Chances are, even the briefest glimpse of sunshine has you thinking of summer holidays, whether you’ve managed to secure a rental in the Lake District or plan on spending 2021 sipping rosé from the comfort of your patio. And sunshine means sunglasses — but there’s a lot to consider.
If you already wear glasses, you might want your sunglasses to offer a contrast to the lens or frame design you normally wear. You might want something status-y, or something inexpensive you don’t mind accidentally leaving on the beach. And then there’s the question of polarised, non-polarised, frame weight, and more besides.
So we assembled a panel of 11 experts, from writers to fashion editors and musicians, and asked them to tell us what glasses they wear themselves. Their choices run the full gamut, so we’re convinced you’ll find a pair that’s right for you.
Best overall sunglasses
Ace & Tate sunglasses were the best-rated, with four of our experts recommending them. “Ace & Tate are my go-to sunglasses brand — they have such a great selection, and their sunglasses work so well on both men and women,” says Itunu Oke, retail editor at British GQ (and a stylist who has dressed Timothée Chalamet and Brockhampton). Stylist Sam Carder, who owns a couple of pairs, agreed, saying he “loves how they feel” due to their light acetate finish. This is also the pair I favour; the round frame is similar to the glasses I own, for a bit of consistency, but I particularly like how lightweight they are compared to metal frames.
Murray Matravers, singer in the band Easy Life, told the Strategist he specifically likes the Tom frame, which features thicker arms and a more square lens. “As a longtime glasses-wearing nerd, glasses are important to me and my sense of identity. Ace & Tate always come through.” He says he has worn this pair to festivals, beaches, and dates, and has always been impressed by the price point compared to pricier brands.
[Editor’s note: Murray likes the black frames with yellow lenses, which are sold out, but we found an alternative.]
Best overall sunglasses (runners-up)
Two cool people, both musicians, told us about the sunglasses by Retrosuperfuture. Rapper and producer Piers James said he’d been wearing them for a long time (in fact, his current pair is so durable he’s been wearing them for seven years). “My favourites have to be the flat tops. They have iconic packaging, and I love the attention to detail — each print is unique, and matches with the inside of the glasses.”
They also came recommended by singer Miguel, who told our U.S. sister site he first got onto the brand at the beginning of his career by his stylist, Leo Velasquez. “This was around 2010 or even earlier. Kanye had just dropped Graduation, and more and more artists were embracing a futuristic aesthetic. Retrosuperfuture was a part of that. I mean, the name says it all. I wear the Issimo shape the most. They have a ’90s look but are a little more streamlined — wide with a flat top but not too big.”
Though he admits to owning many pairs of sunglasses, Arman Naféei, host of the Are We on Air? podcast, says the Cary Grant frames by Oliver Peoples are his favourites. “I try to avoid anything too contemporary or overly design-y; I like something classic. This frame is one of my favourites; they look great day and night, whether I’m in L.A. in the sunshine or back in grey Berlin.”
This style was also recommended by fashion and style writer Henry Conway, who called Oliver Peoples his “No. 1 glasses brand.” Conway says he was advised to try a rose-pink frame from the brand’s founder, Larry Leight, after meeting him at a dinner, and has been devoted to the brand ever since. “This frame is a replica of Grant’s frames in To Kill a Mockingbird, and means that I, too, possess some golden-age-of-Hollywood magic every time I wear them.”
Best (less expensive) sunglasses
Sam Diss, ex-head of content at Mundial magazine, told us that while he typically favoured Cubitts’s Herbrand sunglasses, the price tag (and his penchant for losing them) made them a costly indulgence. “They fit my face shape, and were just interesting enough to hover above the typical design of men’s sunglasses. But I lost three pairs in two years.” He stumbled upon Meller’s tortoiseshell sunglasses and took advantage of a buy-one-get-one-free deal, getting two pairs for £36. “The frame is a little lighter and slightly more plastic-y in feel compared to Cubitts, but somehow, I have retained both pairs to this day, some 18 months later. That said, the colour suits my complexion, the shape works dressed up and down, and, for the price, the UV protection of the glass is pretty good. The price is so good, I keep one pair in my bag at all times — and another on my desk at home.”
Best sustainably made sunglasses
Two of our experts recommended Monc, a relatively new brand (it was founded in 2016). Carder, who works closely with ecofocused creative agency the Earth Issue, said he was impressed at Monc’s focus on sustainability. The company, through its supplier Mazzucchelli 1849, has pledged to make all its frames with bio-acetate, a biodegradable version of acetate that replaces harmful phthalate-based plasticisers with organic additives.
This impressed style writer Jordan Bunker, who said, “The brand is keen to make sunglasses in the most responsible way possible, which I can fully get behind.” He favours the brand’s Løkka frame, “a round frame with a crooked detail around the rim, which offsets the roundness of them. As I keep what I wear relatively simple, sunglasses provide a chance to add a bit of colour to what I wear.”
Best comfortable sunglasses
Brad Morrison, founder of Dark Arts Coffee, told us that his Moscot frames were so comfortable he could keep them on even while wearing his motorcycle helmet. “They are my favourite sunglasses, without a doubt. They fit so well it’s like they were crafted for me personally. I have probably owned around eight to ten pairs over the years and will typically go for the black or blond styles. The reason I have owned so many of these beautifully sculpted sunglasses in my life is that I have this awful habit of losing them — something about having ADHD, I’ve been told.” Moscot, a New York–based eyewear brand, makes its frames from Italian acetate, and its glasses also came recommended by Mat Buckets, a menswear writer and blogger. The Lemtosh comes in 19 finishes, from classic neutral tones to coloured acetate in shades like sage, ruby, and even one called “flesh.”
Best foldable sunglasses
Morrison’s favourite sunglasses also come in foldable form.
Best snap-on sunglasses
Conway told us about the increasingly popular “sharp, retro look” of snap-on sunglasses — which, if you already wear glasses, take the hassle out of having to bring two pairs of frames with you everywhere. “Finlay & Co. aren’t bank-breaking and have affordable prescription inserts,” he says. All Finlay & Co.’s inserts are priced at £50, and are designed to complement their existing frames. “It’s usually a prescription lens that makes most brands eye-wateringly expensive,” Conway notes.
The Strategist UK is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Read about who we are and what we do here. Our editors update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.