Two years ago, I wrote about my favorite safety glasses. I stand by those recommendations, but early this summer I misplaced the Wiley X Knife safety sunglasses I had recommended (I have looked everywhere!). I love those sunglasses and they were perfect for work.
On my Instagram feed, a photo came up of Gargoyles sunglasses. I remember Brian Bosworth wearing Gargoyles in the 80s and distinctly remember a friend of my dad’s wearing the same style. I looked up the website and decided to order the Homeland sunglasses ($120), just to try something new.
I’ve worn them every day since last spring, on vacation and riding a mountain bike, and love them. I was all ready to write them up recommending them but in looking more closely at the specs to write them up for Tools, I realized that though the lenses “exceed ANSI Z87.1+,” they don’t have the Z87 stamp.
I decided to contact Gargoyles and see if the company would send me some samples for construction review that did have the stamp.
Features. Gargoyles plastic frames are made of TR-90NZZ, which, according to the manufacturer, is “the most resilient material on the market.” The G-Loc Hinge opens and closes 150,000 times without wearing out and the frames “posses an internal memory that defaults to its original state no matter how it’s bent.” This reads to me that they are designed to last and be durable.
The high index polycarbonate lenses reduce glare and are treated to repel water and oil and resist smudges. This also makes them easier to clean.
All of the frames that were shipped to us included a case (photo, left) and lens cloth.
Shifter. This frame comes with two lenses: clear and, in my case, brown (the other option is clear and smoke). We’ve found that the brown lens pops in really easily, but it took more pressure to put the clear lenses on. This setup at $120 is the most cost effective of the styles we tried out.
The frame is very comfortable and the frame doesn’t pinch anywhere. We also found that the wrap-around style results in unobstructed viewing.
Vortex. We wore this style with clear lenses and smoke lenses. They are so lightweight that at first I felt uncomfortable. I am used to the Harley Davidson clear glasses I had previously written about and those frames are on the heavy side. After wearing them for awhile, I came to really love wearing the Vortex. I can just barely see the edges of the frames, which isn’t a big deal. I absolutely love how lightweight they are.
The lens wrap around so my eyes are very well protected. I love these glasses, but at $140, they may not be for everyone, especially if you need both clear and sunglasses. Another point in favor of these glasses is they meet military MIL-PRF-32432 (gl) specifications.
Shield. This frame comes in three color combinations; I ordered the white frame with the blue smoke lenses. First off, these are super comfortable, and they don’t slip when I’m sweating. The lenses are super sharp; they seem sharper than the others and honestly seem sharper than any sunglasses I’ve owned. Each time I put them on, I notice this. I don’t know that they are sharper; maybe it is just that the color of the lenses provides different or better contrast.
One thing I liked about this frame especially is that once I’m wearing them, I forget they are on. I barely feel them and there is zero obstruction from the frame, unless I try to stare at my nose and cross my eyes. Then I can see a little bit of the nose pad.
These cost about $140, and if you don’t mind looking a little like you should be at a European night club (which I usually don’t), I highly recommend them. I did notice that when I smiled, they lifted slightly, but I’ve been told my cheeks are a little above average in size.
Rampart. I ordered the brown frame with a dark green polarized lens. This frame is very similar to the Homeland but has the Z87 stamp. I love everything about this frame and lens. It is very lightweight, and it looks good. The Shield glasses are great, but the style might not be for everyone.
This frame at $140 is totally worth it. You can wear it on the jobsite or for sporting activities, and it doesn’t look like safety glasses. It doesn’t slide off my face while I’m working in the heat, and it doesn’t pinch anywhere.
What to Buy? First of all, the fact is that you can buy safety glasses that are very cheap. I’ve tried all kinds of different styles and brands, and my personal philosophy is spend whatever you need to for a pair that will provide protection and are comfortable and that you will wear every day. When it comes to glasses and shoes, I don’t worry too much about the cost. I have to wear them every day, so they need to be right and not cause trouble.
Gargoyles come with really nice cases and microfiber cloth. Use the case and treat your safety glasses like they are eyeglasses, and they should last a long time.
Additionally, the importance of wearing safety glasses cannot be overstated. I nearly lost a couple of fingers last spring, and I can tell you that this would be preferable to losing an eye or sustaining serious eye damage. I’ve also had close calls over the years, and a co-worker scratched his cornea pretty seriously. The cause of the scratch was a piece of the plastic on a strip of collated nails from someone else framing nearby. When we are using plastic collated nails, not a day goes by that I can’t feel plastic bouncing off my glasses.
My advice is to buy safety glasses that you will wear every day without complaining. The Shifter is a great buy because you kill two birds with one stone. This is a comfortable frame and it looks good enough to wear off site. The Rampart looks really good and is very comfortable. The Shield does its job very well, but the styling might not be right for everyone. Finally the Vortex is very comfortable but expensive.
Bottom line for me, Gargoyles makes very high quality frames and lenses. They provide protection, are very comfortable, and are stylish. They also make Rx-compatible frames. Based on my experience over spring and summer, I think these will last me a long time as long as I take care of them.