It wasn’t until I had a little time in the optical industry under my belt that I realized the term “shades” as a name for sunglasses is a bit of a misnomer. As cool and rock n roll as it is, “shades” really only encompasses a fraction of what sunglasses do—or what they ought to do. When I thought all lenses were created equal (and created to simply make things darker, for that matter), I’d buy the cheapest pair of convenience store name brand lookalikes I could find and just squint my merry way down the road. However, just about the worst thing a sunglass can do is purely obscure your vision; while window shades are indeed designed to keep the sun out, sunglasses should rather work with the sun and overall light conditions to create an optimal visual experience for the wearer and the activity at hand.
Just because summer’s ending, that is, doesn’t mean we just won’t need sunglasses till late next May. Weather patterns will indeed stray from straight-on sun, but our eyes will still need UV protection and tools for the best visual performance. If you think about it, this technically isn’t much of a shift in sunglass use; in the spring and summer months, for example, you’ll see a lot of dark, gray lenses because they tend to have a lower light transmission and thus work best with brighter conditions. Those lenses, in short, just work better for that sort of weather.
A change in light condition simply calls for a different lens tint. When the sun’s brightness is less intense, lighter lenses will help strike an ideal balance between warmth and sharpness while still providing the UV protection we’ll need. (And don’t kid yourself: UV is still certainly out there in colder weather—we’ve all gotten the ski day sunburn.)
For such overcast and cloudy conditions, people use our copper and yellow lenses. Our copper lenses filter scattered blue light to heighten depth perception and enhance contrast. As opposed to our gray lens that allows for 15% visible light transmission, our copper allows for 21%, so your field of vision will remain relatively lighter. The lightness and contrast make these lenses perfect for slightly overcast mornings and later in the afternoon. Our yellow lens, however, allows for 27% visible light transmission, so it’s often used in stormy and low light conditions and thus a longtime favorite for skiers and snowboarders. In such low light conditions, the yellow lens fosters improved object definition and overall visual acuity.
With both our yellow and copper lenses, however, you’re still getting some of the highest quality polarization out there. These lenses eliminate glare that can come from light, reflection off of liquid and solid surfaces. This also helps with contrast definition while keeping the eyes relaxed and able to focus. That is, these lenses can still take their fair share of sun while providing you with a comfortable field of vision, making them perfect for varying, inconsistent, and unpredictable weather.
So while you might want a darker gray or amber lens around for midday, you might also want to keep around a lighter lens for other situations. Different lenses serve purposes other than cosmetic; they’re designed to work in specific light conditions. And with fall and winter’s unpredictable weather patterns coming up, it’s always smart to have a pair on hand.