Aviator sunglasses have come a long way. Originally developed for American fighter pilots in 1937, early versions featured a thin wire frame with green, teardrop-shaped lenses – designed to provide maximum coverage from sunlight while still allowing pilots to look down at their control panels.
While they remain a staple among military airmen, the best aviator sunglasses have also made their way into popular culture. Their fame truly exploded when a young Tom Cruise, playing a fighter pilot alongside Van Kilmer, donned a pair of Ray-Bans and flew in style in the movie Top Gun. Sales of the aviators soared, and since then, they’ve become an iconic fashion statement.
One great thing about the best aviator sunglasses is their versatility. Although early designs were undoubtedly masculine, modern ones have evolved to suit female faces as well. Frames in soft colors, delicate rhinestone detailing, and gradient lenses have become synonymous with glitz, glamour and femininity. Before you go shopping for a pair though, here are some things to consider:
Style and Design
The best aviator sunglasses have undergone many changes over the course of its 80-year history. The original teardrop shape mimics pilot goggles, providing the most protection from sunlight – but more styles and designs are becoming available on the market to suit different needs.
There’s a rectangular version called the navigator, which has larger frames but smaller lenses. Sporty aviators, on the other hand, adopt the basic shape and form of their classic counterparts, but feature wide, squared off bottoms that wrap around the face. Some have thick frames and full rims, or single-shield designs.
Shapes are not the only thing that has changed for the aviators. What used to be a simple, metalliccolor palette has expanded to include bright, bold hues and flashy patterns. For the ladies, there are models with rhinestone detailing, matched with soft lens colors in browns and pinks.
Designs are all fine and dandy, but when it comes to eye protection, lenses are still the most important part of the aviator sunglasses. Picking the right type ensures that you’ll be wearing them not just for looks, but for functionality as well.
Almost all aviator sunglasses have convex lenses to provide maximum coverage from all angles, protecting the eye from as much sunlight as possible. Polarized types are more expensive, but help to reduce glare and brightness. Mirrored lenses also absorb and reflect glare, making them perfect for outdoor activities and sunny environments.
Tints and Color
Lens tints are not just there for aesthetics – they have different light blocking and color enhancement capabilities. Brown, for example, offers brighter views and better color detailing, so they’re suitable for driving or biking. Grey and black are good for reducing brightness in very bright sunlight, but the colors might be muted. There are also gradual tints which are darker on the top and lighter at the bottom, allowing users to see things like their car dashboard or books.
Classic aviators were made of very thin, metal frames with a brass or silver finish. They are tough and built to last, but heavier. Today, many of the best aviator sunglasses have lightweight plastic frames for comfort and style. Still others combine the best of both worlds with mixed material. We can’t say if one is better than the other, so choose the material you like best and which fits your lifestyle.
Fit and comfort
You can have the best pair of sunnies and it wouldn’t matter if they didn’t sit comfortably on your face. An important component is the bridge. It should not be too wide, as the glasses will slide down and sunlight will filter in from the top. Too narrow, however, and they’ll sit high on the nose, allowing sunlight to come in from the bottom. A comfy pair of aviators should not leave indentations even after long hours of wear. Look out for things like rubberised tips at the ear hooks or soft nose pads for added comfort.
The Best Aviator Sunglasses for Men in 2018 – Chart
Nothing beats the original, and the Ray-Ban Aviator RB3025 is, as the young ones call it, the OG. These are as close as you can get to the ones worn by fighter jet pilots in the 1930s: but updated to suit modern tastes.
Choose from a variety of frames and lenses, then mix and match them for a customized experience. They come in four sizes to fit different faces: namely the small 47.5mm, 55mm, medium 58mm and large 62mm. Due to the oversized style, the RB3025 shades are most suitable for oval, square and heart-shaped faces.
For protection against glare, go for polarized and mirrored lenses. Under this range, the Arista Gold Frame and Gold/Polarized Brown Classic B-15 models have polarized lenses, laminated with vertical stripes so only vertical light passes through.
Meanwhile, mirrored types like the Gold/Gold Mirror and Silver Frame/Crystal Grey Mirror models reflect and absorb glare. These two lens types are perfect for driving on road trips or for water activities.
That being said, the non-polarized models still make a decent choice for overall brightness reduction. The lenses are made from crystal, plastic or glass and are prescription ready.
Buyers can also opt to get gradated lenses. Some of the available colors include crystal grey and crystal brown. Greys are better at reducing brightness, but browns have more color depth, so depending on what you’ll be using them for, both can be a good choice. All models come with UV protection coating to protect the eyes from harmful UV rays.
The frames are all made from a hard, durable metal with rubber padded tips for comfort. For a better fit, users can consult an eyewear professional to make adjustments on the arms.
As a certificate of authenticity, look out for the Ray Ban wording on the top left lens.
The glasses come with a carrying case and cleaning cloth.
Randolph Engineering is an official supplier to the US military for the best aviator sunglasses. Need we say more?
For a high quality, military-grade pair of sunnies that also look good enough to show off, then the Randolph Unisex Aviator is a good choice. Designed and manufactured in the United States, they come in three colors with polarized and non-polarized options. Each has its own functions, depending on what the user needs.
Tan Polarized provides better contrast while reducing glare and eye fatigue, while the non-polarized lenses work well for eye protection on cloudy days.
In sunnier environments, the Gray Polarized reduces glare and light intensity. The Gray Flash Mirror has a coating that reflects glare, but is non-polarized so wearers will still be able to see LCD screens clearly. Meanwhile, the AGX has a green tint that filters color to reduce stress on the eyes.
The lenses are made from mineral crown glass, which has a low dispersion and low refractive index for better optical performance and higher clarity. The material is also tough and scratch resistant. Those who prefer something more lightweight can get polycarbonate lenses instead. Both types come with 98-100% UV protection.
Holding everything together is a sleek metal frame. True to their military roots, the colors are clean and minimalistic, with choices such as 23K gold plated, bright chrome, gun metal and matte black. Hinged nose pieces allow for small adjustments to fit most nose bridges for extra comfort.
Measuring 55m, theshades can fit most average-sized faces and are suitable for both men and women. As they are ‘navigator’ style and squarer than classic aviators, they flatter people with round, oval or heart-shaped faces. Each set comes with a leatherette carrying case, cleaning cloth and mini repair kit.
Fancy wearing the same kind of aviators as Commander Neil Armstrong and the crew of Apollo 11? Then enter the AO Original Pilot Eyewear sunglasses. Another military-grade pair of shades, they are the same kind issued to US military personnel. Engineered to rigid specifications and the highest quality, buyers can be rest assured that they’ll hold up to daily wear and tear.
Manufactured in the USA, the glasses come in a choice of classy frames, such as black, matte chrome, gold, chrome and silver. Lenses are available in true colorgray and gray. The former is made of scratch-resistant glass. Apart from being polished, they provide high optical clarity, reinforced strength against impact, and distortion free views. The gray lenses are made from a cast injection molded polycarbonate resin which is lightweight but no less sturdy. Both provide 100% UV protection against the sun’s aggressive rays.
Done in a ‘navigator’ style, the squarish lenses are smaller and more angular than conventional teardrop shaped aviators. A wide nose bridge sets the lenses far apart, creating a unique but sophisticated look. They come in three sizes: 52mm, 55mm and 57mm. Users have commented that the 52mm is suitable for small faces, such as that of women, teenagers and children. 55mm fits most average-sized faces, while users with large faces can try the 57mm.
One great feature of the AO Original Pilot Eyewear is the bayonet temples. Originally designed for pilots, bayonet temples curve inward towards the head instead of hooking over the ears. This makes them easy to fit under helmets and headsets. Each set comes with a black protective casing.
The Polaroid brand is no stranger to creating fashionable but functional eye gear and accessories. Their specialty is polarized sunglasses and lenses, which are manufactured using a press-polishing method. This makes them thicker in the center and tapered at the edges for more curvature.
The X4410 sunglasses come in a sleek white and gold metal frame, which can take rough handling and abuse. The frame envelops a pair of lightweight polycarbonate lenses, which help to reduce glare and intensity from strong sunlight. This makes them perfect for activities such as outdoor sports and driving. The brown lensesare less intense than grey or black, and allow for better contrast and natural, vivid colors. To top it all off, a layer of protective coating shields the wearer’s eyes from harmful UV rays. The lenses are prescription ready.
At 65mm, they are a good size for people with wider faces, especially men. However, women who like rugged styles can also wear them as oversized sunnies. The design features a classic teardrop shape, so they flatter most faces. Although large, they are well balanced and sit comfortably on smaller faces.
Wearers can open and close the arms as many times as they want without worrying about breakage, as the robust hinges are built to last. Soft nose pads have a firm grip, ensuring that glasses stay in place but are loose enough not to leave indentations after long hours of wear.
Also included is a carrying case and cleaning cloth. Although heavier than plastic models, the X4410 delivers as a practical, stylish piece at an affordable price.
Sometimes less is more, and the Dolce and Gabanna DG2099 epitomizes simple elegance in a compact package. Its black steel frame is accentuated with gold trimmings, lending the glasses a touch of class without appearing gaudy.
Some shades, while lightweight, feel flimsy in the hand. Not so with the D&G. The rim is thin but tough and protects the lenses well. The grey gradient lenses are darker at the top and lighter at the bottom, providing overhead sunlight protection for the eyes, while still allowing wearers to look at their car dashboard or read outdoors.
This is a great pair of sunnies for driving. Since they are non-polarized, wearers will be able to look at their GPS devices comfortably. The dark tint helps to reduce intensity in bright sunlight Moreover, they come with a UV400 rating – the highest available on the market – that blocks up to 400 nanometers. This ensures that your eyes are completely protected from dangerous UV rays. The lenses are prescription ready.
Measuring 55mm, they are suitable for most average-sized faces, and the classic teardrop shape flatters oval and square faces.
However, the bridge is rather narrow, so if they don’t fit right out of the box, some adjustment from the optometrist might be needed to get the glasses to sit snugly around the nose.
Each set comes with their original casing and cleaning cloth. The glasses are made in Italy, and come with the country’s flag colors alongside the brand name on the arm, so you can show off your brand new pair of designer sunglasses.
Best Aviator Sunglasses for Women
These beautiful shades embody feminine class and power. Sleek but subtle, the design is a modern take on the original best aviator sunglasses, with teardrop-shaped lenses encased within a smooth, metal frame. Sideways, the arms are cut with a space in the middle, creating an edgy yet minimalistic look.
Their high-quality lenses cover the entire eye and have good curvature, providing maximum protection against sunlight and helping to minimize glare from all angles. Made from a lightweight but tough Plutonite (polycarbonate) material, they are shatter-proof and impact resistant; so no worries even if you drop them onto the ground by accident.
The lenses are non-polarized, so wearers can still view their smartphone screens and GPS devices without having to take their shades off. They also provide UV protection of up to 400 nanometres, the highest available on the market.
Women will like the soft color palette, as the Caveat comes in a rose gold frame with brown gradient lens. The brown tint does not reduce brightness and intensity as much as black or grey tints, but has better color contrast and clarity. It’s great for cloudy days or for driving.
Measuring 60mm, these fit well on average to large-sized faces and flatter most face shapes. The tips of the temples are padded for extra comfort. Meanwhile, unobtanium nose pads grip onto the bridge securely and hardly snag on hair, even when wearers push them up onto the head.
However, some users have reported that they leave marks on the nose, so perhaps they are not the best pair of shades for all-day wear.
Looking for a cool and sophisticated look without bleeding your wallet dry? Then the Duduma Premium Aviator Sunglasses will be right up your alley. These teardrop-shaped sunnies have wide lenses that cover the eyes completely for maximum protection against sunlight. They come in a variety of colors, such as black frame with smoke lens or green-blue mirror lens. For the ladies, there are softer hues such as silver frame and pink mirror lens, and coffee frame with brown lens.
Made from a tough but lightweight polycarbonate, the lens material is similar to that of aircraft windshields, making them 50 times more impact resistant than regular optical glass. They also have high optical clarity and offer distortion free views. Although the lenses are non-polarized, the mirrored surface means that they are effective at cutting down glare and reducing brightness, whilst providing UV400 protection against harmful sun rays, blocking them by 99 to 100%.
The frame features a thin, high quality metal, designed for sports and outdoor activities. The glasses grip well on the face even when sweating, thanks to comfortable and secure nose pads and over-the-ear temples.
Measuring 50mm, they suit smaller faces and are a great choice for women. The wide lens provides good protection from wind and dust, but for people with higher cheeks, the bottom may rest on the face.
While scratch resistant, they are not scratch-proof. Buyers should avoid cleaning the lenses with clothing or tissues, as these can grind dust or fibres into them and leave scratches. Use mild soaps for washing, as some strong soaps may corrode the lens coatings. Each set comes with a small zippered case and cleaning cloth.
For eye protection in sunny environments, the LUENX Aviator Polarized Sunglasses are a solid and affordable choice. At first glance, they look almost as good as the expensive aviators. Inspired by classic Ray Bans, the design features a classic teardrop shape and are suitable for both men and women. There are many lens colors and frames to choose from, such as blue lens and silver frame, orange lens and gold frame, as well as rose red.
The plastic lenses have the added benefit of being polarized, so they cut down on harsh glare whilst reducing brightness and intensity. They also have a waterproof coating for outings to the pool or beach. Their sturdy build means that the lenses are durable and shatterproof
One common annoyance with sunglasses is smudging, but the LUENX reduces the need to constantly clean your shades, as the lenses fingerprint and dirt resistant. As with any quality pair of sunnies, they come with UV protection to protect the eyes from harmful UV rays.
Despite the metal frame, the glasses are lightweight. Some users have commented that while the lenses hold up well, the frames can be flimsy so buyers should take extra care while handling them.
With a lens width of 58mm, they fit average to large-sized faces and go well with heart, oval or square face shapes. The silicone nose pads grip well and are comfy. One downside of the LUENX is the flatness of its lenses, which means that light can sometimes filter in through the sides. Another thing that buyers should take note is the darkness of the lens. They tint is dark, so colors might not appear natural.
Cute and stylish are just some of the words used to describe Kate Spade’s Marions Aviator Sunglasses. Available in gold, silver and shiny black, these feminine shades are designed especially for women, and will not look out of place at a runway show. The arms feature a quirky polka dot design, with matching temple tips.
Although they retain a classic teardrop shape, the lenses are not as wide as conventional aviators, so they look less harsh on female faces. They are non-polarized, allowing wearers to look at LCD screens and their electronic devices without having to take off their glasses.
Housing the lenses is a metal frame with half-rim design, which encloses the top and leaves the bottom open. This design works well with the gradient lenses, which are darker at the top and lighter at the bottom. Wearers can glance down quickly at the car’s dashboard or read outdoors.
The brown gradient has better color contrast and enhancement for a more natural view. They also have a mirrored quality to reduce glare, and are coated with an extra layer of UV protection up to 400 nanometres. As an added bonus, the lenses are scratch resistant and prescription ready.
Measuring 57mm, the Marions are tailored for women. The ergonomic shape fits well on most faces, and since the lenses are smaller and slightly rounded on the bottom, they rarely hit the cheeks.
The Marions do have their drawbacks. While good for overcast weather, the brown gradient lenses are rather light, so users might still find themselves squinting in very bright sunlight. The glasses have a delicate build and should be handled with care. A carrying case is included.
We often associate ‘cheap’ with low quality, but the Desen Unisex Adult Best Aviator Sunglasses is out to prove us wrong. These sturdy fashion aviator shades are very affordable, but still provide decent eye protection and functionality.
Inspired by Ray Bans, the design has large teardrop-shaped lenses with a wide bridge, encased in a tough and thin wire metal frame. The frames and lens colors are well matched, offering buyers plenty of choices such as black/grey for a more formal, sophisticated look, or gold/colorful for party-goers. Ladies might prefer softer shades like gold pink and gold yellow green.
The mirrored lenses are scratch resistant and have reflective properties to cut down on harsh glare. They also obscure others from seeing the wearer’s eyes, giving off a cool and mysterious vibe. The lenses are rated UV400 for maximum protection against the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays. Although non-polarized, some users have commented that the tint is dark enough to block light from LCD screens. This can be a drawback, as users will have to keep taking them off to look at their smartphones or electronic devices. However, for outdoor use in bright sunlight, the dark tint is perfect for reducing intensity.
Measuring just 51mm, they are ideal for women and people with small faces. Despite the low price, the glasses are well built and sturdy, but comfortable enough for long hours of wear.
The soft nose pads have a firm grip and do not leave indentations, unlike heavier sunglasses. They stay in place, even when used for running or jogging.
One thing to be wary of though is the arms, as they bend out of shape easily. Each set comes with a soft carrying pouch.