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I just spent a weekend up at the lake in Northern Minnesota. The weather turned out to be a lot better than the forecast. I was really glad I had my sunglasses, because I gotta tell you life is so much better behind darkened lenses when the sun is beating down.

I lived the majority of the first 35+ years of my life with an expression not unlike the one you see below:

I'd fight all summer against the sun and then fight even more in January, when the sheer white landscape reflected the full force of the sun at me. Pretty bleak, but nothing compared to the traditional cost of prescription sunglasses. I was never offered them as a child - they weren't budgeted for. I don't think any of my friends who wore glasses had sunglasses either.

Now I don't go anywhere without at least one pair of sunglasses at the ready. I keep a pair in my backpack, a pair in each of the cars and one on the boat -- and why not for as little as $20 a pair (a far cry from the astronomical fees you'll pay at LensCrafters).

In writing this, I realized that I don't really get headaches any more either. Coincidence? Maybe, but I used to get headaches all the time.

I've come up with a couple of short lists for both of the scenarios. Add to them in the comments!

With Prescription Sunglasses:

  • Better for your eyes
  • Better for your skin
  • See more clearly
  • Look (ever so slightly more) like Brad Pitt
Without Prescription Sunglasses:
  • May start your lashes on fire
  • Crow's feet on your crow's feet
  • Crash into stuff
  • Look like French Stewart

Have kids with glasses? Get a few pairs for all of the places they'll appreciate them.

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At July 29, 2009 at 5:02 PM Anonymous said...

Why both with prescription sunglasses?

goggles4u have CHEAP transitions! (it's only $5 more than regular prescrition glasses.)

Why opt for a separate pair of sunglasses when u can get transitions?!

At July 30, 2009 at 12:35 PM Chuck Knight said...

I can only speak for myself. In my own case, small clear glasses are most flattering on my face. But, I like my sunglasses to be big and bold.

It's difficult, if not impossible, to find a frame that looks good for both purposes.

Separate pairs seem to work better for me.

But, thanks for the heads up about the price at G4U. I may have to try a pair, despite the fact that they'll be a compromise...I have been known to forget a pair of sunglasses, on a trip, before.

At July 30, 2009 at 7:42 PM CoreyW said...

I'm totally the same way, Chuck. I try to stay relatively unassuming in my glasses but like a big thick pair of frames for sunglasses.

Also, there are times when I don't want my glasses to be dark, even though I'm outdoors. I'm in a wedding party soon and will have to take pictures outside for that. I've never owned transitions. Is there a remedy for this sort of situation?

At July 30, 2009 at 11:25 PM Chuck Knight said...

Transitions respond to UV light, darkening in direct proportion to it. Brighter sunlight = greater UV concentration = darker lenses.

It's a nearly ideal material, in this respect. But, it's also the reason they don't work well inside a car.

In a car, the windshield blocks some of the UV light, so traditional "Transitions" lenses never get "dark enough." (A friend found this out the hard way) I've heard of something called DriveWear that may have addressed this problem.

But, none of this addresses your problem. The only remedy I'm aware of is to not wear transitions while being photographed outdoors.

At August 1, 2009 at 1:24 PM olaf675 said...

I recently purchased a pair of prescription sunglasses at with the photochromatic/polarized lens DriveWear by Younger Optics. This unique driving lens has three color stages - a light olive green color (for overcast conditions, with 35% light transmittance), a copper color (activated by visible light (not possible with Transitions, since Transitions are activated by UV light which a car's windshield blocks), with 22% light transmittance), and a maroon color (a UV light activated color, with 12% light transmittance) - for outdoor sunny conditions.

DriveWear lenses never get clear, so they are not the best suited for extended indoor use. The tint colors for this lens are pretty good, since they enhance a variety of colors. I only mention the light transmittance values, because some may like a darker tint for various activities. Having used them for several weeks, they are very sensitive to lighting conditions and will darken within 10-20 seconds.

I have never used sunglasses until recently, and was disappointed that I was unable to get any wrap-around style frames due to my prescription (other than some RX-insertable frames, which weren't to my liking and cost much more than I wanted to spend). This led me to reading about various sunglass lens options usable in regular eyeglass frames. While the DriveWear lens does deliver on all it promises (with polarization being a great, necessary addition), I do wish that the lenses were darker overall. Instead of 35%-22%-12% light transmittance, I perhaps would have liked to have seen the following - yellow/amber (22% light transmittance - overcast conditions), copper (15% light transmittance - sunny driving conditions), dark brown (8% - sunny outdoor conditions).

If it were possible, I would have purchased a pair of Serengeti frames with a two-stage polarized lens with 15%-9% light transmittance, despite the price. Though I'm happy enough with the DriveWear lenses that only ended costing less than $140 with AR coating , even though I find myself taking my glasses off to point them in sunlight to get them darker in the brightest conditions. Though, you may very well be happy with the darkness levels of the lens.

Should you decide to get DriveWear with an AR coating option from 39DollarGlasses, you should phone in your order to request it. The web page doesn't offer AR coatings from the order page and leaving a note with your order will only cause delays. (I learned the hard way.) Younger Optics says that DriveWear is compatible with most AR coatings.

No other online optical dealer has DriveWear at the $90 price for a 'hard resin' lens, though you might want to check out the differences between 'hard resin' and the 'polycarbonate' lens option before ordering.

Here is an article listing other companies with lenses similar to DriveWear, but are not as advanced.


At October 15, 2009 at 9:45 AM Unknown said...

Part of the reason you folks aren't getting what you really wnat/need, is you're bottom-feeding. The cut-rate websites are getting their product from China, prescription lenses included. I know how much Transitions lenses, and Drivewear lenses cost, and the prices you are listing is under whoesale. Olaf, of course 39dollar couldn't wrap your prescription. You were probably speaking with someone in Bangalore who washaving your lenses done in Korea or China. If your prescription is under -6.00, there is a place that can wrap that, for a FAIR price, meaning under the boutiques and big-boxes. The glasses would be made in the USA, and the frame would be an authentic brand-name, with warranty. Check out, and CALL! They can help you choose what works best with your prescription. Does 39dollar have ABO certified optician's on staff? Didn't think so. Heavyglare does. I have a -4.00 with cyl for astigmatism done in a PROGRESSIVE bifocal lens. They put this into an Oakley Minute 2.0 and it's PERFECT.
Stop bottom-feeding and buy yourselves some real hardware...

At October 15, 2009 at 10:09 AM Ira said...


39$'s Lab is on Long Island with ABO-Certified opticians on staff.

Sure, for the price they're not going to be able to accommodate some of these things, but they do all the basics -- very well at a price you ought to get used to.

Also, you're not going to talk people into spending hundreds on sunglasses in this venue.

Do some research before you spout off. Or maybe they didn't teach "research" in the ABO certificate test manual?

At October 15, 2009 at 3:53 PM olaf675 said...

Outside of the darkness of the DriveWear lens and lack of wrap, I'm happy enough with my prescription sunglasses. Maybe next year I'll check if anyone (outside of Oakley Black Iridium) has a darker less for a price I'm willing to spend with my prescription.

I've checked with a variety of vendors promising prescription sunglasses in a wrap frame (Spazio, Ice-Tech Thin-ICE Rx, Younger Image Wrap, etc). Unfortunately, even IF they could do it they'd end up being significantly more expensive than I'd want to spend.

I might as well just start wearing contacts and get the exact pair of sunglasses I'd want and not have to worry about image distortion.

At October 15, 2009 at 5:19 PM Unknown said...

Olaf, I'd like to drive a Mercedes, but am unwilling to pay the price for one of those too...
Ira, I read wthe "why I do it" page you wrote. The lens prices you quite are for cheap blanks, and don't take into account the overhead of buying, maintaining, and paying someone to run the equipment. The frame prices sound like the mix grab-bag discontinued stuff sold 50-to a bag, assorted, that I used to see on the BOGO rack at Pearle. What brand of progressive blanks were you getting at $30? Adaptar's?
In any case, buy what you like. I won't wear a cheap frame, but I refuse to shell out for a flat-screen TV... I guess its all about priorities.

At October 15, 2009 at 8:46 PM olaf675 said...

Looked at

Nice selection, but once you add a prescription you go outside of the use of the lenses associated with that brand, which (for me) would be the main reason I would buy a particular brand.

Despite allowing as low as a -15.0 lens prescription I'd have to see examples of sunglasses with stronger prescription before making a purchase, since most frame manufacturers don't allow prescriptions stronger than -4.0

As for your observations regarding the quality of online prescription glasses (and getting what you pay for), perhaps you can see why with this example.

A co-worker of mine works part-time at shop which sells Rudy Project glasses. He got some at the shop's cost.

His price? 40% of retail.

With price gouging like this (not limited by any means to this industry) I think this more than explains why Glassy Eyes and other sites with discount (and yes most likely lower quality) glasses are a welcome introduction for those on a limited budget. At least Glassy Eyes and other sites and consumers have been the 'guinea pigs' regarding overall quality for other shoppers.

There used to be a website that offered Books/CDs/DVDs at 60% of retail. If they were still in business I would have given a URL and how you could find titles you were interested in. Sadly the bare-bone product information was most likely the reason for their demise.

I guess the big question is -- if you're interested in paying retail --then why are you here????

At October 16, 2009 at 12:29 AM Chuck Knight said...

You won't wear a cheap frame. Will you wear an inexpensive one? There *is* a difference.

You accuse us of bottom feeding.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. While it is true that some of us are not buying "top of the line" merchandise, we *are* getting accurate, properly made, properly specced eyeglasses in very nice frames, at a fraction the cost of those found in B&M stores.

I have no problem with this.

And, just because a style is unavailable from the common online retailers does not mean that is is completely unavailable online. Additionally, just because someone chooses not to spend the extra money, does not mean that he's a "bottom feeder."

I take great offense to comments like that.

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