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We have been protecting our eyes from the sun for centuries—since the 12th century, to be exact—and what was once purely about safety has since become both a necessity for health and style. From the aviator styles of the 1930s to the wayfarer and cat-eye sunglasses of the ’50s to the oval-shaped sunnies of the ’90s, there are so many ways to protect and style your peepers, making them the ultimate form of self-expression.
"As they go on the face, sunglasses are the accessory you see first in person,” says Shane Baum, the founder, designer, and CEO of Leisure Society, a luxury eyewear company. “They keep your eyes safe and healthy,” he adds, noting how they are also “the king of cool” and responsible for creating the signature looks of so many iconic people (hello, James Dean, Audrey Hepburn, Gloria Steinem, Robert De Niro, Tom Cruise, and John Lennon).
Whether you’re looking for your signature look in an everyday style or wanting to switch things up with some throwback trends, we’ve gone ahead and uncovered the best sunglasses and organized them by category for your shopping pleasure.
From timeless designer sunglasses to trends like the orange lens sunglasses, take a look at our nominations for the best sunglasses ahead.
Best Overall: Free People Sunrise Sporty Sunglasses
For our best overall pick, we searched high and low for a frame that flatters most face shapes, is great for everyday wear, and won’t be too much of an investment price-wise. Our ultimate favorite? This sporty pair from Free People. Designed with a classic round silhouette and only $20, these frames are a steal. You can snag them in a fun and funky mustard-on-mustard color for added retro vibes.
Colors: Mustard | Material: Polycarbonate
Best Budget: SOJOS Small Round Polarized Sunglasses
When it comes to budget-friendly sunglasses, you want a pair that won’t break the bank but is still ultra-durable for everyday wear. Our number one pick is this pair from SOJOS—and over 14,000 Amazon customers agree. This pair is a nod to the classic round wire sunglasses and feature a retro design that is always in style. On top of that, the polarized lenses and UV protection coating add a layer of safety, and they are available in nine lens and frame combinations so you can find your perfect fit.
Colors: Bright Gold/Grey, Gold/Greenish Blue, Matte Black/Grey +more | Material: Metal, polarized lens, UV protection coating
Best Designer: Celine Mineral 48mm Sunglasses
When investing in a pair of designer sunglasses, classic is best. These round, cat-eye sunglasses from Celine are one of the designer’s most timeless styles, and thanks to their retro feel, they're bound to remain in style for seasons to come. Designed with Barberini mineral-glass lenses, 100 percent UV protection, and scratch-resistance, these are the pinnacle of fashion meets function.
Colors: Black/Crystal Smoke, Havana/Crystal Smoke | Material: Acetate, mineral-glass lenses
Best Aviator: Leisure Society Adrina
Aviator shades are one of those iconic designs that never go out of style. But, they’re also a saturated category in the sunglasses department. For this must-have style, we love these high-quality designer sunglasses from Leisure Society for their ultra-luxe and unique features—like the gold-plated crossbar and (depending on your color choice) 12K silver or 18K gold acetate temple tips.
Colors: Silver Black/12K, Silver/12K, Gold Blonde Tortoise/18K, Deep Blue Sea/12K Silver | Material: Titanium nose pads, flex beta-titanium
Best '90s-Inspired: Ray-Ban Oval Flat Lenses
The '90s were all about skinny sunglass styles, and nothing says grunge era quite like a pair of slim oval sunnies. Available in black and gold frames with gray, light blue, and green lenses, these sunglasses are an affordable way to dip your toes into the trends of decades past without spending too much or sacrificing quality.
Colors: Grey Gradient, Light Blue Gradient, Green Classic | Material: Metal frame, silicone nose pads
Best Round: Ray-Ban RB4203 51mm Round Sunglasses
These round sunglasses are the kind of sunglasses that look great on everyone thanks to their flared wayfarer-like tips. The retro style from Ray-Ban is available in a classic tortoiseshell frame color. And while they aren’t polarized, they do offer 100 percent UV protection, so you can rest assured knowing your eyes are safe and shaded.
Colors: Tortoise | Material: Nylon, polycarbonate
Best Oval: Eyebuy Direct Winona Oval Sunglasses
Oval sunglasses are making a comeback, and this chunkier style is what everyone is talking about. The only thing is: Chunky plastic rims can add a lot of weight to your nose and ears, resulting in some discomfort. For this category, we selected this Winona Rider-inspired pair because it has a metal temple arm, giving the classic a lightweight and modern spin.
Colors: Orange, Beige | Material: Acetate, metal
Best Retro: Coco and Breezy Moxi — 104
When shopping for retro sunglasses, there are so many directions you can take. For this category, we decided to go big with some oversized '70s-inspired frames. These sunnies from Coco and Breezy boast a design that is somewhere between square and round, giving off a flattering and versatile style for virtually any face shape. In addition to style, the lenses have a tinted gradient and 100 percent UV protection.
Colors: Blonde Tortoise | Material: Acetate
Best Oversized: Raen Vine Oversize Square Sunglasses
When we think of oversized sunglasses, we immediately think of the large square sunglasses trend—and these understand the assignment. They're ultra-stylish and available in a wide range of colored frames, including tortoiseshell, black, bronze, and a light tan hue, making it even easier to find a pair that speaks to your style.
Colors: Chai Tortoise/Green, Black/Dark Smoke, Ginger/Pewter Mirror +more | Material: Acetate
Best Wayfarer: SWAV Eyewear The Altruist
Wayfarer sunglasses are a timeless design that everyone needs in their eyewear collection. We are obsessed with these because they feature that classic style we know and love but with a whole lot of customization. You can choose between 20 percent, 50 percent, and 80 percent tint and eight different lens colors—including rose, pink, blue, gray, brown, yellow, orange, or even clear.
Colors: Rose, Pink, Brown, Grey, Blue, Orange, Clear, Black | Material: Italian Mazzucchelli Acetate
Best for Travel: Foldies Polarized Round Sunglasses
For a pair of sunglasses that travel well, go for something a little unconventional—like these folding sunglasses. Designed to be folded up and fit into a pocket, these Foldies sunglasses feature the brand’s HepTEK 7 layer lens system, which includes 100 percent full-spectrum UV protection and polarization to prevent eyestrain.
Colors: Black/Black, Gold/Gradient Brown, Gold/Copper Mirror | Material: HepTEK™ 7-layer lens system
Best Orange Lens: Poppy Lissiman JimBob in Black/Orange
Orange lenses are one of Instagram’s most sought-after sunglasses trends, and these are the perfect pair. Loved by influencers and celebrities, such as Danielle Bernstein and Sofia Boman, these are the “it” orange lens sunglasses of the season (side note: the writer of this article also owns them and is fully obsessed). And, if orange lenses aren’t your thing but you still want in on the trend, the Poppy Lissiman JimBob sunglasses are also available with blue, green, or yellow lenses.
Colors: Black/Orange | Material: Black acetate
Best Square: Quay Australia After Hours 45mm Polarized Square Sunglasses
Square sunglasses are another favorite eyewear trend. These from Quay Australia are designed with the classic chunky style in mind and feature 100 percent UV protection with TAC polarized lenses for added protection from eyestrain and the sun’s harmful rays.
Colors: Black, Tortoise/Brown, Matte Black/Smoke, Tortoise Black/Fade +more
Best Cat-Eye: Ray-Ban Nina
Cat-eye sunglasses are one of those styles that will always be on-trend. We love these from Ray-Ban for their modern wayfarer spin on a classic cat-eye shape. Not to mention: Celebrities such as Kathy Hilton (who we saw wearing them on "Paris In Love" and became instantly obsessed) feel the same. Much like other popular Ray-Ban sunglasses, these are high-quality and come with the option to add a prescription, which is a huge plus.
Colors: Grey Havana, Tortoise, Red Havana, Black +more | Material: Propionate
What To Look For When Buying Sunglasses
When shopping for a pair of sunglasses, Baum says “quality is key.” And just because a pair of sunglasses is made by a well-known brand doesn’t mean they are high-quality. Because sunglasses come along on all of your adventures—from driving in your car to walking around a city to spending the day at the beach—they need to be durable enough to last while also protecting your eyes from the sun. If you’re investing in a pair of well-made sunglasses, you want them to do their job and last you a long time.
Do you want to opt into a trend and pick cat-eye, oversized, oval sunglasses, or go classic, like a round or wayfarer style? The options are limitless when it comes to sunglasses, but be aware of what occasions you're planning on wearing them for and how much you'd like to invest.
Sunglasses make it easier to see on sunny days, of course, but it's important to make sure the pair you're buying offers real protection for your eyes, too, rather than just tinted lenses. Look for 100 percent UV protection in the brand's product description, and if you're wanting another added layer of protection for your eyes, opt for a polarized pair on top of UV protection.
What does polarized sunglasses mean?
“Polarization is a microfilm that is applied between two thin lenses,” Baum explains. “It does not allow certain light frequencies or horizontal light waves to pass through, thus super bright light (often called ‘glare’) is filtered out and allows the wearer to better see objects and reduces eye strain,” he adds, noting that water, sun, and glass all cause glare, which is why polarization is so popular.
How do you measure sunglasses size?
“There are three main measurements that are printed on the inside of the temple arm of most well-built frames,” says Baum. “They are listed in millimeters to include the width of the one lens, the bridge (which is the distance between the two lenses edge that lays across your nose), and the length of the temple arm."
What shape of sunglasses best fits my face shape?
“All faces are one of five shapes: Oval, heart, square, triangular, or round,” Baum explains. “Determining the best shape for your face is better suited for eyeglasses [not sunglasses],” he adds, noting how it’s better to choose a style based on your individual style of the day—either what you’re wearing or what event you’re attending. “Because they are worn all day, eyeglass frames are more specific to help balance a face shape,” says Baum. “I think a sunglass wardrobe should have a variety of shapes, frames, and lens colors."
Why Trust Byrdie
Contributing writer Jessie Quinn has a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism. From working in the fashion closet and interviewing designers at NYLON Magazine to now writing about the best style trends for various publications, Jessie researches and sources the best fashion finds. When it comes to finding the best sunglasses, Jessie looked for styles that blend the need for both fashion and functionality—plus sun protection—to source high-quality shades.