Sunglasses are a confounding accessory. They’re often outrageously expensive, many find them easy to lose or break, and the middle price tier (meaning: not high-end designer name, yet not gas station spinner rack shades) has traditionally been woefully underpopulated. Yet in the last few years more than a few brands have stepped into that pricing void. Here’s what we’ve found to be the best of the best, nothing over $100.
A Note On Sizing: For those who are new to buying eyewear over the internet, your best bet for a size perspective is going to be lens width.
- Anything under 50mm is going to be pretty small.
- 50-54mm should (probably) work for average sized heads.
- Anything bigger than that is getting into larger-human territory.
But glasses can wear larger or smaller due to frame width, bridge width, lens shape… It’s complicated. YMMV. And before anyone says “you should do a guide for which frame shapes look best on which face shapes…” gonna have to politely decline. Because styles change. And I’ve found those face shape–>frame shape guides are kinda… nonsense. Buy and wear what you like. You know what’s best for you.
Lens Width: 53mm
Never heard of the brand name (I keep wanting to call them carafe sunglasses) and stumbled across them on Amazon. But for around $25, they’re pretty great. Nicely weighted acetate frames, polarized lenses, no silly/obnoxious visible branding, and at 53mm they should fit most guys just fine. That and it can be weirdly difficult to find tortoise frames with gray lenses. Usually the lenses are brown on tortoise frames. There’s something a little more “luxe” looking with that gray lens + tortoise combo.
Lens Width: 52mm
Spier & Mackay’s Model 04 is their version of the effortlessly cool Ray-Ban Clubmaster and they’re quite simply a home run. It’s a custom model designed and developed exclusively for S&M that incorporates genuine acetate (not plastic!) and metal into the frame. The polycarbonate lenses are scratch-resistant and polarized, which helps protect your peepers from the nasty UV-A and UV-B rays. Width is 52mm, which isn’t uncommon for clubmaster style sunglasses, since they’re more “classically” proportioned (like a smaller wrist watch). Each arm hinge is legitimately riveted to the frame with custom metal rivets; most inexpensive Clubmaster-type sunglasses are simply screwed, glued, or bonded together. The nose pads sit comfortably on the nose and the weighted temple tips help to maintain comfort and balance. Fit wise, these feel very similar to Ray-Ban’s Clubmasters and fit very well (for me, the Adam guy). For under $60 bones, these are a fantastic buy. Made in China, includes a soft pouch.
Lens Width: 56mm
What’s cooler than being cool? Wearing a pair of Spier & Mackay’s Model 05 sunglasses. These Wayfarer-type spectacles are also a custom model designed and developed exclusively for S&M and feature genuine acetate (not plastic!) frames. Acetate is highly regarded as higher quality and more durable than plastic, which tends to be more brittle and fragile. We’ve all had a cheap pair of sunglasses break after accidentally dropping or sitting on them, right? The Model 05 Wayfarers also feature scratch-resistant polycarbonate lenses that are polarized to help cancel out those evil UV-A and UV-B rays from that giant ball of hot plasma in the sky. The arm hinges are riveted to the frame with custom metal rivets and the weighted temple tips help to keep the shades properly balanced on your face. Fit wise, these feel more in tune with the original Ray-Ban Wayfarers in that they’re a little larger than the modern “New Wayfarer” style. For under $60 bones, I highly recommend these things. Made in China, includes a soft pouch.
Lens Width: 54mm
Arguably the champion of this list. Usually available on Nordstrom Rack’s website for around $75, they’re polarized, and the frames are a classic but not overly clunky wayfarer shape. For some reason there was a rash of negative reviews on the Nordy Rack site about a year or so ago. People were claiming that they had been shipped flimsy counterfeits. That seems… hard to believe? No clue, but the pair we got for this round up were the real deal. Solid, Ray-Ban quality you expect for triple digits+. Made in Italy. And Nordstrom is trustworthy. Something weird happened there.
Lens Width: 52mm
Love Sunskis. They were my (this is the Joe guy writing now) first introduction to the glorious world of non-slip performance sunglasses that look like regular sunglasses (via their bestselling Topeka frames). But these Astra aviators left me wanting more. For whatever reason, I figured the nose pads would be some sort of higher traction, non slip, soft rubber variety. It’s not. Those bits are smooth plastic. I’ll say this though, they’re secure on the face. And they look all sorts of bad-arse. Frames feel really well built. Not flimsy or like they’ve been made out of cheap, bargain chicken-fence wire. Electroplated stainless steel. Lenses are polarized. 52mm lens diameter and they wear on that true average leaning smaller side. These are not an oversized pair of droopy aviators.
Lens Width: 48mm
Another pair of Sunskis that would benefit from an addition of no slip grip on the nose and temples. Nice and lightweight though. Polarized lenses here as well. On the smaller side in terms of lens width, but not teeny tiny. Lots of average sized heads should be comfortable in these. Matte “tortoise forest” frames are a different, but still subtle, spin on classic tortoise-shell patterned frames.
Lens Width: listed at 58mm, but oddly “wears” medium sized
Solid. Nice hinges with good tension and smooth actuation. Polarized. Free shipping doesn’t kick in until $65. Shown above is the “glossy clear” frames and smoke green lenses, which are sadly sold out at post time, but they do have a couple other frame colors. Brand is also sold on Amazon if you have Prime and want to take them for a spin that way. Lots of different designs. The Nick is a perfect example of how lens size is not the be-all/end-all to sizing guidance. These have 58mm wide lenses, but with a frame width of “just” 142mm, they wear more medium sized. They’re a nice option for those who’d like to try retro/more stylish glasses, but usually find other cheap options to be unisex and or flat out tiny. Good for medium to medium large heads.
Bosley’s Basset Hound Dreams (top) – 53mm
Ninja Kick The Damn Rabbit (bottom) – 56mm
Stacked above to show the size difference, since “Ninja Kick The Damn Rabbit” (bottom) is specifically made for XL sized heads. Goodr = Budget versions of Rokas. They’ve got classic looks but with no-slip/no bounce performance in mind. Polarized lenses. Matte, rubberized, lightweight frames designed to stay on your face even during workouts. And… they’re good! Maybe not Roka good, but they’re also a fraction of the price. Marketing is highly… irreverent. Like the copy writers have been slamming pixie sticks, daily, for the last 20 years. The return addressee on their shipping label is literally “Carl the Flamingo.” Got it. Look, everyone loves a little nonsense now and then. But the logo is maybe a little too goofy for some. It’s fine! It’s just not refined. But that’s obviously not what they’re going for (again, Carl the Flamingo). And being that the logo is a recessed individual object, and not just some printing or stamp, covering it up or scrubbing it off won’t be possible.
Target Goodfellow & Co. Acetate-Frame Sunglasses – $30 (multiple styles)
Lens Width: 51mm (for the Tortoiseshell square keyhole frames seen above)
For a measly three Hamiltons, you get a pair of high-quality, smooth acetate frames, with wire-supported temples and five-barrel hinges, similar to what’s used in Warby Parker and other higher-end shades. The result is a much better feel and weight. They feel durable, clean easily, and the lenses have surprisingly good optics, and don’t flex easily. Not polarized, but that’s not surprising at the price point. The wire-reinforced temples slide on and off easily, and the molded nosepiece is extremely comfortable, even for long sessions of wear. They really did nail all the little details. Full review here if you’d like it.
Lens Width: 50.8mm
Cheap sunglasses that look and perform much better than some junk you got at 7/11. Polarized lenses too. On the smaller side of medium, and some may find them to wear just small. Lots of colors to pick from, with some frame and lens combinations drifting in and out of stock. Lightweight. Comfortable. Inexpensive. Maybe won’t set the world alight, but for $35 (and sometimes less), they’ll be an adventure companion for plenty. Even if that adventure is an early morning coffee & bagel run.
J. Crew Ainslie Sunglasses – $54.99 FINAL ($69.50)
Lens Width: 50mm…ish?
Pretty darn good. Acetate frames are super smooth. They feel premium, and the acetate w/ brass reinforcement inside feels noticeably solid. Ear pieces are just a touch thicker as well. Lenses seem to be right around 50mm (or maybe a little under), but they’re a slightly wider frame overall, so they fit even my big pumpkin head well. Should please most of the bell curve. Striped soft case and cleaning cloth is included.
Lens Width: 54mm
Kent Wang does not have a never ending product catalog featuring 8 zillion styles in every color and pattern known to man. Because they don’t need one. They’re excellent at what they do, making classic menswear items with high quality materials and pricing them at reasonable levels. And these silver aviators are pretty unique. They’re silver, but they’re not chrome. Matte finish. No glossy gleaming bling with these. Also available in gunmetal or gold. Polarized lenses check in at 54mm wide, yet they wear a touch smaller for some reason. To me.
Lens Width: 50mm
Two words: Spring. Hinges. These things flex just enough to make for a close to perfect fit when you slide them on. Incredibly comfortable. Acetate and metal frames. An obvious, OBVIOUS upgrade in the hand compared to dirt cheap, bargain, clubmaster-style knock offs. 50mm lenses don’t wear overly small. Should fit most average to smaller sized heads. In fact, they wear similar to the aviators. Which are listed at 54mm.
Using the term “base line” because they offer a lot of models at $95, but prices go up from there. And I don’t know what else to call their $95 options. Really nice frames, polarized lenses, and the at home try on program is pretty legendary. Good for those who need Rx too. Shown above would be the Fletcher, Downing, and Hayes.
Big thanks to Adam, Ryan, and Sarah for the hard work on this post. Also a big thank you to everyone who sent in tips for this best under $100 sunglasses list. Sunglasses are one of those items where the gap has narrowed between luxury and bargain, yet there’s still a lotta chaff out there. Appreciate you guys helping us find the wheat. Got a tip on a pair of sunglasses that didn’t make this list but should have? As always, the email is firstname.lastname@example.org