Sure, expensive sunglasses supposedly last forever and can be worth the investment — especially if you need a prescription lens. But do you really want to go through the heartache of accidentally losing them? Or breaking them? If you’re a bit accident-prone or frequently find yourself misplacing things (like me), then perhaps you should look into some less expensive options. Besides, who wants to spend hundreds of bucks on a trendy pair you might hate next year? To help you find some stylish options that look expensive — but aren’t — we consulted seven cool women for actually good-looking pairs, all under $100.
Best round sunglasses
Over Labor Day weekend, my sister and sister-in-law were both wearing these incredibly slim but very attractive sunglasses that slide into a practically flat case. I immediately asked where they got them. Because they’re so thin and screwless, they feel weightless while wearing them without giving the impression that they could snap at any second. They’ll easily fit in any bag — or fit twice over in the sunglasses holder of a car, according to my sister. Plus, the lenses are polarized. I personally like these round tortoise-shell frames that also come in black, clear, blue, and rose, but they also have a square frame in case that’s more your style.
Sarah Sidway Godshaw, founder and designer of Sidway Swim, recommends a light tortoise shade to “dress up an all-black casual look for daytime errands” because as she puts it, “it’s a little less severe than solid black.” This round frame adds a “fun, playful vibe” and makes Godshaw “feel a little more styled.” The lenses are “100 percent UV category three,” which means they block out glare and filter all UV light that comes through to protect your eyes. They also feature flexible hinges, so they can adapt to your face shape and size. “It’s nice to have some cute sunnies that aren’t so precious,” says Godshaw.
“These give me Oliver People vibes for a fourth of the price,” says Brigid Wygod, founder and designer of Follow Suit. Because they’re not “completely round,” Wygod thinks these Chimi frames are “universally flattering,” unlike some round pairs, which can look too severe. The frames are made from acetate, so they’ll be relatively lightweight, and the lenses block out 100 percent of UV light that comes through. The Swedish brand even provides exact measurements of each pair, so you can determine how big (or small) they will look on you.
[Editor’s note: Since we first published this story, Chimi has released newer versions of its sunglasses at slightly higher prices. These sunglasses are now called the #01s and cost $130. We’re leaving them in this article in case you like the style and are willing to go slightly over budget.]
For a trendier pair, Wygod looks to Le Specs because they’re fairly high quality for their low price. “The rectangular shape gives off major 90s vintage vibes, without having too small of a frame,” she adds. The frames come in neon purple and orange for those really into something new and exciting (or tortoise shell, if you’re still looking for classic), but Wygod particularly likes this black pair that allows you to virtually try on before purchases (as you can with all frames on Le Specs’s website). They’re not polarized, but they do have category three UV protection.
Cameron Armstrong, founder of Kitty and Vibe, calls these round frames “an awesome staple” for any closet. They’re her “go-to style for everyday wear” thanks to their classic tortoiseshell pattern and darker lenses. They have a thinner, stainless steel frame, so they aren’t too oversized, but they still cover a lot of area with their UVA/UVB protective lenses. The brand claims these have a “medium wide fit,” and in case you’re not sure what that means, they provide exact measurements on the site, so you can determine how they’ll look before you buy.
Best cat-eye sunglasses
“If you’re tempted to try a funky shape that’s a bit outside of your comfort zone, this pair is about a low-commitment as they come,” says Lindsay Silberman, lifestyle and travel blogger. She purchased them before a vacation and says they ended up being “super cute.” While she doesn’t think they’ll last a lifetime — they’re not polarized and made of a lightweight plastic — as she puts it, “For $7.99, I’m not complaining.” They come in ten different colors and patterns, including tortoise shell, black, clear, and red.
If Katonya Breaux, founder of Unsun Cosmetics, could only choose one shape of sunglasses to wear, she says the cat-eye shape “would be my number-one choice.” These are her “go-to” for a day out because they’re chic and provide a unique take on the cat-eye, since they’re so oversized. They’re made from a stainless steel frame with slightly reflective, category three UV protection lenses.
Best square sunglasses
“Slicked hair, thick hoop earrings, and these glasses,” imagines Godshaw. Although she thinks it’d be “fun to wear these with a suit or fancy dress,” thanks to months of quarantine, recently she says she’s been “pairing them with my favorite sweats.” They’re intense frames, but Godshaw says that’s the appeal. “I like how serious they are — they mean business.” The frames over high glare reduction, category three UV protection, and a protective pouch and case with every purchase. And while it might be tough to see in the picture, they are actually a subtle olive color, rather than black.
“I’m obsessed with these Chimi glasses,” says Wygod. She thinks that “having an elevated pair of everyday sunglasses is essential,” and she tends to go for a tortoiseshell because “it’s instantly chic and goes with everything without trying too hard.” The unisex sunglasses are made from a lightweight acetate, and they offer UV protection. Wygod particularly likes this frame because of its thickness. “I love a chunky pair of sunglasses,” she adds. They also come in a variety of colors, from berry to ginger to black.
[Editor’s note: Similar to the situation with the Chimis above, these are now called the #04s and cost $130. We’re leaving them in for those who like the style.]
Best oversized sunglasses
“ASOS is a treasure-trove for reasonably-priced eyewear,” says Silberman. Although ASOS stocks other brands such as Quay, Aldo, and Rayban, she actually recommends their in-house brand: ASOS Design. “I’ve purchased several pairs from them lately and have been consistently impressed,” she says. The pair she owns sold out, but the same frames are still available in white, mint, and also a funky purple ombré. These 70s-inspired frames cost less than $10, but Silberman says, “To me, they look as good as designer pairs.” (It’s worth mentioning that while they claim to have “good UV protection,” according to the brand’s description, they do not include a percentage or category of protection, so perhaps these should be used just for the style.)
Chantel Davis, founder of Castamira, calls this Amazon pair her “personal favorite” because for the cost, they’re “pretty durable” and instantly take “a casual beach day to the next level.” She says they give her a “boss-babe look,” which makes them worthwhile for her. They’re not polarized and don’t provide UV protection, but due to the extremely dark lenses, they’ll block out lots of light, say, if you want to take a nap on the beach. And they come in four other colors, including purple, tortoiseshell, and a black gradient, if the matte black is too severe for you.
Armstrong recommends Diff Eyewear not only because of their high-quality sunglasses at low prices, but also because they have a strong give-back program. “No matter which pair of sunnies you buy, they donate a portion to charities making a difference in vision for the world — whether that be through eye exams, glasses, medicine, and surgery,” Armstrong explains. She personally likes these oversized wire frames because they offer an oversized fit without looking silly, and the cutout accent is a bit more unique than traditional wire frames. They’re not polarized, but they do have UV protection.
Breaux’s son actually introduced her to Warby Parker, which she now thinks “are some of the greatest quality glasses you can find at an affordable price.” She owns “quite a few pairs already” yet just found out about the brand. The Gemma model is a sturdy, thick frame made from a lightweight acetate. Like the other Warby Parker frames mentioned, these too come with scratch-resistant frames and UV protection whether you buy them with or without a prescription.
“Need a hint of designer, but want to stay within your budget, these are for you,” says Breaux of these Marc Jacobs shades. Surprisingly, these name-brand sunglasses come with an under $100 price tag and Breaux thinks they give her a “high end look” even though she saved some money. Like many of the other sunglasses mentioned, they too have full UV protection.
Davis describes these as a “classic shape that transcends fashion trends and fads” thanks to their simple oval shape and tortoiseshell pattern. When she wears them, Davis feels like she’s “reading a classic book on the Riviera,” especially during the warmer months. “We are surrounded so much by choice these days that it can be overwhelming,” she says. She recommends everyone actually “stick with classic shapes and colors that you can wear for years to come.” These Le Specs frames are made from a durable plastic and metal, so they’ll last you years, and they’re not too pricey. Plus, Davis thinks the shape will look good on anyone.
Best aviator sunglasses
Davis says aviators remain a “classic go-to” that’s “both sporty and chic.” And they’re extremely versatile. “They’re perfect for the beach or poolside or in my case, running errands,” says Davis. She likes the “gradient look” because it “adds a bit of mystery to the wearer.” And thanks to their slightly oversized fit, they’ll work with most face shapes. They also feature non-slip nose pads and UV protective lenses.
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