The American Optical Sunglasses brand has a long history when it comes to eyewear. With heritage dating back to the 1820s, the company was founded by William Beecher, a jeweller, and is a pioneer in American-made optical and eyewear products. Over the years, they’ve refined their technology and production; and in 1958, came up with the Flight Goggle 58 – now known as the Original Pilot Sunglasses. These were tailored for airmen to provide them with maximum protection, comfort and unparalleled performance. Today, the company remains one of the main eyewear suppliers for the US military, whilst also producing for the mass market. Eyewear trends are constantly changing, but they have managed to stay at the top of the game, thanks to their classic looks and functionality. Their bestsellers are aviator style, such as their Original Pilot series and General series. Today, the brand carries the assurance of high quality at an affordable price.
But the strength of American Optical Sunglasses goes beyond just their products, but a rich and varied history of optical eyewear technology and evolution in America. They are a great conversation starter. These were the same type of glasses worn by famous figures like American president John F Kennedy in the 1960s, as well as celebrities like James Marsden. Not to mention he millions of military personnel which AO has served since 1958.
A steady customer base from all over the world is a testament to their popularity, which has withstood the test of time.
We take a look at some of the American Optical Sunglasses In 2018:
If you’ve always fancied wearing something extraordinary, then the AO Original Pilot Eyewear fits the bill. Worn by Commander Neil Armstrong and the crew of Apollo 11, these glasses have been to the moon and back, literally.
One of their best sellers, the shades are made in the USA and come with many frame choices. For the cool and sophisticated military look, the black and silver colors are good choices, paired with true color gray lenses.
Made from scratch-resistant glass, they are polished to high perfection and provide stunning optical clarity and distortion-free views. Adhering to military specs, the lenses are also reinforced to withstand impact, so no worries of shattering the glass when you accidentally drop them onto the ground.
The ‘true color’ lenses also allow wearers to see colors without distortion. They are coated with a layer to provide 100% UV protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Design wise, the frames have a ‘navigator’ style, with a wide nose bridge setting the lenses far apart. The lenses appear smaller and squarer than conventional teardrop-shaped aviators. This by no means reduces their effectiveness, as they offer adequate protection from glare and sunlight from all angles.
Looking for a pair of smaller aviator-style sunnies can be difficult. The American Optical Sunglasses Original Pilot Eyewear solves that problem by offering a 52mm frame. The small size is suitable for women, and even teenagers and children.
As pilots have to wear helmets, the AO Original Pilot Eyewear features bayonet temples. These temples curve inward around the head instead of over the ears, so wearers can easily fit them under headgear.
If black and silver frames are not your thing, the gold color looks equally dashing. Made from steel, the frames are heavier than plastic ones but are designed to take a beating. Engineered to military specs, the material is sturdy and does not break easily, so buyers can be rest assured that they’ll hold up to everyday wear and tear.
The frames are paired with green glass lenses, made from high quality optical glass. These are scratch and impact resistant, and are polished to give them a beautiful reflective sheen.
The lenses provide good color contrast, clear vision and distortion free views. While greens are usually more neutral, the AO carries a darker hue, so the lenses might even be darker than light grays and grays of other brands. They are effective at reducing brightness and intensity, which is perfect for sunny environments.
Coupled with their toughness and impact resistance, these will be a good pair of shades for outdoor activities and even sports. As they are designed mainly for pilots, the lenses are non-polarized to allow wearers to view their flying instruments, electronic devices and car dashboards.
The rugged, masculine look of the gold frame with green lens makes this design most suitable for men. The frames come in 57mm, which fits large faces well. They also feature bayonet temples, which sit comfortably around the head.
The temples are enclosed with clear, protective plastic tips for added comfort. Given proper care, these glasses are expected to last for years to come.
While glass material has its advantages, not everyone prefers the extra weight, especially if you’re always carrying them around. For something more lightweight, the Original Pilot Eyewear offers grey polycarbonate lenses.
Made from a cast injection molded resin, the lenses are light and compact, but no less sturdy. The plastic material is tough, scratch resistant and will hold up well from being tossed around. They are also coated to provide 100% UV protection against the sun’s aggressive rays.
The grey tint is dark and reduces brightness in sunny environments. As the lenses are non-polarized, wearers will still be able to navigate with their GPS devices, whilst ensuring that their eyes are protected from the sun while driving. Their impact resistance and toughness makes them suitable for sports and outdoor activities.
While shiny, reflective frames like the silver color will standout in a crowd, buyers will also have a choice to get a more muted, sophisticated look. The matte chrome frame looks almost like plastic, giving it a modern, edgy vibe, while the matte finish creates a smooth and sleek effect. Similar to others in this range, the glasses feature bayonet temples.
The 55m size is perfect for those with average-sized faces, and the design is ubiquitous enough to suit both sexes. The squared-off bottom goes best with round, oval and heart-shaped faces.
Since the lenses are not scratch proof, care should still be taken when cleaning. Each set comes with a soft, microfibre cleaning cloth so there’s no excuse for cleaning the lenses with your clothing or tissues, which may grind sand and dust into them and create scratches.
Some might call it old-fashioned; we prefer the term ‘classic’. American Optical Sunglasses’ General are aviators done in the traditional teardrop-shaped design, with wide lenses that provide maximum coverage for the eyes from all angles.
The stylish silver frame is made from thin steel, with an expensive-looking sheen and spatula-style ear tips in a matching dark amber color. Like the Pilot series, the General is also a favourite among US military officers and is engineered to rigid military specifications. The frame can be paired with true colorgray glass lenses.
Glass material has some advantages over their polycarbonate counterparts. For one, they offer near-perfect optics – which means wearers will get crystal clear views that are free from distortion. Although heavier than polycarbonate, they have a better feel in the hand, and are tough and sturdy. To top it off, the glass material is shatterproof and impact resistant.
True color grey allows for better color contrast, so wearers will be able to see things in colors that are as close as possible to their natural state. The grey’s dark tint is suitable for outdoor use to reduce brightness and intensity. The lenses are non-polarized as they are designed for pilots who need to be able to look at their electronic flying instruments, but are perfectly suitable for everyday wear as well.
The 58mm measurements are most suitable for medium to large faces, but as the General sports a flatter lens with less curvature, this means that the bottom might rest on the cheek of people with smaller faces.
Wear a piece of history with the AO General Sunglasses: and frame it up in gold. Although conventional teardrop-shaped aviators have been around for over 80 years, they remain popular, doubling as eyewear protection and as a timeless fashion statement. The glasses have a small AO logo etched into the side of the arms, and the gold color gives it a vintage look that is hard to achieve with silver and black. Made from metal alloy, these frames can take a beating and are built with self-locking micro screws – perfect for prescription replacement lenses. This means that even after years of use, you can still reuse the frame with a new pair of lenses.
Instead of grey tints, opt for the cool-looking green optical glass lenses. The glass material has all the usual features: shatter-proof, impact-resistant and high polish. However, it has a slight edge over regular grey shades. As green is a ‘neutral’ color, the lenses offer better clarity, superb vision, truer colors and better contrast. They are further enhanced with a UV protection layer to keep the eyes safe from sun damage. Although non-polarized, the flat surface reflects glare effectively for maximum eye protection.
Meanwhile, spatula temples hook over the ears snugly and keep them in place, even while playing sports or outdoor activities. The tips are enveloped in plastic for added comfort and protection against sweat and slippage. Self-adjusting nose pads can be tweaked at an optometrist for a custom fit.
The General series has been a favourite among US army pilots for years. Performance-tested on the field, they are designed especially for pilots and therefore maintain high quality standards made to follow rigid military specifications. In terms of shape and design, the AO Flight Gear II is an upgrade from the original – but maintains most of the features that make the General such a well-loved pair of shades among the military.
While the original has a flat lens, the AO II features an 8-base curvature. This shape allows the sunglasses to wrap around the face (similar to sports sunglasses), preventing light from entering. This unique design provides coverage for different eye shapes.
Although thin in appearance, the wire frame is made from heavy duty metal alloy and cannot be crushed or bent easily. However, is still lightweight enough for long hours of wear. The silver burnish gives it an expensive look. Completing the frames are spatula temples, covered with protective plastic tips that sit comfortably over the ears. The frames measure 52mm, making them suitable for small faces so even the ladies can wear them.
One great option with the Flight Gear II is that you can get polarized lenses. They come in a tint called color correct grey, which offers good contrast and true colors without being too dark.
While military pilots tend not to go for polarized lenses as they affect their ability to see flying instruments and electronic equipment, there’s nothing to stop normal folks from getting them. Those looking for a good pair of shades to cut down on glare while on boating or fishing trips can try these. They also offer 100% UV protection against harmful UVA and UVB rays.
Up until recently, aviators were very much for men. But that has changed with modern times, as women can rock them just as well as the guys. Black and grey might seem like harsh color tones for the ladies, so thankfully there are options for softer hues.
American Optical’s Pilot series features a Cosmetan Brown Optical Glass Lens. Apart from being shatter-proof, the glass material is made to withstand strong impact and the pressures of rough handling. They are polished to a clear sheen and offer distortion free views and high optical clarity. The brown tint reduces light intensity and brightness in sunny environments, similar to their grey lenses. They also offer good contrast and natural colors.
The lenses have the added benefit of being polarized, so for those going on a roadtrip, this helps to cut down on glare from smooth road surfaces. To top it all off, the lenses provide complete UV protection against harmful sunlight rays, thanks to a layer of protective coating.
Holding everything together is a tough metal alloy frame in classic gold, built with self-locking micro screws. This feature makes it convenient to change to prescription ready glasses in the future. Soft nose pads can be adjusted to fit different nose shapes.
One common grouse with many wearers of sunglasses is that they might slide out of place from perspiration, resulting in the wearer having to constantly readjust their position. The American Optical Sunglasses Pilot features comfort cable temples, which are C-shaped and hook firmly behind and around the ears. While this style is not common, they go a long way in keeping the shades in place, especially for those with an active lifestyle.