Reader mail: Which sunglasses are best?

Women: Women's Metal-Trim Sunglasses - Black
Even though summer’s over, UV glare is forever, so we thought we’d address this question we got a while ago…

Was wondering if any of you have ideas about where to get a pair of decent sunglasses (polarized, but nothing fancy) for $20-$50 or so. I just don’t like to pay more because I always seem to break them often, and I’m not so picky on the style. I’ve been looking and finding either way too cheap and shoddy ones, or far too pricey for designer ones. Any suggestions are appreciated! I live in Seattle where we have most major stores.

(We actually saw our eye doctor yesterday, and asked him about sunglasses — are some better than others? ” Nope,” he answered: “At least not for my purposes.”)

Sunglasses really are a totally personal choice and one where — unless you get really wacky — you can express some personality. Are you the hipster with the Ray Bans? The hippie with the grandma glasses? The weekend warrior with the wrap-around glasses? Personally, we prefer to wear Jackie-O type glasses–the larger the frame, the better. We have prescription ones that we wear most days (we highly recommend spending the bucks if you don’t wear contacts all the time), or a pair of Old Navy ones ($9.99, recommended by Bunnyshop a few years ago) that we keep kicking around the inside of our bag for when we wear contacts. We’ve spent money on sunglasses that were supposed to be better for your eyes–
Maui Jim
and Hobie back in our lifeguarding days–but we must say, we’ve never actually bought “designer” sunglasses.

While we don’t really care what sunglasses you wear, we do encourage you to wear SOMETHING, because UV rays really can damage your eyes (even in the winter and, if we remember correctly, even on cloudy days).  (We have another, sillier reason for wearing them (with no actual proof behind it):  squinting can cause wrinkles, and we don’t want any wrinkles we haven’t earned.  Laughlines we will take aplenty, frown lines if we must–but no squint lines, s’il vous plait.)

Readers, how about you — do you let your personality shine through in your sunglasses? Do you swear by a certain brand?  How do you feel about a “label” pair of sunglasses?

Pictured above:  Women: Women’s Metal-Trim Sunglasses – Black, available at for $9.50.


  1. I generally go with the Jackie O’s (and have been complemented on it by skin professionals because when they look at my skin under their “special” light, they can tell my eye area is is great shape from minimal sun exposure). That said, I just tried on a pair of aviators for the first time and loved them. My sister had a pair from Ann Taylor (maybe Loft, I can’t remember). Six of us, ranging in age from 55 to 22, tried them on, and they looked awesome on all of us.

  2. I have to admit that I have not worn sunglasses as often as I should. I am encouraged to do better after reading @Emily’s comment above about her eye area being in great shape as a result of wearing sunglasses. When I do wear sunglasses, they’re usually a cheap pair from Target or Forever 21. I’m not big on designer sunglasses because I always break or lose sunglasses. With the cheap-o brands, I don’t have to worry.

  3. I didn’t realize how attached I was to my designer shades until I lost them (or, perhaps, they were stolen — one way or another they were not in my bag, left under the table at a wedding at the end of the night).

    I tried on sunglasses for months, and even bought a few replacement pairs ranging from cheap-ish ($40, Michael Kors at Macys) to extravagent ($300+, D&G). Ultimately, everything I could find was not “perfect” because it wasn’t my old pair. Thank goodness for the internet, though — after some serious searching (I didn’t even know the model name), I was able to hunt down someone still selling my old favorite.

    Now, I tend to keep those sun glasses in my purse in their enormous case (they are a Jackie O style D&G, very lightweight — they don’t leave a print on my nose the way that heavier glasses do, and they sort of wrap around my face giving my protection from the sun in even my periphoral vision). Plus I keep a bunch of cheap pairs all over the place (one in my desk drawer, one in the car) so that I’m never without. I think you can find some great deals at the Macys-type department stores, especially at this time of year.

  4. Always get polarized, and find a great selection of discounted glasses at Loehmanns/Filenes/TJ, etc. Sunglasses are one of those items for which there’s no reason to pay full price.

    • Agree on both counts.
      My family has a history of cataracts, and several ophtalmologists (grandma’s, mom’s, aunts’, mine) have said repeatedly that wearing polarized is a MUST to prevent/delay them, even on rainy days.
      I have found great designer sunglasses at Loehmanns for $40-$80. I even took a pair to add prescription and they said that because the frames were good quality, the prescription could be added — apparently you can’t always add prescription lenses.

  5. I’m in Florida, and constantly wear sunglasses. Like the questioner, I much prefer polarized sunglasses. But fashionable polarized sunglasses for women (not plastic boating sunglasses) at a reasonable price (less than $100) are exceptionally hard to find. I’ve searched discount stores–Target, Walmart, etc–and department stores–Macy’s, Dillard’s, Nordstrom’s–to little avail. Ideas?

    • CVS has polarized sunglasses that look okay. Try Sierra Trading Post–you’ll want to measure a pair of sunglasses you like to get the right size, but they have tons of fashionable glasses as well as the technical ones, at great prices.

  6. Seventh Sister :

    I got a pair of Mossimo sunglasses (sort of bug-eye Jackie Os) at Target last week. They are huge and were only $17. I will probably wear them until I’ve punished myself enough for losing my D & G sunglasses in Palm Springs.

  7. I’m very accustomed to wearing sunglasses; for almost 2 years I had to wear dark-tinted glasses/sunglasses all the time (even indoors) because I had been involved in an incident where my retinas were very severely damaged, and I was extremely sensitive to light. So I’ve had lots of time (and lots of glasses styles) to get a general sense of what I prefer.

    Polarized lenses are great depending on the individual’s needs. In my case, I found them to be a detriment. I find they don’t work very well when you have to look at LCD equipment, like ATM machines, my GPS and even my computer at work- the writing/images always seemed to appear faint and blurry. Keep in mind that I had to wear my sunglasses indoors; it probably isn’t so terrible if you wear them exclusively outdoors.

    I wear a variety of styles of frames, depending on my needs. When I was wearing them to work (especially in court), I wore standard black ones- dark lenses, black plastic frames (no logos or rhinestones), and I generally didn’t get any flack for it- I just had to let the judge and jury know why I was wearing them. Outside of work, I still stuck with the oversized frames, but I tended to wear my designer logo-ed ones.

    My glasses tend to be in the upper price range, because I have to buy prescription ones (usually, I buy regular sunglasses I like, and I bring them to my optometrist to see if they can put my prescription lenses in them- it’s pricier because the frames have to be appropriate to support the lenses, but I find that I’m not always fond of regular prescription glasses.) I’m sure you can find a great pair of glasses that suit you and that carry a reasonable price tag.

    • I go for cheaper ones ($50 and under) since I tend to lose them all the time. I had an expensive prescription pair I managed to lose when it fell out of the case and then fell out of my bag, so now if I need to wear sunglasses I will just wear my contact lenses so I can put on a cheap pair. I typically prefer the bigger frames because I have ridiculously light sensitive eyes. I don’t even need to have my eyes dilated at the eye doctor.

      I’m one of those people who can’t do polarized lenses because the polarization just gives me a migraine. As a result, there’s really no reason for me to get anything but the cheap variety.

  8. I’m anything but name-brand-conscious (I mostly shop at TJMaxx and the like), but I LOVE my Brighton sunglasses, and I get compliments on them all the time. I never leave home without them.

  9. Maui Jim are great if you are doing athletic things and need great vision. For everyday, I wear the biggest sunglasses I can find that look good on me. I have big plastic Fendis now that were on sale at Saks that I love. In NYC, go to Century 21 for ridiculous deals on sunglasses.

  10. I used to always lose or break my sunglasses, and usually I had cheap, trendy ones, so it didn’t matter too much. But, I eventually bought a pair or two that I really liked and I didn’t want to lose or break them. So now, I make sure that my bags are big enough to hold a case and always keep a sunglasses case with me (I found some cute cases at TJ Maxx and also at the Totes outlet store).

    A less stylish thing I do, is I wear a chain on my sunglasses, so that when I am walking into a building I can let them hang around my neck until I am ready to put them away. Some may think it is dorky, but I think it has a lot of old-timey style, and it is extremely convenient!

    As for the sunglasses themselves, I would say go with what you like, and what fits and looks nice on your face. The rest doesn’t matter.

  11. As others have suggested, I have found great designer sunglasses at TJ Maxx, Marshalls, etc. for under $20, including my current favorites, a Cole Haan pair that I later found in the department store ‘on sale’ for around $60.

    I like the style of the designer sunglasses and have found them to be a little more durable than the cheaper brands, but given my tendency to accidentally sit on/step on/lose my sunglasses, I can’t bring myself to spend more than $20 a pair.

  12. I’m a sucker for designer sunglasses! I have Chanel, Lacoste, Burberry, Prada, D&G, Ray Bans, Ralph Lauren. It’s terrible when I lose a pair; I get really upset with myself, but then I just drop another $300 on another pair. I’ve tried the cheap ones, but I don’t like them as much. I rationalize it by saying that at least I can wear them every day all year long, kind of like a coat or a bag, as opposed to a shirt or pants.

  13. I buy the $15 pairs from Target. I don’t feel bad when I scratch them or they break, and I get to try out new styles all the time! Although, sometimes I buy several of the same pair if I really like them. Most people don’t know enough to tell if sunglasses are designer or knock-offs anyway, and since they designer shades don’t offer better UV protection why waste the money?

  14. housecounsel :

    Nordstrom Rack has tons of designer sunglasses (last year’s models, I presume) for around $75. I just found a gorgeous, rosy pair of Kate Spades, and there are always a lot of Coach shades as well.

    I used to buy cheap sunglasses and lose them on a regular basis, but have found that I take much better care of the expensive ones.

    • I second the Nordstrom Rack recommendation. I bought a pair of Coach sunglasses there a summer or two ago and I just found them online for $175. I think I paid about $65…and I love them!

  15. I used to have a fantastic pair of sports shades that I bought at a ski shop. I wore them until they literally fell apart after 3 years of almost constant use in Colorado. Now I have small children and no way would I drop the money on a good pair. When the kids are older perhaps.

  16. any suggestions from people who wear exclusively glasses (not contacts)? None of the options appeal to me… either you have to switch out the glasses/sunglasses every time you go into a building, or have heavy clip-ons, or have those lenses that automatically tint when you go outside but somehow always look too-dark inside and too-light outside…

  17. I haven’t done it in a couple of years (I bought probably 5-6 pairs a couple of years ago and 3 are still in existence), but Urban Outfitters was great for cheap sunglasses that looked good. I found both great Jackie O style and some nice aviators. $16 each, I think. Don’t know if they have them online, as I did this in-store. I’ve also had good luck at Target and Kohl’s, but I like the ones I found at Urban the best.

  18. I wear sunglasses all the time, and I generally get them at Target or Ross because I throw them in my purse when I get inside a building and they tend to break or get scratched.

    Although I have a prescription pair of D&Gs that I take verrry good care of. I admit had I not been on a secret shop that reimbursed me for the price, I wouldn’t have bothered with such a fancy and expensive pair of sunglasses. A few close friends have assumed that they were knock-offs anyway, and I can’t tell the difference between them and the same “D&G” $30 pair at the swap meet.

  19. I love H&M sunglasses. I don’t think they’re polarized, but the styles are fun and of-the-moment, and they’re usually priced from $7-15. I prefer them to the far more expensive designer pairs I have, and am much less stressed when my toddler finds them and tries them on. They don’t last forever, but, at that price, they don’t have to.

  20. Sunglasses are key to great skin. My mother looks like my sister thanks to constant sunscreen, no tanning bed, and regular sunglasses wear. I also love my sunglasses and end up with about three new pairs a year. I finally splurged an spent $100 on a new pair of Kate Spade sunglasses when Nordstrom had their anniversary sale. (Originally $179.00). I have to say, I love them and they are WORTH the money! I keep them in their case.

    Having bought so many pairs in the past, here are my two cents:

    Stay away from Marshall’s and TJ Maxx for sunglasses. I have bought so many pairs from there and the screws ALWAYS ALWAYS come loose after a month or two. I figure the reason is because they have not been stored properly on their way to the store.
    Fossil sunglasses are great. They often go on sale at Macy’s. They make nice, plain sunglasses (I don’t like blingy ones…I want one pair that go with everything). Guess also makes great sunglasses. They are very sturdy.

  21. I’ve always hesitated to pay more than $5-10 for sunglasses, given my proclivity for losing them, but polarized does make a huge difference for me. I’ve started wearing the $35 Bella Donna glasses that I buy at REI:

    Cute and relatively cheap for polarized lenses. They do scratch easily, but maybe that wouldn’t be a problem if I could remember to put them in a case. I’ll be going back for my 3rd pair shortly…

  22. I used to buy $10 sunglasses for years until recently – when I bought a pair of Ray Bans! I will never go back. I’m convinced my vision is even better when I wear them, which sounds odd, but try a pair on and you’ll see what I mean!

  23. Living in Hotlanta, I wear sunglasses every day and keep 2-3 pairs around. I love, love, love my Serengeti sunglasses. Expensive, yes, but the comfort, protection and correct color perception are soooo worth it to me. After those, I typically have a few inexpensive, more stylish ones, currently a $12 pair of JackieO style frames on sale from Chico’s, as well as a must-have pair of Oakley’s for snow skiing.

    I can second the recommendations for Maui Jim and Ray Bans. If you’re thinking about getting expensive sunglasses, spend a few minutes in a Sunglass Hut and ask some questions about the frame materials and lenses to see what’s out there in the higher end brands. If you’re tough on glasses, the bendable (titanium) ones might be a good idea.

    For true discounters, check out, recommended by consumer guru, Clark Howard. Their lenses are full UV protection and you can choose the tint level/saturation for sunglasses.

  24. Nevadamtnbear :

    I’m cracking up at the Jacki-O style sunglasses obsession. Personally, they are not for me. I’ll confess that when I see people walking around with the big giant sunglasses I’m always tempted to ask if they are headed out to go sky diving. LOL.

    I personally like more sports inclined sunglasses. I’ve been wearing a pair of Smith Toaster’s for the past 8 years. I like the Smiths because the lenses are interchangable – so I can wear really dark lenses or lighter lenses depending on my mood, what I’m doing, etc. As you can see, I don’t loose sunglasses (which is astonishing if you knew me). Alas, I’m truly getting tired of the style of my Toasters. After 8 years, I want a bit of a change – so I’ll probably get another pair at some point. But, I have a hard time justifying spending the $$ when I have a perfectly good pair at home. Maybe I should *try* loosing them.

    I have the mentality that it’s worth spending a little more on sunglasses because in terms of lens quality, you get what you pay for. Cheap glasses scratch very easily and they are not as clear or crisp. But, getting a decent lens doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of money either. It’s easy to find a quality pair of glasses for under $75. But when shopping for sunglasses, the lens is as important as the style in my opinion (my hubby breaks and looses sunglasses frequently on the other hand, so we do shop regularly for sunglasses).

  25. I have a few pairs of inexpensive sunglasses for the times when I am in situations where I know I could possibly break or lose them. BUT awhile back, I decided to try out the new Banana Republic brand of Sunglasses and I LOVE them. They are big (Jackie O Style) yet I noticed immediately how much lighter they were and how much better they fit my face.

    Since they cost a little more than I’m used to paying for Sunglasses I am extremely careful with them and the fact that I haven’t lost them yet (knock on wood) is a miracle.

  26. My favorite pair of glasses are the Kate Spade Estelles – (I bought them for about $70)

    But, I try to buy my designer stuff at Costco. The selection is usually significantly better in the store than online, so don’t let the poor online selection deter you. I prefer Costco over department stores because the products are not the typical ‘rejects’ you find at Marshall’s, TJMaxx, etc.

  27. I have a pair from White House Black Market I’ve been really happy with. I think similar stores — J. Crew, Ann Taylor, etc. — also have nice sunglasses in the $30 range.

  28. i have a great pair of D&G ones. I actually bought them as a break-up gift to myself 3+ years ago… and i still love them. normally i’d never spend so much on them but the splurge was justified! can’t say i’m regretting that break up bc i can’t live without them. im now an official sungalsses snob. i have some “Fun” ones from urban outfitters but rarely wear them . i actually forgot my sunglasses in mexico this year (switched purses at the last minute…), and i had to buy cheapies from the gift shop, they were awful!!! i really wanted ray ban aviators but i feel my face doesn’t fit them so if im spending that much $, i won’t bother if they arent complimenting my face/features. my d&g’s are perfect for all occasions.

  29. This might sound strange, but the BEST polarized sunglasses I have found are those in the FISHING/sports section at Walmart! They carry about 5 different styles, and some decent ones at that, but the best thing is the quality of the lens. They truly seem to make things look more clear. They are designed for specific purposes aiding in hunting and fishing so that might have something to do with it, I’m not sure. Check them out. They run in the $10 to $20 range. I won’t buy anything else, and this is after spending money on Maui Jims, etc.

  30. Designer sunglasses and polarized lenses are almost completely mutually exclusive. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, look at Oakleys and Kaenons. Oakley has started coming out with more feminine looking styles, and they still have pretty great lenses (most are polarized). Kaenon is one of the best brands on the market — they have super clear, crisp vision and most of their glasses are polarized as well.

    I used to get various designer sunglasses and they DO fall apart easier — the arms get loose, they get scratched easier due to poor arm placement, etc. I got a pair of Kaenons about a year ago (the Georgia style) and they have been phenomenal. Not to mention that they cover your entire eye area, making sure there isn’t that annoying bit of light coming in over the top or bottom of the glasses.

  31. Liz from Europe :

    I have a pretty heavy prescription but to be honest, I’d go to an optometrist for sunglasses even if mine wasn’t as heavy. The service is just so good and you get a frame bent exactly to your face shape.

  32. Liz from Europe :

    Oh also – my optometrist really has a thing against diesel glasses – sunglasses or otherwise. His main concern is exactly that – falling apart.

  33. i really think it is good to use sunglasses with UV protection. I have got my eye test last year and they advised me to use prescription sunglasses with UV pretection. I think eye health is really important as it could lead to other health problems

  34. I have got a pair of Gucci sunglasses. I got them last year from my opticians when I went for my eye test. So far, I think they are very good and they look very stylish.

  35. Ray Ban aviators are the only sunglasses I wear. They flatter my face and the style is timeless.

  36. I’ve recently had an eye test and bought my contact lenses at Leightons Opticians. I saw that they have a wide range of trendy sunglasses at very competitive prices.

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