an excellent pair of everyday sunnies. Their Category 3 lenses are perfect for bright outdoor conditions, although we found them to be a touch too dark when it started to become overcast.
The sunglasses come in a hard case, with a microfibre cover to keep them from gathering dust, and they’re protected by a two-year warranty. Should you want polarised lenses, you’ll have to pay another £5 for the manufacturer’s Shadow Polarized Black model.
Key Specs – Warranty: 2 years; Case included: Yes; Polarised: No
3. SunGods Ultras: Best sunglasses for sports
Price when reviewed: £150 | Check price at SunGodIf you prefer to put your own personal stamp on your eyewear, it’s worth checking out the offerings of British firm SunGod. In addition to giving you a lifetime guarantee on the frames, you can also customise the look, right down to the colour of the logo on the arm and the tint of the lenses themselves.
The SunGod Ultras are the latest in the firm’s range of sports shades. They come with a lightweight, frameless design that’s ideal for running, but would suit use in pretty much any sport. SunGod’s 8KO optics are clear, sharp and free from distortion, plus the glasses come with a selection of four different sized nose pieces to ensure a good fit. With a choice of eight frame colours and ten lens types – including two photochromic lenses – you’re bound to be able to create something to suit your needs. The only disappointment is that the glasses aren’t supplied with a hard or even a semi-hard case – all you get is a soft, microfibre bag.
Key features – Warranty: Lifetime; Case included: Microfibre pouch; Polarised: No
4. Cat Eye Sunglasses In Acetate by Celine: The best retro sunglasses for women
Price when reviewed: £360 | Check price at MatchesCat-eye sunglasses are a very popular look for women at the moment, and you won’t find any snazzier options than these eye-catching, Audrey Hepburn-inspired sunglasses by Celine. They are designed to suit all face shapes – particularly flattering the cheekbones – and they work especially well when they’re worn with bold chunks of colour.
Available from Matches, you have a choice of styles in either the jazzy, tortoiseshell frames pictured above or the timeless, classic black. As well as looking good, they also protect from UVA and UVB rays.
Key specs – Warranty: 2 years; Case included: Yes; Polarised: Yes
5. Gritin Clip-on UV400 Flip-Up Polarised Sunglasses: Best clip-on sunglasses
Price when reviewed: £11 | Check price at AmazonThe bad news is that they’re clip-ons. Sadly, that means they probably won’t win you any style awards. But the good news is: everything else.
For around a tenner, you get two pairs of UV400-protective lenses, including a pair of yellow “night vision” lenses that are designed to cope with the glare of oncoming headlights while driving. They’re slim and incredibly light, so you can take them anywhere and instantly transform your prescription glasses into sunnies when the clouds part. However, they’re also surprisingly robust, thanks to the strong polycarbonate lenses and a durable clip that fits all kinds of frames and flips up with a smooth (and, frankly, quite enjoyable) action.
Key specs – Warranty: None; Case included: Yes; Polarised: Yes
6. Silhouette Titan Accent Shades: Best lightweight sunglasses
Price when reviewed: £382 | Check price at OtticanetThese screwless, hingeless titanium shades from Austrian brand Silhouette are easily the most lightweight sunglasses in our roundup – weighing only a few grams, it almost feels as if they aren’t there at all – while the non-hinged design ensures that the temples of the frame remain secure on the head at all times. With this design, Silhouette guarantees that the Titan Accent Shades are one-size-fits-all, and, when removed, the tension in the metal returns the frame temples to their original position.
The Titan Accent’s polarised lenses use a high-impact polycarbonate coupled with an anti-reflective coating on the rear and offer 100% UVA, UVB and UVC protection. Silhouette’s glasses certainly don’t come cheap, but with their incredibly lightweight, screw-free design and unparalleled comfort, it’s easy to see why their glasses were selected for use in space. These Titan Accent Shades come with their own hard case and cleaning cloth, and are covered by a two-year warranty.
Key specs – Warranty: 2 years; Case included: Yes; Polarised: Yes
7. Izipizi #D Sunglasses: Best value sunglasses
Price when reviewed: £40 | Check price at IzipiziStylish sunglasses can be expensive. It’s not unusual to see big-name designers selling theirs for upwards of £300, which, considering that a lot of so-called ‘luxury’ frames are mass-produced in the same factory anyway, hardly represents good value for money. So, what do you do if you want to look the part without completely emptying your bank account? Well, that’s where the French brand Izipizi comes in.
These round-frame shades are the type of sunnies that will go with anything and everything, and they’re available in no less than 21 tasteful colour options.
Are they handcrafted by Italian artisans deep in the Tuscan hills? No. But unlike glasses that are, they’re extremely affordable at a mere £40. Amazingly, their low price tag doesn’t come at the expense of good looks or quality – they’re still solid and stylish, but you won’t have to remortgage your house to buy a new pair if you accidentally leave them in an Uber on your way home from the pub.
Key features – Warranty: None; Case included: Yes; Polarised: No