Every year, new brands wade into the eyewear fray by releasing sunglass collections designed to seize a portion – however small – of the lucrative face apparel market. Many companies are so overenthusiastic that they stumble right out of the gate, over-branding and under-thinking what actually makes a great pair of shades: shape, size, and lens choice. Others bring a signature piece of design thinking to the occasion and succeed at evolving the norms of men's glasses, which haven't changed much since the Blues Brothers put on Ray-Bans and went for a nighttime drive over 30 years ago.
Here are this year's best first collections (and one collection that is simply a first):
G-Star Raw: The urban denim company with a thrash metal name, went traditional with its first collection. The glasses come in rockabilly wayfarer, sleek aviator, and preppy oval shapes and are mostly notable for being heavy, a product of thick tortoise-shell rims that give off a great Elliot Gould-in-the-early-eighties vibe or look downright geriatric depending on your face shape. Our favorite pair, the Thin Snipers, is perhaps the least representative of the collection. These acetate aviators incorporate thick hinges to give themselves an aesthetic weight, but don't pull on the ears. [$175; g-star.com]
Jack Spade: The men's brand birthed by the Kate Spade bag empire, has long been menswear's king of colorblocking, juxtaposing bright oranges and creamy whites with dark grays. And so it goes with Spade's first eyewear collection, which incorporates splashes of color on the top bars of aviators and in the acetate patterning of thicker-frame pieces. The best of the bunch is the Griffin, a dark black and slim take on the navigator with orange temple at the temple tips that perfectly compliments a dark suit. [$188; jackspade.com]
BAPE: Bathing Ape, the Japanese surfwear company, has released exactly the sort of colorful, playful collection you'd expect from a Japanese surfwear company. Mostly modified wayfarers, the glasses prominently display the brand's logo – what appears to be a mugshot of Dr. Zaius from Planet of the Apes – and details like whimsical drawings at the temples or clear, yellow plastic along the arms. The aggressive downward cut of the bridge will give even fat men a hungry look. [$TBD pending April 19 debut; bape.com]
Dragon Alliance: The California-based goggle company has released more eyewear collections than you can shake a snowboard at, but deserves a spot on this list for unleashing an entirely new variety of glasses. The brand's H20 Floatable collection is exactly what it sounds like, a line of glasses that – when dropped in the waves – bob to the service. These boxy specimens won't get rave reviews back on the boardwalk, but they're absolutely perfect for anyone planning to spend a day on or in the water. [From $160; dragonalliance.com]