What to Know About Modern Sunglasses

The concept of sunglasses is older than some Americans may realize, though older models weren’t as effective or stylish as modern ones are. The concept of sunglasses, or shades, dates back to medieval China, when people wore them to reduce sun glare in their eyes and also hide their identity in a court of law. The technology of sunglasses progressed since then, and starting in the 1930s, they were also polarized to further reduce sunlight exposure to the eyes of the wearer. Today, stylish sunglasses can be found everywhere, and these stylish sunglasses range from athletic sunglasses to wear while skiing or snowboarding all the way to cheap but charming stylish sunglasses at a drugstore or even affordable prescription sunglasses. There’s more than one way to build stylish sunglasses, and different types exist for any customer.

Evolution of Sunglasses

Early sunglasses, as mentioned above, consisted mainly of tinted panes of glass to wear over the eyes and this made for solid but limited sunlight protection for the wearer. Sunglasses technology as we know it came about in the 1930s, when a man named Edward Land used his expertise with Polaroid photography and lenses to develop polarized sunglasses lenses. By design, these sunglasses not only tinted the light but also filtered out powerful UV rays, therefore minimizing damage and strain on the eyes due to sunlight exposure. This was a major step forward, and Mr. Land’s technology was quickly applied to the Air Force. At the time, aviators often suffered from sun glare in the eyes while flying high in their aircraft, so specialized sunglasses were invented and handed out to pilots. These now-distinctive stylish sunglasses involved a drooping frame, so that a pilot could look down at his instrument panel without exposing his eyes to strong sunlight. Those frames could protect his eyes no matter where he looked, and the concept was a success.

Sunglasses for Everyone

Today in the United States, sunglasses are found in more than just courts of law or an airplane’s cockpit. Sunglasses are nearly universal, and they range from cheap but workable models with plastic frames all the way to custom-made, expensive models with strong polarization and stylish metal frames, and everything in between.

Prescription sunglasses are one such specialty model. What are they? These are sunglasses custom-made by a customer’s request at an eyeglasses shop, and the customer will dictate the prescription sunglasses’ lens shape and tint color, the material and style of the frames, and more. These sunglasses are prescription shades because the lenses are designed to include the wearer’s regular eyeglasses prescription. This way, someone who regularly wears eyeglasses doesn’t lose that focus when they wear sunglasses, and that can prove quite convenient.

What else is there? Some athletes also make use of sunglasses, such as cyclists and especially any athlete operating with snow. Snow blindness is a real and dangerous phenomenon when sunlight is strongly reflected off the surface of snow and gets into someone’s eyes. This may have a similar effect as looking directly at the sun, whose rays may cause major eye damage. So, athletes such as those who go skiing and snowboarding will wear tight-fitting, stylish sunglasses that totally protect the eyes. Unlike casual sunglasses, these shades may fit right over the wearer’s face so that there are no gaps, and no sunlight can get through at all.

How strongly do sunglasses filter out UVB light from the sun? This varies according to intended purpose. General purpose, cosmetic sunglasses should reflect at least 70% of UVB light, and regular sunglasses should block at least 95% of UVB light. Meanwhile, specialty sunglasses such as those worn during sports or outdoor work should reflect an impressive 99% of UVB light that strikes them. Someone playing sports or working outside around snow or reflective water may be exposed to that strong reflected light for hours on end, so equally powerful sunglasses should be used to handle all that exposure.

Many sunglasses pairs are worn across the United States, and plenty of them are broken, too. This is nothing to worry about; cheap drugstore pairs can simply be replaced or damaged, and more expensive ones may be mailed to the manufacturer for repair or taken to the local eyeglasses shop that made them.

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