When it comes to driving, there are two things I can’t live without. A nice pair of lightweight shoes and my sunglasses. The shoes are there to assist with speed and feeling when driving a car quickly, and the sunglasses are there for basically everything else.
Your eyes are easily your most important sense for driving, and with large collections of LCD screens everywhere in the cabin, ultra-gloss metallic paints reflecting glare at every chance, your eyes are constantly being attacked. Rather than simply use a standard tint to help protect your eyes, a new premium lens has been released called Unity. Unity lenses promise the best of polarization technology, along with new performance features like outdoor, blue-light protection.
Unity says that their lenses block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays, provide enhanced clarity and contrast, plus they will reduce eye fatigue. Thanks to that fancy blue-light filter, they will apparently also help prevent macular degeneration over time.
I have spent the last several years wearing a set of polarized Oakleys and felt like nothing in the world could beat them. Unity took up that gauntlet and set me up with a few glasses in different styles with slightly different tints so I could test their claims against my go-to Oakley sunglasses.
Are all these fancy buzz words and medical claims legitimate, or is Unity just one more name cast into the world of sunglasses trying to grab your attention?
Read on to see if the Unity lenses stand up to their marketing claims.
My normal sunglasses are a pair of Oakley Half Jackets with the Black Iridium Polarized lenses. These have been my favorite sunglasses for more than 5 years and I have owned multiple pairs. To find anything that can make me set my Oakleys down is quite a daunting task.
Of the four sunglasses sent to me with Unity lenses, I received on pair from Calvin Klein, one from Nautica, a set from Dragon and the last pair is a set of Lacoste frames. While each set of glasses has the Unity performance coating, the actual tint of the lens is different on each set to give me a better idea of what Unity can offer.
Oakley Half Jacket
The Oakley Half Jackets are my ideal sunglasses. They have a cool aggressive design, they are extremely lightweight, and they stick to my face really well. When you are trying to flog a Corvette around a track on a sunny day, the last thing you need to deal with is your sunglasses flying off your face. The polarized lenses have always worked really well for me, as well. The dark tint of the Black Iridium color makes them hard to use in anything less than bright light, but overall I have been very pleased with these glasses.
The Calvin Klein glasses are a general round-shape design similar to what John Lennon made famous. They are a marbled black and grey color with a light gray lens tint. Compared to my Oakleys, the CKs seems barely tinted at all. The light gray is not dark enough to hide my eyes from others, and it seems to be so thin that it likely wont block much light.
While that tint may not seem that dark to look at, these glasses do an incredible job at blocking light and glare. Even though my Oakleys are a much darker tint, I still find myself squinting slightly on really bright days. For some reason, I never have this issue when wearing the CK frames with the Unity lenses. I can only attribute this to the effectiveness of the Unity polarization. Regardless of the time of day or harshness of the sunlight, my eyes felt incredibly comfortable. Thanks to the light coloring of the tint, I also found it much easier to wear the CKs when the sun was setting, and light was sporadic and fading.
The Nautica frames are a dark-green color and have multi-color mirrored lenses that fade from orange to bright green depending the angle you are looking at them. When you put the glasses on, the actual internal tint color is a soft amber. It gives the world a warmer look, but doesn’t overdo the color and make everything look like an apocalypse novel.
The Lacoste frames are similar in shape to the Nautica ones, but the frame itself is colored red. The lenses themselves are close to the Nautica’s orange tint, but stick to a deep-red end of the spectrum. The effect is still not strong enough to really wash out most colors, and it wont affect your overall vision in a negative way.
If you are on the cutting edge of fashion and design, you will probably think that these Dragon sunglasses look great. For my general tastes and head shape, I think they look pretty terrible. Regardless of how the frames look, they are still equipped with the high-performance Unity lenses and have a different tint profile than the other three sets. This tint is another gray color like the Calvin Klein set, but with a darker hue.
The darker lenses are a touch harder to see through later in the evening, but overall they are still brighter than the Oakley lenses, and they still manage to cut more harsh glare.
In even the harshest light, the Unity coated lenses were hands down better than my Oakleys. Even the lightest-gray tints were better at cutting the sharp and harsh glare from the world around me. If the weather turns sour and it starts to rain, my Oakleys are too dark to wear, but every set of the Unity equipped sunglasses is fine.
Even the tint colors are well designed. From fashion forward and interesting external colors like that on the Nautica, to the simple and effective light gray on the CK set, the tints do just enough to alter your vision without completely coating the world in a thick sheen of fake color.
They also provide all the effects of traditional polarized lenses; everything looks sharper, and contrast is improved.
How Do I Get Them?
This is where things get complicated. For as cool as these lenses are, there is only one place you can buy them; your local optometrist. There is no store that will sell you Unity coated lenses, you have to have them applied at the eye doctor.
There is no prescription needed, thankfully, but it does make obtaining a set of these great sunglasses unnaturally difficult.
There is a benefit to this setup, and that is that you can basically have these lenses on any pair of sunglass frames you want. If you like the dark-gray tint on the set of Dragons I have, but you like the look of the Nauticas, you can have it done. Personally, I love the new Unity lenses, but I still prefer the frames of my Oakley lenses. With this setup I can buy a new set of lenses for my Half Jackets and take them in to be covered with Unity film.
It is an extra step required, but the overall customizability it provides is almost worth it.
What does it cost?
This is where things get a little shaky for me. Yes, these are hands down the best lenses I have ever had in a set of sunglasses. That said, they want you to pay for that level of quality. For a simple set of gray lenses with the polarization it will cost you about $150. That is just for the lenses, you still have to buy frames and have them installed. If you want something extra like the mirrored coating seen on the Nautica lenses, it will cost you more on top of that.
If you go nuts and tick every option box you could be looking at well over $200 for the lenses.
When I was asked to review these lenses I was prepared to laugh. How can you add noticeable levels of “technology and science” to the thin tint film on a set of sunglasses? It turns out that you can actually do quite a lot.
If someone approached me to ask if I would like to spend $150 or more just to get lenses for my sunglasses, I would have laughed at them.
Now that I have experienced the difference that Unity Performance lenses can make, I am already budgeting out money to have my Oakleys retrofitted. They are not cheap, but they are effective. Now that I know what the difference is between Unity and standard tint coatings, I am a firm believer. I have never used another set of sunglasses that work as well as these do in every setting.