For three generations Julbo has been producing some of the best in mountaineering eyewear, and to celebrate its 15th anniversary, the family-owned, Euro-based manufacturer will release limited-edition shades modeled after the ones that were originally used to hunt crystals in the Alps back in the late 1800s. The special edition Vermont Mythics will be released, with leather shields, curved and wrapped temples, and all-glass lenses in a wonderfully retro cardboard boxes. This spring Julbo will also launch an online prescription program, offering custom performance eyewear with three lens technologies (the Zebra, Camel, and Falcon) in such models as the Bivouak, Explorer, Dirt, Pipeline, and Zulu, with prices that range from $400 to $600, with a two- to four-week turnaround. Sadly, the coveted Vermont Mythics will not be part of their Rx campaign.
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The problem with the binary fashion versus function is that, in order to satisfy one side of the equation, sacrifices must be made on the other. Not so with Burny sunglasses from Kaenon, a company founded by two elite-level sailing brothers in Southern California a decade ago. The Burny provides maximum performance with real style. The frame shape is evocative of a über-popular sunglass model from the mid-1950s, but Kaenon has matched the retro look with good functional design and cutting-edge technology. The Burny improves on a classic profile by molding the super lightweight, flexible, and heat-resistant TR-90 frame to more closely follow the contours of the human face to eliminate light leak over the brow and around the sides. Peripheral vision is not compromised. The effect is like, well, not wearing glasses at all. With lenses measuring 42mm by 62mm set in a large frame (135mm arm length, 141mm frame width) the Burnys provide maximum coverage, even for this reviewer, who literally has a big head. And the lenses! The Burny, like all of Kaenon’s glasses, features impact-resistant, ultra-lightweight, and durable SR-91 polarized lenses. Incorporating Glare 86 polarized film, the lenses reduce glare and offer unparalleled clarity, a claim reinforced by unsurpassed clarity scores awarded by an independent laboratory. Available in a range of tints, I found the G12 lens, the darkest grey tint (filtering all but 12% of visible light) to be perfect in bright conditions in a variety of scenarios—sailing, driving, playing tennis, hiking, and lounging by the pool.
Just as Murphy’s Law dictates that toast lands buttered-side down, so too will sunglasses inevitably fall, lens-down, especially on rocky terrain or concrete. Amazingly, given the number of trials I have (accidentally) conducted over the past 18 months, I have managed only to inflict a single tiny scratch on one of the lenses. It is an injury I don’t have to live with forever, happily, as the super friendly and helpful folks at Kaenon will set up a lens replacement (for a reasonable fee). In an era of multinational conglomerates that churn out hundreds of indistinguishable and mediocre products under a plethora of brand names, it’s a real pleasure to encounter an independent, family-run company dedicated to innovation, integrity, quality, and aesthetics. Sunglasses, in truth, function not only to keep the sun out of our eyes. They also operate as a statement about who we think we are and what we think we stand for. For this large-headed reviewer, the Burnys are a statement—about fashion and function—I’m very comfortable wearing on my face.
I love aviators. I kind of feel like Maverick from Top Gun when I rock them. Smith’s Serpico was my all time favorite pair, incorporating a wrap-around curve that added function to the timeless aviator fashion. It’s shortcoming was durability. The answer? the Showdown. They’re so light you forget you are wearing them, yet, they stands up to significant abuse. The upgrades–barrel hinges with a slight overlap at the arm junction and new way of holding the lens in place–mean that the shades forgives my occasional dropping and smashing. Coupled with Smith’s $10 Zipper Case, I am able to leave these in my cargo pocket while I ski, and in my checked luggage when I travel. I even put them in my wing suit’s leg wing on BASE jumps and skydives. It rattles around in there, but they come out unscathed.
We’re serious about eye protection. The essentials are lenses that block harmful rays and won’t shatter upon impact, frames that can take a beating, a fit that’s comfortable and secure, and fashion that means the glasses will spend more time on our face than in their case. We love Wiley X because of the high-quality lenses and frames; these are glasses you’ll be wearing for the next decade, rather than the next season. The ANSI HVP lenses have one of the highest velocity impact ratings in the world, while the proprietary lenses offer 100 percent UV protection for unequaled clarity and contrast. Frames can be fitted with a variety of lenses, from pale yellow that block out blue light waves and let in 86 percent of light to rose, silver, blue, and everything in between. To add to the equation, Wiley X makes high performance eyewear for tactical, motorcycle, auto racing, and fishing, as well as first-rate eyewear for hiking, biking, climbing, and travel. The trick is determining which frame fits your face, and what lens will provide the right protection for your specific needs. The Outdoor line has both men- and women-specific frames, most prescription ready; all have secure non-slip rubberized fit and ANSI Z87 High Velocity Protection. Our current favorite is the new Chelsea for women and the XCESS with super cool Polarized Emerald Mirror lenses and a thick, glossy black frame for men. Our testers recommend both models for everything from running, skate skiing, and hiking to international travel and al fresco lunches.
When hunting for high-quality performance sunglasses, substance should always reign over style—nothing ruins a road ride or sinewy singletrack outing worse than foggy lenses (to say nothing of the safety hazards of…ya know…not seeing where you’re going). But Oakley’s Jawbone ups the ante in almost every way. The stylish shades utilize the company’s “switchlock” technology, a tres stealthy lens-swapping feature: Flip up the nose pads, and the lower lens frames swing open on twin hinges anchored at the glasses’ lower temple. The lenses then easily slide out so that you can customize the tint for the weather conditions (the padded case also has nice slots to hold your quiver of lenses). Jawbone’s other premium feature is more noticeable: vents that line the outer third of the lenses and look slightly like dragon spikes. The result? The glasses fight off fog better than almost any other we’ve tested, in all conditions, from trail runs in the swampy August humidity of the nation’s capital to cold-weather cycling with a face mask. The rare instances of fog-up occurred at a standstill—and evaporated two pedal rotations later. Other details (a comfortable frame with a sleek overall profile and gripping stem sleeves, Oakley’s justifiably-praised lens clarity and resolution, impact resistances, and near-full peripheral vision) round out the details. Some may find the overall aesthetic a touch cyborg, but most of us also feel like human meeting machine when running, cycling, or skiing—so it fits.