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Sunglasses Buying Guide

by Staff Writer

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Young woman wearing dark sunglasses

Sunglasses were invented in China centuries ago and came to Europe with Marco Polo. Initially, sunglasses were used to hide one's eyes and thoughts. In the mid-1700s, they began to be used as eye protection, and, in the early 20th century, they really began to take off in popularity with sun-struck beachgoers. In the decades that followed, sunglasses became, like any clothing or accessories, a fashion statement. In the 21st century, both protection and style are equally important. This sunglasses buying guide contains basic information to help you wade through the available options so you can choose the sunglasses that work best for you.

Buying Sunglasses:

  1. Determine your face shape. Specific styles of eyewear work best with the five basic face shapes. The desired effect is balance -- so wear sunglasses that contrast with your face's appearance.

  2. Square. The square face (in men, usually described as strong-jawed) was epitomized by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the 1960s. Wearing oversized sunglasses, she popularized a style (now often called the Jackie O) which remains in vogue. If you're looking for women's sunglasses, try curvier styles -- round or cat-eye -- to complement your angular features. Men usually want to emphasize a strong-jawed appearance, so men's sunglasses with sharp angles work best.

  3. Triangle. The heart-shaped face (in men, triangular) has a wide forehead and narrow chin. Choose sunglasses with cat-eye frames or any with well-rounded edges; men's sunglasses and women's sunglasses with a wider lower edge and no straight lines along the top work especially well.

  4. Oblong. The long or oblong face also calls for oversized sunglasses. Round or rectangular lenses and sunglasses with thick frames add width; tall or deep lenses and fashion sunglasses with decorative frames or vintage style also work well.

  5. Round. The round face has the most noticeable curves, so the eyewear should have few. Sunglasses with narrow, high-templed or colorful frames, including classic tortoiseshell sunglasses, also add definition.

  6. Oval. The oval face has gently rounded curves that work with virtually any style, from sport sunglasses to designer sunglasses. Choose sunglasses that cover the face from the eyebrows to the cheekbones.

  7. Pick a great style. Designer sunglasses feature the trendiest styles and the highest quality. Fashion sunglasses also feature designer styling -- without the brand-name price. While their primary purpose is eye protection, sport sunglasses can be very stylish. In fact, a pair of protective sunglasses became fashionable by accident. Aviator sunglasses were created for the military just prior to World War II, and the glamour of the "ace" included his fashion accessories; those who couldn't fly could still try to look cool in mirrored, tear-drop shaped sunglasses. Today's aviator sunglasses make great men's accessories and women's accessories for almost any face.

  8. Choose sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection. The bright light of a cloudless day can be painful and distracting, especially while driving. Fortunately, the amber-colored lenses of recent decades filter out the additional blue light scattered by low-lying clouds, giving drivers a more balanced, clearer view of the road. Polarized sunglasses also help cut down the glare of reflected light. Ultra-violet radiation, known as UVA and UVB, has been shown to be a contributing factor for cataracts and many other eye problems. Look for UV-rated sunglasses, which block at least 70 percent of UVA and 60 percent of UVB light. Some sunglasses block 100 percent of both.

  9. Find sunglasses that protect against impact. Flying debris ranges from annoying specks of dust to sight-threatening pebbles kicked up by passing cars. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private organization dedicated to producing quality goods in the United States. For sunglasses, ANSI testing requirements include dropping a 1-inch steel ball on the lens from a height of 4 feet and shooting a quarter-inch ball toward the lens at 150 feet per second. If no part of the lens touches the eye when impacted, the glasses pass the test, and manufacturers may advertise them as ANSI compliant. This is especially useful when choosing sport sunglasses and polarized sunglasses.

  10. Buy genuine designer sunglasses to make a statement. When buying sunglasses online, you may find that discount sunglasses, allegedly from top designers, are, in fact, cheap knock-offs instead of the real deal. If so, the chances of a refund are pretty slim, so buy from a reputable dealer -- one with a history of selling authentic, quality products. Be aware that sunglasses are one item where the highest price doesn't always mean the best product. Some designer sunglasses may not include the safety features that your eyes deserve.

Tips from Overstock.com:

  1. Higher-end sunglasses usually come with a case and a cleaning cloth, so keep these handy. The case will protect your new glasses far better than your pocket.

  2. Use a soft cloth to clear the sweat and dust off your lenses without scratching them. You can also look for lens cleaning solution or wipes that will make your lenses spotless and streak-free, especially with discount sunglasses.

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