Can’t Be Cool Without the Sunglasses

Cool is the middle name of Specs New York on King Street

By Mike Salmon

When Grace Kariotis walked into the Specs New York store on King Street, she was there to look at a pair of sunglasses she’d put back on the shelf a few days before. The time wasn’t right to buy them but she revisited the notion of buying the round Ray Bans.

“They matched my style,” Kariotis said. As a fashion expert at Three Sisters clothing boutique a few doors down, style is important. “Sunglasses can make an outfit for sure,” she said.

The Specs owner Oren Goldberg agreed. “While many people style their wardrobe in such a way that they might wear the same sunglasses regardless of activity, many people will select a pair that coordinates well with the rest of their outfit,” he said. “Frame color and lens color are the primary factors that people consider, however frame shape typically is the deciding factor.”

This is part of the “coolness factor” sunglasses seem to have, as reflected in many iconic photos. There was John F. Kennedy in a pair, sailing off Cape Cod; John Lennon’s round lensed glasses; Tom Cruise sliding across the floor in his thick-framed 1980’s sunglasses; or the Kim Kardashian sunglasses. “The most popular sunglasses styles continue to be the aviator or pilot type and the wayfarer style,” Goldberg said. One of my favorite brands is Persol. These glasses have been hand-made in Italy with acetate frames and crystal glass lenses for over 100 years,” Goldberg added. The Persol name comes from the Italian word “for sun,” and these sunglasses were the preferred brand of the late Anthony Bourdain.

At Specs, they know what is hot and stock the shelves accordingly. The Ray Bans are a frequent stop for shoppers, and the prices start around $125, and kids Ray Bans start at $70. These glasses give more bang for the buck, said Goldberg. The price does soar though when talking about the latest trend, super ultraviolet protection, and sunglasses that splash the pages of gossip magazines in the grocery store checkout line. Specs has a pair of Gucci limited editions, decorated with rhinestones for $1,450, and the folks at the counter said that paying $3,000 for a pair of glasses is common with a certain crowd.

Many times, it’s the material used for the frames, said Goldberg. “The frames often will be made from titanium rather than an aluminum alloy, lenses will be crystal glass or purified polycarbonate, additional materials may include gold, sterling silver, carbon fiber, sustainable wood, or zircon,” he added.

“When it comes to sunglasses, looks aren’t everything,” says the , and the most critical factor to keep in mind is making sure sunglasses provide adequate protection from the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV radiation, which comes from the sun is what can cause harm to skin and eyes.

In 2014, the AOS conducted the “American Eye-Q® survey,” and found that 41 percent of consumers do not check the UV protection level before purchasing sunglasses and only 30 percent of Americans said UV protection is the most important factor when purchasing sunglasses, ahead of glare reduction/comfortable vision, style, price and fit. The AOS headquarters is right here on Prince Street.

“The harmful effects of long-term exposure to UV are a real concern because it can cause damage to the eye, possibly resulting in cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, or an abnormal growth called Pterygium,” said Beth Kneib, O.D., director of the AOA’s Clinical Resources Group.

For optimal eye sun-safety, the AOA recommends wearing sunglasses or contact lenses that offer appropriate UV protection, applying UV-blocking sunscreen and wearing a hat to keep direct sunlight off of the face and eyes. At Specs, the health factor is right up at the top too. “Just as we remember to carry an umbrella in the rain or wear boots and gloves in the snow, it is important to always protect the eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays,” Goldberg said.