If you wanted to pick out the best five sunglasses for boaters, you would have to try dozens of pairs from companies including the likes of Maui Jim, Ray-Ban, Costa Del Mar, Oakley, Ocean Waves, Onos, and WilyX—and then try dozens of pairs from a long list of different manufacturers. It would take a lot of time, money, and effort. Unless that is, you do your research.
I’ve had Coke-bottle glasses since I was in the sixth grade. Seeing anything past my own hand was always a challenge, and as I’m now closer to 50 than 40, reading has become an exercise in futility, too. My lenses—even when pressed “ultra thin” at extra cost—are now so thick that the ophthalmologist laughed out loud when I picked out a pair of classic, metal-rimmed Maui Jim aviator frames. His assistant steered me, ever so gently, to the Ray-Ban Jackie Ohhs, whose thick, black, plastic rims would be sturdy enough to handle the weight of my lenses’ largesse. As it turns out, the Jackie Ohhs are great. I highly recommend them if you’re a boater looking for some stylish summertime specs.
Here are five more options that you might want to consider.
Cinder Cone by Maui Jim
These polarized aviators have a contemporary rectangular shape and are made with glass that, the manufacturer says, is 20 percent thinner and lighter than standard glass. The Cinder Cone comes in black, gunmetal, gold matte and satin sepia, allowing for fashion statements on the aft deck, and the lenses are built for bright, direct sunlight, including the glare off gelcoat.
Wayfarer Pop by Ray-Ban
These are the kinds of sunglasses that fashionistas adore, combining the classic Wayfarer shape and trendy tortoise-shell temples with bright frames—and Ray-Ban does mean vibrant green. Wayfarer Pops are fun as well as functional, with polarized lenses in polarized classic yellow. The yellow lenses reportedly block not only 85 percent of light, but also most of blue light, which recent studies have shown to be a key culprit in tired eyes.
Pescador with Side Shield by Costa Del Mar
The Pescador is made from recycled fishing nets, helping to keep the oceans clear of plastic pollution while protecting your retinas from the sun. They have a larger frame, a square shape and side shields (optional) to block out almost all the rays that beat down, and they’re made for fishermen who are in sunlight all day. Lenses come in blue or copper-silver mirror, and frames can be blue or gray rubber. A fun fact is that, like the materials from which they’re made, these sunglasses themselves are recyclable, making the eyewear a conservation statement as well as a fashionable one.
Jawbreaker by Oakley
The Jawbreaker is a sport design for those who are breaking a sweat out on the boat all day—there are even air vents built into the construction. The look is bad-ass in bright color combinations; the Retina Burn version matches neon yellow frames to fuscia lenses. Replacement lenses are available in 20 colors, so wearers can customize their look. The Jade Iridium (green) version is made for the bright light of boating and reportedly filters out 99 percent of reflected glare.
Guide’s Choice by Smith
Guide’s Choice models are made with ChromaPop lenses, which Smith builds specifically for use on the water—adding not only antireflective lens coatings, but also hydroleophobic lens coatings. (They repel water, dirt and grease.) Smith’s polarchromatic construction combines polarization with tint-adjusting technology, so lenses adapt to changing light conditions. Stainless steel hinges should be sturdy for saltwater use.
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Editor's Note: This article was originally published in April 2012, updated in July 2018 and June 2020.