Being men and women of the outdoors, we prefer as many different choices for shading our eyes as possible.
But carrying multiple sunglasses with various types of lenses is a hassle. So we bring one pair, and when the sun ducks behind a cloud or falls into the trees, we place our shades on top of our heads or in our shirts. Of course, that’s when the klutz in all of us comes out.
Here to solve our decidedly first-world problem is Oakley, with its Fast Jacket sunglasses. The Orange County, California, company has developed a system that matches one frame to multiple, interchangeable lenses.
It’s not the first interchangeable-lens system I’ve seen, but it’s the easiest to use. By thumbing a simple locking system built into the frame, switching lenses is a 10-second task. Simply pull down the lever atop each outer edge of the lens to free it from the frame. The lens doesn’t fall out when the frame is unlocked; a gentle pull will free it. Nudge the desired lens into the frame and pull up the lever until it “clicks” back into place.
The polycarbonate lenses are available in different shades — our frames came with lenses for low light and for bright sun, but you can get photochromic, iridium-coated or polarized lenses as optional extras.
Oakley touts the lenses as being distortion-free, so you get a clear view straight ahead and in all peripheral directions. I found this to be especially useful when golfing. I took the Fast Jackets out for a nine-hole round in the late afternoon sun, which I was directly facing during many of my shots.
For these shots, I wore the Fast Jacket’s dark lenses. I could easily spot my ball against several backgrounds — trees, clouds, sky — and I could follow its trajectory without a problem. Since there’s no lower rim on the frames, visibility when glancing down at the ball was great.
The lenses also have a special coating (Oakley calls it “Hydrophobic”) which is supposed to prevent water from leaving streaks and sheens. I didn’t sweat enough during golf to properly test it, so I wore the Fast Jacket shades on a short kayaking trip around a pier at Hudson River Park in New York City. Even with the water constantly splashing on me (I never said I was a good kayaker) the lens coating passed the test.
The frame is lightweight and curves around the face comfortably. The Fast Jackets don’t have an incredibly sleek look, but the styling will suit those who prefer function over form. A friend who wore them briefly complained about the ear socks’ tightness directly behind the ears. I didn’t mind this, as I found the grippiness comforting while I constantly looked down and then up during my round of golf. I didn’t feel any perceptible amount of slippage from the glasses while I was sweating.
The Fast Jacket sunglasses meet ANSI’s Z87.1 eyewear standards for high-velocity and high-mass-impact resistance, but I chose not to test this while at-bat during my softball game.
But sunlight is the more common hazard, and these shades will protect you from it no matter how much — or how little — of it there is.
WIRED Convenience of lens-changing system is paramount. Comfortable fit. Excellent, distortion-free visibility. Water won’t compromise clarity. Lightweight frame stays on the nose. Nosebuds, frame don’t leave marks.
TIRED Not for the fashionable crowd — expect disapproving looks due to the flashy colors. The fit around the ears is too tight for some.
Photo by Jon Snyder/Wired