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Fit Meets Function:
Oakley Asian Fit Sunglasses
Oakley, Inc. is a leader in the field of action optics. Their products grace the personas of such notable athletes as cyclist Lance Armstrong, snowboarder Shaun White, skier Daron Rahlves, golfer Annika Sorenstam, auto racer Tony Stewart, and surfer Bruce Irons.
Their designs have a reputation for combining razor-sharp optics with bullet-proof construction, which they wrap in cutting-edge styling that does not compromise performance in sports or heavy physical activity.
I used Oakley products in the early 90s, when I was actively skiing and windsurfing. While I liked them, I had a tough time getting a good fit. As mentioned in our article “Getting Started in BTBFF - Part IV: What to Wear”, I don’t have much of a nose bridge, and my face is relatively flat. Oakleys, as well as similar frames from other manufacturers, just didn’t work for me. The frames either sat on my cheeks, or put the lenses so close to my eyes that my eyelashes would brush the insides when I blinked.
Either situation was uncomfortable (at best) when I was active. The usual result was fogging, or the frames would constantly slide down my face when I started perspiring. I liked the styling, the rugged construction, and the great optics, but I just couldn’t tolerate the fit. And since Oakley did not offer polarized lenses at the time, they weren’t very useful for fishing, either. So I stopped using them.
Fast forward about 15 years or so...
Field Editor Scott Leon and I are idling out of Mission Bay in Scott’s 26’ Jones Brothers Cape Fisherman, when he mentioned that he had become a field tester for Oakley. We talked about some of the fishing-friendly features that Oakleys now sported, and when I got home, I had to check out their website to see what the current products looked like.
Imagine my surprise when I noticed that there were a number of models in Oakley’s product mix that were available in “Asian Fit” versions. “Asian Fit?” What was that? Their website said: “If sunglasses tend to sit too low on your face or slide down your nose, touch at your temples or cheeks, or feel narrow at the sides of your head, try our Asian Fit.” This definitely warranted more investigation.
We contacted Louis Wellen, who is in charge of marketing for Oakley’s fishing products, to ask him more about their fishing sunglasses, and in particular, the Asian Fits.
Our first question was: What took Oakley so long to move into fishing sunglasses? ”We always wanted to make fishing sunglasses,“ said Wellen, “but we felt that the conventional way of making polarized lenses reduced image quality too much.”
Wellen explained: “Polarized lenses are usually made by bonding the polarizing material between two lenses. The more bonded layers there are, the more the sharpness degrades. It wasn’t until 2001, when we developed a way to cast the lens around the polarizing material and get the two to fuse together, that we were able to produce a polarized lens that could meet our standards for sharpness”.
Since then, Oakley has introduced a number of sunglass styles and lenses targeted at fishing. And along with their polarization technology, Oakley sunglasses have a patented lens coating which they claim repels water, suntan lotion, and bug spray. Trademarked until the name “Hydrophobic”, this proprietary coating helps to keep the lens clear and streak-free once they dry, another obvious benefit to fishermen.
And what about Asian Fit? “Oakleys are very popular in Asia,” according to Wellen, “but the person in charge of our Japanese operations wanted to make some changes to better suit his customers. The redesigned frames worked so well that we thought that all of our Asian customers could benefit.”
Asian Fit design changes can take several forms: flattening the frame, narrowing the nose bridge, adding or enlarging nose pads, changing lens rake, and altering the curvature of the stems (earpieces). “Each model may use a couple of different methods to better fit Asian faces,” explained Wellen. “But the changes are subtle. We wanted to change the fit without changing the overall style of the frame.”
A Closer Look
We received three different models of Oakley sunglasses, in both Asian and Traditional Fit models for testing: the Straight Jacket, the Gas Can, and the Fives. Looking at the sunglasses individually, it was difficult to see any differences between the Asian and Traditional Fit versions. But when we compared them side-by-side, the changes were subtly apparent:
What’s the net effect of these alterations? Let’s take a look at the Asian Fit versus the Traditional Fit Gas Cans on a person with a typical European face structure:
Now let’s look at the two versions of the Straight Jackets on an Asian face:
How Well Do They Work?
We’re happy to report that Asian Fit Oakleys, do, in fact, fit us better than their Traditional Fit counterparts. But the degree of fit varies between models. Of the three designs we tried, the Asian Fit Straight Jackets fit us the best, followed by the Asian Fit Gas Can and the Asian Fit Fives. However, my spouse (who is a Filipina, and has a bit more of a nose bridge) found the Asian Fit Gas Cans to be the best for her, followed by the traditional fit Fives, with the other Asian and traditional fit sunglasses trailing behind.
Louis Wellen explained: “Sunglass fit is a personal thing. Just like the Traditional Fit frames, different Asian Fit models will fit different face shapes better. The only way to find the best fit is to actually try on several different styles.”
On-the-water performance was what we expected from Oakley – great visual acuity and outstanding reduction in glare. We’re not opticians, so we won’t try to make any technical claims, but they did work well for us, and improved our vision on the water. Compared to a couple of other brands of polarized and non-polarized sunglasses that we own, the Oakleys exhibited a sharper image (for example, we could see detail on “busy” surfaces more clearly, and distant birds seemed to pop out of the haze at greater distances).
The Hydrophobic coating also seemed to do its job, but was more effective in fresh water than salt. Fresh water splashed on the lenses, either as water drops or bow spray, dried almost completely spot-free. Salt water, however, was a slightly different story.
As most ocean fishermen will tell you, salt water always seems to leave a film on sunglasses. This film usually doesn’t come off without an assist from soap and fresh water. Wiping the lenses off, even with a clean, dry lens cloth, can leave streaks and smudges.
Even with their Hydrophobic coating, salt water spray hitting the lenses of our test sunglasses left some visible spotting when dried. However, it was much easier to clean Hydrophobic lenses to a streak-free finish than the lenses of other sunglasses that we own. We haven’t had the Oakleys long enough to comment on the durability of Hydophobic coatings, but it would probably not be a good idea to get too medieval on them.
Many Oakley molded frames are designed to stay in place on the wearer’s face through all sorts of strenuous activities. To that end, they may feature flexible stems with larger end paddles, which “grip” the wearer’s face. This is very effective at restricting frame movement, but for fishermen who like to constantly remove their sunglasses and let them hang around their necks on a retaining strap (to gain better visibility in low light, or so that they can use reading glasses), these styles of frames may prove cumbersome. If you fall into this category, Oakley also offers polarized sunglasses that feature (slightly) more conventionally styled frames, such as their Nanowire and Half Wire models.
The Bottom Line…
Oakley’s polarized sunglasses offer outstanding sharpness, excellent polarized performance, extremely durable lenses, and stylish frames. With the Asian Fit models, they offer people with small nose bridges and flatter/wider faces another option for achieving a comfortable fit. They are serious contenders in the premium fishing optics market, and the next time you’re in the market for some sunglasses, you owe it to yourself to check them out.
To see the complete Oakley lineup and to visit their online store, go to: http://www.oakley.com.
Oakley sunglasses will also soon be available through one of our sponsors: The Fishermen’s Spot (http://www.fishermensspot.com). Contact Ken, Steve or Dean for more info.