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Eyewear is a curious battleground area in the world of cycling.
Almost without fail, every company claims that its sunglasses are distortion-free, offer superb clarity, and heighten contrast to some degree so that you can better evaluate the world around you. And more often than not, they also claim to deliver cutting-edge style such that it’s not just the surroundings that look better to your eyes; you supposedly look better in those surroundings as well.
Nevertheless, it’s not often that those claims hold up to the light of day.
Try this experiment with whatever sunglasses you have currently: Put them on, and then spot an object in the distance (it doesn’t even have to be very far away; even across the room will often do). Now, without altering your gaze or moving your head, pivot the glasses up above your eyes to move the lenses out of your field of view.
Did the object appear to move? If so, by how much? Still believe your current sunglasses are “distortion-free”?
Oakley is arguably the best-known brand in the cycling eyewear world, and for good reason: its sunglasses consistently do live up to those optical claims while also being some of the best-looking models out there. And that’s not marketing hype; that’s just reality, at least as long as Oakley’s patents for lens geometry continue to hold. If you try the above experiment with a pair of Oakleys, you can see that geometry at work firsthand.
Of course, Oakley didn’t earn its reputation solely on the quality of its optics. The brand is also consistently a front-runner in terms of style, constantly pushing the envelope and rarely afraid of taking a few chances. Those chances haven’t always worked out, mind you, but more often than not, they’ve at least been memorable.
Styling aside, Oakley’s most important recent development has been a lens technology called Prizm. Lens tinting is a game of highlighting or attenuating certain bands of incoming light, and how well it’s done has long been a point of distinction between different sunglass brands. What sets Prizm apart, however, is how specific the dying agents are in how those wavelengths are targeted, and how Oakley goes about tuning that blend for different settings.
You know the saying about seeing the world through rose-colored lenses? When that phrase was coined in the early 1800s, the slightly pinkish tint was clearly so novel that the idiom still holds the same meaning nearly two centuries later.
But imagine how things could have been different had someone added just a smidgeon more blue, purple or yellow, in just the right combination.