I remember the first pair of sunglasses I bought. They were some Ray Ban Wayfarers that I bought as a teenager in a failed attempt to look cool. Aside from not giving me the Tom Cruise in Risky Business swagger I’d aspired to, they didn’t do much except keep the sun out of my eyes when I was fishing.
Eventually I gave up on trying to look stylish (like that was ever going to happen) and got myself a pair of Hobie polarized sunglasses, which at that time in the very early 90’s were the height of technology. The ones I picked left me looking somewhat insectile, but they did cut way down on the glare off the water and I was thankful for that.
Over the next couple decades, I wore just about every brand and style of polarized sunglasses at one time or another. While they all worked great when it was bright out, I’d struggled to find a pair that worked well on the overcast mornings that we as Southern Californians seem to live our entire summers under. A couple years ago I found exactly what I was looking for in a pair of Costa Blackfin’s with the green mirror finish lenses.
The Costa website describes these lenses as being high contrast, but I didn’t realize just how important contrast was until I was fishing a tournament earlier this year. On an overcast morning, my fishing partner Matt Kotch and I were fishing submerged kelp stalks along the front side of Catalina island. As we moved the boat, Matt, who was wearing grey polarized lenses, asked where the kelp was. I pointed out the kelp that was a couple feet down, but he still couldn’t see it even after taking off his sunglasses. To prove that I wasn’t seeing things, I offered him my glasses and he immediately saw it as well.
While the right lens for my application might not be the right one for yours, it does show that minor differences can have a major impact on what you see. So, let’s take a look at some of the different choices you can make to find the right pair of sunglasses for you.
The first step in picking the right sunglasses is finding a frame that fits your face. If you’re a fisherman, just forget about the Wayfarer style glasses on the water. They don’t work and no one is going to mistake you for a young Tom Cruise. Find a pair of glasses that hugs your face as tightly as possible without being uncomfortable. The Costa Blackfin fits my fat face well and most of my friends who have full faces feel the same. The goal of the tight fitting frames is to cut down on any light coming in around the edges of the frames. This makes sure that all of the light hitting your eye is coming through the polarized and UV filtered lenses. Slip on the right pair of shades on a bright day and you should be able to physically feel your eyes relax. Trust me, you’ll know the right pair when you put them on.
The next step is picking your lens type. Costa offers both glass and plastic lenses and I have both. The advantage of glass is that it just looks clearer. The disadvantage is that it’s heavier and fragile. I keep my glass lenses for wearing around town and my plastic lenses for fishing. If you’re just buying one pair, I’d go with the plastic.
When it comes to lens color, every brand has their own coating formula, so you’re going to want to pay more attention to the description than the lens color when choosing a pair of glasses. For simplicity sake, I’m just going to talk about the colors that Costa offers. As I mentioned, the green mirror lenses are high contrast but they are a little brighter than most polarized lenses. While this brighter lens doesn’t really doesn’t bother me on sunny days, it might not be the right choice for everyone. If you spend most of your time fishing in bright sun, I’d recommend the blue mirror lenses. You’ll lose some of the contrast on overcast days, but they’re much easier on your eyes in harsh sun. If I spent all of my time fishing offshore, I’d definitely switch to the blue lenses.
In my opinion, the technology of the mirrored lenses is so good that I wouldn’t get a standard lens color for anything other than specialty applications, like a yellow lens for very low light conditions. If you’ve spent most of your life wearing the standard gray polarized lenses like I did, do yourself a favor and check out some new lens technology. You might ended up seeing things you’ve been missing for years.