Friday, December 12, 2008

Cheap Sunglasses and the Recession

Cheap Sunglasses So how is the market for sunglasses like American automakers asking for a bailout?

Well, yesterday on my way out to meet some riding buddies, I stopped at a Walgreen's drug store to look for a pair of cheap sunglasses. No more than $20.00 was all I was willing to pay.

I found a pair, $19.99, that look similar to the glasses I've had before, and have polarized lenses, and they fit snug.

Just a few days earlier I had lost my pair of Panoptx sunglasses. I really liked the Panoptx for the styling, the polarized lenses, and the solid feel. Those cost me $150.00. I had them for about 2 years.

Previous to that, I had a pair of Wiley-X glasses. That lasted me less than a year. They broke at the hinge, where the frame meets the ear piece. That was also about $150.00.

And then previous to that, I had a pair of no-name brand glasses I bought at Target for $10.00. That pair also lasted me about 2 years. I ended up losing those too.

So I'm thinking that sunglasses, if you wear them frequently enough, will last you about 2 years, despite how much money you paid for them. Either they break, or you lose them, or you get tired of them and want something else.

The cheapo glasses I bought yesterday are not "riding glasses". They don't have the foam liner around the frames. That's ok, because on my Electra Glide Ultra Classic, the windshield and fairing does a pretty good job at keeping the wind off of my face. I only need the glasses to shade my eyes, and I like the clarity of polarized lenses.

But I've also been to rallies and runs and found sunglass vendors selling riding glasses for $20.00 as well.

I haven't found any kind of functional advantage of the Panoptx or Wiley-X brands, unless you need removable lenses. If you go to their websites, they'll tell you all day long why their glasses are in fact functionally better than the competition. But in reality, or at least my reality anyways, they still provide the same results as the $10.00 pairs, and last about as long.

I'm wondering, are we experiencing a "sunglasses bubble", similar to the housing bubble that created the mess we're in now? How much higher will people spend on their designer sunglasses, and how much longer will it be until they realize they're not getting that much more value for their dollar? If sunglasses are supposed to shade your eyes, and reduce glare, then what is their real value?

I don't think the sunglasses market will ever ruin our nation's economy, but on the other hand, we have companies like Panoptx and Wiley-X who seem to have invested themselves into America's thirst for "image is everything". Do they have a backup plan when riders shift over to the $10.00 cheapo glasses? And why can't Panoptx and Wiley-X make a pair of $10.00 cheapos? It seems like the Chinese companies have dominated the cheap sunglasses market. The US companies are stuck with the designer market.

I doubt that Panoptx and Wiley-X will ever lobby Congress for a bailout should they find their market dry up into dust. If you can afford to spend $100+ on a pair, then count your blessings. I for one am questioning the value of everything I buy these days.


  1. I wear tri-focals so sunglasses are like... right.

  2. Webster,
    My hubby wears prescription glasses. He went to LensCrafters and picked out regular prescription glasses, and got them tinted. You can even pick out how dark you want them to be. Its a pretty easy process. They can be polarized or anything, but the tints are working out great for him! I don't know how that would work with trifocals, there may be a line separating the lens sections...but it's definitely worth a try!

  3. sorry...CAN'T be polarized! (myabe I should preview my comments before I submit! LOL)

  4. I am with you! $150 a pair a 70 MPH and you turn your head and they are gone. I started a company ROADSpEX and sell two pair for about $20. I wear them for riding and sell them on line. I dont make much but I have a several year supply for myself and friends.

  5. Hey One Harley Rider, send me a free Road Spex t-shirt, and I'll wear it on my rides, and tell people about your glasses.

  6. what you are saying applies to most people today whether it is a big purchase or a small one, Harleys, sunglasses, generic or brand name @ the grocery store...certain things we gotta have - certain things we just want, those in the want category are wait listed for most people right now...

  7. The same conclusions can be drawn from your purchase of an Electra Glide Ultra Classic at roughly twice the price of a similarly-equipped metric that does exactly the same thing.

  8. I like the Panoptx Day/Night glasses, but have not bought a pair yet. MY shield on my helmet is polarized. If I wear polarized sunglasses underneath, I feel like I might be on an LSD trip. The best solution for me is cheap sunglasses from Sam's. They need to be safety rated though. You don't want the glasses to shatter if hit by a rock. If you need them, LL Bean has bifocal sunglasses for making it easy for old folks to read their GPS. So far, I don't need them. It appears that I have thought about bike shades quite a bit myself. Need4Speed

  9. For the most part, what you say here is pretty much how it really is. I have found a few rare exceptions. I have a pair of Revo's that I bought after I had LASIK eye surgery 6 years ago. After an entire life of never being able to buy a nice pair of shades "off the rack," I sort of went nuts. At the same time, I bought a second pair for about 40 bucks.

    Today, I still have both pairs, but the 40 dollar pair is starting to show it's age. The Revo's are like new still. The only time I see where the Revo's earn their price tag is when we get a snow storm, followed by a very sunny day. The Revo's kill the intense glare from the snow better than any other shades I have. In the summer on the beach, I can just about stare at the sun with them on, they are that good.

    As far as riding glasses go, it seems every time I buy the cheapies, the foam comes off after about a half dozen rides. I had one $20 pair that the earpiece broke off of after about the same time. I spent $60 on a new pair where you can change the lenses between smoke, clear, and yellow and have had great luck with them so far.

    To some degree, you do get what you pay for. Then again, what are you using them for, and how often?

  10. I bought a pair of motorcycle sun glasses at a trade show and they broke. Glad I didn't spend big money having them customized with prescription lenses.
    I changed the type of helmet I wear so that I can wear whatever sunglasses or prescription eye glasses I choose to.
    As my wife indicated, I wear a pair of presciption eye glasses. I have two pairs and they are Ray Bans from Lens Crafters. One is clear and the other is tinted. Both were several hundred dollars each. I will tell you this: I will have them both for more than 2 years. My previous pair of prescription glasses lasted over so many years I lost count. I don't spend that kind of money to lose, drop, misplace or abuse them.


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)