Jump to topic
Sunglasses are more than a quintessential fashion accessory. True, they can make your wardrobe more stylish and versatile, but they also provide essential protection for your eyes.
Sunglasses protect against harmful UV rays, dust, and heat. They make driving, walking, and sports safer by reducing glare.
With so many different styles available, many people struggle to find the perfect pair of sunglasses. In this guide, we’ll discuss the different types of sunglasses, which styles will match your face shape, and the different lenses you can choose from.
Jump to topic
Use this section to browse the popular types of sunglasses:
Wayfarer sunglasses became popular in the 1950s and have made a comeback in the 2000s. They’re the signature Ray-Ban frames we all think of, though they are available from many different brands. They have thick frames, usually made from plastic. They are similar to square-shaped frames, but the bottom is curved, forming an upside-down trapezoid.
Aviator sunglasses are another classic frame style that has been popular for decades. The lenses are wider on the outside and narrow as they get closer to the nose. They have a teardrop shape and metal frame. And of course, the signature top bar along the browline. Aviator frames have a large field of vision, providing superior protection, and are typically made with a metal frame (gold or silver), though they are also available in plastic.
Browline sunglasses have a thick top frame that runs along the line of your brow, and extra thin round rims along the bottom of the lens. These retro frames have seen a huge increase in popularity over the past decade.
Square sunglasses come in a variety of sizes and styles. They are flattering on many face shapes, especially round, oval, and oblong. They give a nice contrasting edge to softer feataures.
For fans of the John Lennon or Harry Potter look. Round sunglasses can have a thick or thin frame made from metal or plastic. Round frames are very versatile and can give you any type of look from traditional to post-modern.
Cat-eye frames are characterized by lenses that are upswept away from the eyes. They are typically thick-framed and come in a huge variety of colors. They are a retro feminine style and are making big waves in the world of fashion.
Rectangular frames are basically over-sized square sunglasses. They are full-rimmed and all of the edges are all parallel, giving a versatile retro look.
Oval sunglasses are slightly oversized with rounded edges. They usually have thick plastic frames but can be thin and metallic as well. They have an oblong shape that is flattering for nearly all faces.
Wrap-around sunglasses are curved around the front of the face. They have one of the largest fields of vision, meaning they offer great protection. This makes them popular for sports brands like Oakley. However, they are also a popular sporty fashion style for women.
Sports eyewear often has specialized lenses and straps to hold your glasses in place. They offer superior eye protection from dust and other objects as well as sunlight. Wrap-around and rectangle frames are the most popular sports sunglasses.
Oversized sunnies are another popular modern style. They are typically square or oval-shaped with thick frames. Some frames will be multi-color or have additional details that create a unique look that is both retro and modern.
Similar to browline frames, clubmasters have a thick frame on the top, with extra thin rims around the bottom of the frames. The lenses are round, almost circular, and sometimes there is a top bar across the browline, like aviators, for a chic and funky feel.
Similar to oversized and cat-eye shades, butterfly sunglasses have thick frames that are wide at the edges near your ears, and narrow closer to the nose bridge.
Geometric sunglasses are unique and funky. They come in all different colors, shapes, sizes, and frame materials. They are filled with sharp angles and unexpected features.
Flipper shades have two circular lenses for indoor and outdoor use. They have a very steam-punk aesthetic and are meant for modern style.
Shield sunglasses offer the most protection with huge lenses. The boxy shape doesn’t work on everybody’s face though. These are more popular for people who need intense protection.
The best sunglasses will match and accentuate your face shape. Of course, this is only a guideline. The best way to find the right sunglasses for you is to try on several pairs and find the one that suits your face, style, and personality.
Round faces are circular, with no sharp angles or edges. The cheekbones are the widest part of your face, like the diameter of a circle. Frames with sharp angles help to balance your features.
Square faces have approximately the same width and length. They are characterized by a strong jawline and broad forehead. Round frames help round out your sharp features.
Heart-shaped faces have broad foreheads, high and wide cheekbones, and narrow chins. Frames with broad lower rims help balance features and elongate the face.
Oval faces have balanced proportions, with your cheekbones wider than your forehead and jawline. Your face is longer than it is wide. Nearly all sunglasses styles will look good on an oval face.
Oblong faces are longer than they are wide, similar to oval-shaped faces. The difference is in the cheek line. Rectangular faces have long, straight cheek lines. Thick, angular frames will help balance your rounded features.
Diamond faces have narrow foreheads and jawlines. The cheekbones are the widest part of the face. Choose frames that complement high cheekbones.
Now that we’ve covered frames, let’s talk about the different types of lenses you’ll find in sunglasses.
Polarized lenses block light that reflects off of flat surfaces. This greatly improves your vision around water, while driving, and in most outdoor situations. However, they make it harder to see certain LED lights like those on your phone screen or an ATM.
Anti-reflective coating reduces glare by preventing light from reflecting off the back surface of your lenses.
Mirror-coated lenses (also referred to as flash coated) are highly reflective. They reduce the amount of light entering your eye, providing increased shade and comfort. These are useful in extra bright conditions, such as skiing or fishing on sunny days.
Gradient lenses have a denser tint on the top of the lens and are less tinted at the bottom. These are ideal for driving as they protect your eyes from sunlight but let you see the road and your dashboard more clearly.
Double gradient lenses are heavily tinted at the top and bottom, but less tinted in the middle. Double gradient lenses help give you clear vision while protecting you from overhead sunlight and light reflecting off of surfaces by your feet.
Photochromatic, or transition lenses, adjust their level of tint according to the amount of UV light that hits them. These are often put into regular eyeglasses so the wearer doesn’t have to have two pairs of glasses. They provide excellent UV protection.
You can fit nearly any type of sunglasses with lenses that match your eyeglasses prescription, including bifocal, trifocal, or progressive lenses.
Dain, Stephen J. Sunglasses and Sunglass Standards. 9 June 2009, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1444-0938.2003.tb03066
Lili Wang and Amy Dalton (2014) ,"Keepin’ It Cool: the Behavioral Effects of Wearing Sunglasses", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 42, eds. June Cotte, Stacy Wood, and , Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 728-729.
Sliney, David H. “Photoprotection of the Eye – UV Radiation and Sunglasses.” Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology, vol. 64, no. 2-3, 2001, pp. 166–175., doi:10.1016/s1011-1344(01)00229-9.