Pilot shades, or aviator sunglasses, have been a style symbol for decades much like pilot watches. This type of spectacle is one of the most recognizable shapes in the world of sunglasses. Popularized by movies such as Top Gun, these style icons are now a staple in many man’s collection.
If you are in fact a pilot and your looking for a pair of new specs, these models will do well for you too. I have made this list of the best sunglasses for pilots by looking at the specifications first.
All of these sunglasses will have:
- Non-polarized glasses
- No colored lenses
- Large lens surface, blocking the sun from all angles
- Quality materials
These sunglasses are made with a range of different temple designs to suit each individual’s personal preferences.
Best Aviator Sunglasses for Men
These are the 7 best pilot sunglasses for men. I realize there’s quite a few models on the list. These are all quality spectacles well suited for pilots (and regular folks as well…). Narrowing down to the perfect pair of specs will be up to your personal taste. Let’s dive straight in!
1. American Optics Flight Gear Original Pilot Sunglasses
- Own these authentic military issue...
- A case is included with every purchase.
- Choose the color that fits your...
These American Optics pilot sunglasses are sure to attract attention. They feature a bayonet temple for a secure and comfortable fit. They’re available in polarized and non-polarized options, and the gold frame really makes a statement. Buyers can choose between brown, gray, and green tints for the polycarbonate lenses. American Optics glasses are made in the United States and lead the way as a glasses supplier to the American government. Consumers can expect 100% UV protection, and they can keep their sunglasses safe with the included carrying case. These glasses have stellar reviews and are praised for their high quality and dependability.
2. Randolph Aviator Sunglasses
- Lifetime warranty on all solder joints
- Made in the United States of America...
- Case Included
Straight from Randolph Engineering, these aviator sunglasses come with a five-star reputation and the durability of high-quality materials. They’re made in the United States and come with metal frames in a striking gold color. The dark charcoal lenses are non-polarized and have 98% to 100% protection against UV rays. They measure 55 millimeters wide and 45 millimeters tall. The arms have extra padding for added comfort and a snug fit. In addition, adjustable silicone nose pads ensure customers can wear these all day long without any soreness. Out of hundreds of reviews, the ratings are overwhelmingly positive and strike a fine balance of form and function.
3. Ray-Ban Pilot Sunglasses
- Case included
- This is an inspired oversized Aviator...
These Ray-Ban pilot sunglasses have non-polarized plastic lenses with a 100% UV-protected coating. The wrapped metal frame provides extra security for pilots, and the oversized frame lends a sporty air to the look. The lenses are available in green or a brown gradient, and the frames come in a chic gunmetal gray color. These glasses are made specifically with pilots in mind, so they won’t get easily knocked off the face. They have overwhelmingly positive reviews and consumers report that they fit well around the head and flatter all face shapes. They optimize visual performance while upping the style factor.
4. Ray-Ban Unisex Caravan 55mm Sunglasses
- Metal aviators with clear nose pads and...
- Prescription-ready lenses
- Includes protective case. Ray-Ban...
Another Ray-Ban option, these sunglasses come with a metal frame and non-polarized synthetic lenses that are coated with a 100% UV400 protection coating. The thin wire frame is made of a metal alloy and complemented with plastic arm tips for added comfort. Pilots can have these sunglasses fitted with their corrective eye prescription if needed. The lenses come in a mirrored blue color, as well as gray, green, and gold. These are a chic alternative to the retro aviator sunglasses of days past, and they come with the quality reputation of the Ray-Ban company. Clear nose guards allow for a customized fit and grip.
5. Oakley Holbrook Sunglasses
- Oakley takes a classic to the next level...
These Oakley Holbrook sunglasses are a chic take on a classic look. The frames are made of sheet metal, so they’re conveniently lightweight, and they include stunning bolt accents towards the front. The lenses are Plutonite and filter out 100% of UV rays while meeting the standards for impact resistance. The Holbrook metal frames have temples that measure 133 millimeters, while the Plutonite lenses are 54 millimeters wide. Oakley uses a three-point system to achieve the ideal fit for most face shapes, ensuring that these glasses will stay snug and secure even while on the job.
6. Randolph Sportsman Aviator
- Handcrafted in 200+ steps in...
- Jewelry-quality finishes with durability...
Anyone can achieve the classic aviator look of the 1930’s with these Randolph Sportsman sunglasses. Available in gold, gunmetal, and matte black, these shades are sure to turn heads while providing protection from harmful UV rays. These highly-rated sunglasses come from Randolph Engineering, who is known for their jewelry-quality finishes. Due to their skull temple, many consumers will find these glasses have a basic, comfortable fit. In addition, adjustable nose grips allow for more customization so wearers can get their perfect fit. The quality of these sunglasses really shines through the high-quality materials and craftsmanship, originating from Massachusetts, United States.
7. Serengeti Velocity Sunglasses
- Non Polarized Drivers Gradient Lenses...
- Espresso Titanium Frame & Light-Weight...
- Serengeti Photochromic Glass Lens...
For something new and exciting, check out these Serengeti Velocity sunglasses. They come with non-polarized lenses in an espresso color gradient, a perfect choice for pilots and those who work outdoors. Although they’re photochromic, they maintain high ratings from customers. They achieve a cozy fit thanks to the lightweight mineral glass and metal titanium frames. The nose pads are made of silicone gel for easy gripping. These glasses come with a two-year warranty, and they’re sure to last due to quality materials and spring hinges. The temple measures 130 millimeters and the bridge measures 16 millimeters.
Best Aviator Sunglasses for Women
We haven’t forgotten about the woman pilots, and selected three models that we think make great pilot sunglasses for women. Let us know in the comments if you agree!
8. Kate Spade Amarissa Aviator Sunglasses
- Case included
- Kate Spade sunglasses
Women will love that these glasses come from late designer Kate Spade. The Amarissa Aviator Sunglasses are affordable, stylish, and non-polarized with 100% UV protection. The frames are metal with common skull temples for a classic fit. The plastic lenses measure 59 millimeters wide and 51 millimeters high. They’re colored gold with a gradient towards pink, and the gold on the frame really pops. Customers have said awesome things about this pair of sunglasses, saying they’re well made, great quality, and lightweight. This is a great example of a pair of aviator glasses that can go from career to everyday wear.
9. Coach Women’s Sunglasses
- Non-polarized Lens
- Lens: 58mm / Bridge: 14mm / Arm: 135
- Frame: Metal
For style and class, these Coach sunglasses are the way to go. They combine form and function, making them great for pilots or those who spend a lot of time outdoors. It’s easy to see why these are an Amazon’s Choice because the price is right and they suit just about every face shape. The lenses come in either non-polarized brown to gold gradient or polarized dark turquoise. The plastic lenses measure 58 millimeters wide and the frames are imported metal in a cute leopard print. Customer reviews are overwhelmingly positive, even among buyers with sensitive eyes and smaller head sizes.
10. Ray-Ban Aviator Metal Sunglasses
- Case included
- Lenses are prescription ready (rx-able);...
- Currently one of the most iconic...
These mid-price Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses are an Amazon’s Choice and are sure to please any female pilots out there. The metal frames are thin and delicate with a temple length of 135. This makes for a comfortable fit that can suit any face shape. The tear-dropped shape lenses mimic the iconic look of the 1930’s aviator sunglasses, making them a must have for Ray-Ban enthusiasts. The lenses are also available in prescription measurements for those who need corrective vision. They’re made of polycarbonate and come non-polarized in an “artista” charcoal gray color.
What to Look for in Pilot Sunglasses
Polarized or Non-Polarized?
Pilots are exposed to bright light more often than not, so their eyes and face are especially susceptible to sun glare and ultraviolet light. Flying high in the sky brings pilots closer to harmful UV rays, which not only damage skin, but eyes as well. All of that bright light can weaken eyes, cause fatigue, and do deeper harm with radiation.
As a matter of fact, the United States Department of Defense, or DoD, has issued a standard set of specifications for military pilots’ sunglasses. The lenses need to be able to protect pilots’ eyes from UVA and UVB light. Polarized lenses can help with this, but they can also be an impediment, interfering with the glass of cockpits. While not usually recommended, polarized glasses can still protect against eye damage and sun glare.
Alternately, tinted sunglasses reduce brightness, making it easier for pilots to see against sunlight. Consumers just need to be sure that the lenses will also protect against UV rays, since not all tinted glasses do. In addition, the military-grade standard for optimal vision is a neutral gray tint with a light transmittance between 15% and 30%. This will minimize color distortion while shading pilots’ eyes from regular exposure to sunlight.
What Tint Color Is Best?
As mentioned above, a neutral gray will do the trick. Pilots should aim for 15% to 30% light transmittance, and they should avoid photochromic lenses, which darken upon being exposed to sunlight. These are also known as transition sunglasses, and while they’re popular among every day glasses wearers, they’re not suitable for pilots because they take too long to transition back to normal once no longer exposed to light.
As for light transmittance, this refers to how much light actually passes through the glasses. The more light that comes through, the higher the transmittance. A dark gray tint may look cool on a pair of sunglasses, but they block out a lot of the color of the surrounding environment. Some lenses are green, brown, or even a mix of brown that gradually turns gray. While a colored tint might look fancy, it can make it harder for pilots to see colored signs and signals.
Does the tint color affect how well the glasses will protect against UV rays? No, this is not determined by tint color. That being said, different shades do have distinct purposes. Gray is best for outdoor sports or people who work at high altitudes. It’s the best at reducing brightness and overall glare.
Pay Attention to Temples
It turns out that not all aviator sunglasses are built the same way. One of the primary differences in structure lies in the temples of the glasses. Also known as the arm of the sunglasses, the temple is the part that extends over the ear and ends in a temple tip. There are a few specific kinds of temples one can expect to see in aviator sunglasses.
First up are bayonet temples, which extend straight back along the side of the head. They’re a good choice for pilots who also wear a helmet or other headgear that may get in the way of a pair of glasses.
Next up are cable temples, which make their way more commonly in shooting glasses. In this case, the temple extends all the way back and then it curves over the ear, folding further beneath the ear. Obviously, this is ideal for those who shake their head around a lot and don’t want their glasses slipping and sliding everywhere.
Finally, skull (or wire spatula) temples, which mimic the typical temples seen on everyday glasses. They’re suitable for people who aren’t wearing any other headgear that could get in the way.
Given the rigorous requirements, as well as the tough conditions that military pilots work in, standard-issue aviator sunglasses need to be made of quality materials. No one wants to risk their frames breaking, coming apart, shattering, or getting scratched. Typically, aviator sunglasses have frames that are either made of metal or plastic or some combination of the two. Both materials hold up well to everyday wear and tear, so it’s mostly a matter of personal style.
When it comes to the lens material, things aren’t as straightforward. Crown glasses, also known as optimal quality lenses, get their name from the crown mineral glass they’re made of. They take well to tints and have a high resistance to scratches. They are on the heavier side compared to other materials, but also possess a higher Abbe (or light dispersion) value.
Monomer plastic lenses are great for optical clarity and impact resistance, plus they’re lightweight. In contrast, these lenses are not scratch resistant, which could pose a problem for pilots in the long run.
Polycarbonate plastic lenses are lightweight and have the highest impact resistance among the three options. On the other hand, they have a low Abbe value, which can lead to more color and vision distortions for the wearer. Pilots can get around this by applying an anti-reflective coating to the surface, which will improve optical quality.