Sunglasses have both practical and aesthetic functions. First developed as a form of protective eyewear, they quickly became a fashion statement. In fact, nowadays, the majority of people who buy sunglasses see them as a fashion accessory. However, sunglasses still serve the practical purpose of protecting the eyes from the sun’s glare when driving, piloting airplanes, boating, and playing sports like golf. Polarized safety glasses take the practical functions even further by minimizing the glare through the use of specially coated lenses.
Sunglasses as a fashion statement
Sunglasses fall into two general categories, based on the shape of the lenses. Plano lenses are flat, while prescription sunglasses have Rx lenses with some curvature to correct vision problems. About three fourths or 75% of all Americans wear one of these types of sunglasses. However, less than a third, or about 30% of those who wear sunglasses do so for eye protection, according to a survey carried out by Life magazine. Sunglasses have become a fashion accessory, popularized by their association with film stars and celebrities since the 1940s.
Style icons like Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn defined this style for women, while aviator sunglasses became a necessary fashion accessory for men. Famous fashion houses like Chanel, Burberry and Ralph Lauren all have their own lines of sunglasses for men and women. Interestingly, these are all designed and manufactured by the same Italian fashion house, Luxottica. This fashion goods company also owns the Ray-ban and Oakley brands.
Practical functions of sunglasses
Despite the fashion hype and branding, sunglasses also have some very practical uses. They block harmful ultraviolet light that is a component of sunlight. In the U.S., the manufacture of sunglasses is actually regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They must meet the safety standards specified in ANSI Z80.3-2001.
These define limits to the transmittance of UVB and UVA light. If the sunglasses are intended for general cosmetic use, they must block 70% of UVB light. General purpose sunglasses must block 95% of UVB and most UVA light. For special purpose sunglasses, the standards specify that they must block 99% of UVB light. There are also standards for basic and high impact protection.
Do you need polarized safety sunglasses?
What are polarized lenses and who needs them? Polarized lenses are named after the patented Polaroid filter developed more than 80 years ago by Edwin H. Land. They have a special coating that reduces the sun’s glare and improves visibility. By reducing the feeling of being blinded by the glare, they help the wearer see better in bright sunlight.
Polarized safety sunglasses can be especially helpful when boating, or when otherwise encountering sunlight that is reflected off a body of water. Polarized sunglasses can improve visibility and safety when driving in bright sunlight. Polarized lenses are also popular with sportsmen. They may be the best sunglasses for golf, where it’s important for players to see clearly in bright daylight.
Sunglasses are both a practical necessity and a necessary fashion accessory. Different types of sunglasses, such as prescription sunglasses with Rx lenses or polarized safety sunglasses take the practical functions one step further, by improving vision when driving or boating or when playing sports like golf.