Product Reviews July 31, 2010

...let's celebrate tarty eye-wear!

As impressive postal addresses go, '1 Icon', must surely rank near the top. With this kind of introduction, you know you are going to be dealing with a brand with a high recognition factor. This is the location of the Oakley factory in Southern California. When you arrive there you think you've mistakenly turned up at Universal Studios. It would be quite plausible to imagine this type of building being on the moon in years to come - or at least somewhere straight out of a futuristic film set. The factory is ‘minimalist’ with mirror windows down it's length, located in front of mountains and scrub land. Ahead of you are the biggest pair of doors you've ever seen. It's quite an impressive sight. The bolts are huge - and it all looks very metal, industrial and daunting. Only REAL men would be able to walk through such a pair of large, manly doors and feel comfortable. And as if to prove that this is a place of fantasy - a film shoot was occurring in the foyer. This film shoot involved a young lady, not many clothes, a motorbike and a few spotlights. I felt it was probably poor form to stare, but then if you are going to wearing very little in a public place, be female and quite attractive, what do you think is going to happen? Welcome to the Oakley factory! 

Travelling thousands of miles to purchase a pair of sunglasses is obviously mad. I was lucky enough to be visiting Southern California for work which was flexible enough to allow me to visit some amazing places - including the Oakley factory. I suppose you go there though, with the intention of at least buying something. Why else would you bother? The history books will state that this is where I purchased 2 pairs - one for me and one for my wife. (Regarding my wife's pair this truly was an act of love. Up until then she had managed to get through a minimum of 2 pairs a year, primarily by sitting on them in the car. I hoped this pair would not end up in the great sunglasses grave yard in the sky.) I was surprised actually there was'nt more choice given where we were. I should also add I have also been responsible for the demise of a previous pair of (my) Oakley's. Stupidly I rested them on the car roof, got in and drove off. That was an expensive mistake. Plus, and perhaps worse, it makes my friends snigger to this day. I went back in the feint hope that maybe they would be ok. You alreaday know the answer. They were not. They had been driven over my countless numbers of cars - and all that was left was a pretty sad looking frame - and not in the form it was originally intended. I was in a bad mood for some time thereafter.

Unless you are going to buy a top end fashion pair of glasses, they don't come much more expensive or exclusive than Oakley. And let's face it - they just ooze coolness. Back at the factory,  I bought a pair of Livestrong Special Edition Oakley 'Blades'. They are awesome. Yellow arms, mirror lenses. Sunglasses simply don't get any better than this. I only wear them when I am on the bike. I've had them a few years and so far I can only detect one minor drawback. As the evening light starts to fail, my very black lenses make it seem almost dark - and my eyes are not terrific at the best of times. Other than that - perfect. I mean they cost an arm and a leg and probably don't do much more a pair that cost £20 do. But that's not the point. The £20 pair would not be Oakley's. And these most definitely are. I don't know whether scientists can measure feeling 'special', but I defy anyone to put those blades on and not feel 'cool as'. Plus if they are good enough for Mr. Armstrong, they are probably good enough for me. When you buy a pair of Oakley's that's exactly what you are doing - cashing into the notion that these sunglasses - a wonderful example of conspicuous consumption - will also increase you no end in the cool stakes. They may well be protecting my eyes from harmful UV rays...but that's not what I'm considering when I put them on. What I will say is that wearing something across your eyes, however, is essential. The amount of bugs that are around in the Summer mean that at least this means I just eat them - as opposed to blinding myself AND eating them, potentially at the same time. Though you could argue this is an expensive way of doing it!

So what about Oakley then? A chap called Jim Jannard formed Oakley in 1975 in his garage with an initial start fund of $300. Although Oakley are best known for eye wear, the company also produces clothing, watches and prescription glasses. Jannard's USP was to use a material that gets sticky when it gets wet for the grips and nose-pieces. This, combined with lenses that provided clarity and enhanced peripheral vision meant Jannard's products were ideally suited to professional athletes. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Oakley eye wear became synonymous with elite sports people - enhancing the brand's overall reputation and attracting mainstream popular appeal.  What sets Oakley sunglasses technically apart from their competitors is the combination of High Definition Optics (HDO) and the impact test they are then subjected to. The materials used in the glasses are designed absorb impact thus protecting the wearer, whilst the (Plutonite) lenses that filter out harmful UV and UVA light. These materials are all subject to Oakley patents. 

I cannot say whether these sunglasses provide good value for money. I don't know whether they perform better or worse than any then pair. But what I can tell you is if you own a pair of Oakley blades, they will make you feel special. And quite honestly, that's good enough for me.

PS. My wife's sunglasses - amazingly, they are still in one piece! 

Thumbnail and slider photo – bikebritain

For more information on Oakley products see and

Registered No. 6993486

38 Salisbury Road
West Sussex
BN11 1RD