So where'd you get those peeps you rode in last summer? TJ Maxx? The corner gas station? The sidewalks of NYC?
At SHADBELLY, we think it's time to get serious about equestrian eyewear. Ever wonder why even finding eye protection that is safe and suitable for equestrian use is such a challenge? It's a dirty little secret that 80% of the world's major eyewear brands, including some of the major sport lines, are controlled by one company, Luxottica. So what does that mean for us as consumers? Stagnant technology and shallow product offerings. Essentially we're buying the same lame sunglasses over and over, just stamped with a different label and a flash of bling ... kerching.
So when we discovered PeakVision, a boutique, high performance sunglasses company based right in the winter equestrian heartland of Florida, we jumped at the chance to put their specs to the test. Peak created a name as the intelligent choice for golfers, but they make 4 equestrian-suitable styles for ladies and 3 for gents. The SHADBELLY girlies chose the XK5's in the matte "chocolate" frame color to try, but this model is also available in "carbon". The XK5's retail for $179.00*:
The challenger? SmartPak's "Close Contact Sunglasses" by SSG Gloves. These are presumably unisex, one-size-fits-all, and retail for the tempting price of only $19.95:
Before we launch into the pros and cons of each of these products, let's think about what riders should look for in equestrian eyewear. Here are a few tips:
- Avoid Uniformly Dark Lenses - Do you seek strategic anonymity in your riding? And if so, why? Stop hiding and ditch the dark glasses. Not only do they look eerily strange in an athletic environment, but the vast majority of sunglasses are simply too dark for high-performance visual tasks ... like navigating your way around a dressage arena.
- Choose a Shape that Suggests Athleticism - Sure, we're cool in our big funky frames, driving home from the barn with the wind blowing out the day's helmet hair. But wearing those clunkers while riding (or frankly, doing just about anything athletic) looks ... gosh darned backyardy.
- Avoid the Aviators - Aww, we miss the old Tom Cruise, and yes, aviator sunglasses are still kind of classically cool, but they also scream "rebellious teenage jumper rider". Step away from mirrored lenses all together.
- Demand Superior Optics - Think all sunglass lenses are the same? Think again. There's nothing more uncouth than plowing through the dressage arena flower boxes because of sunglass distortion. The optical clarity of a lens is evaluated by a scientific measurement called the abbe value. The higher the abbe value, the higher the optical clarity. Trust me, your horse would like for you to be aware of this.
- Go for Gradiated - lenses that is. The challenge is that a dark lens (20% transmittance) is needed to effectively manage the bright sun and glare in the sky. But for ground-based vision, which is only 5% as bright as the sky, a dark gray lens prevents too much of the necessary visual information from entering the eyes effectively rendering the rider "blind". Lenses that are lighter at the base, and in particular those with amber, rather than gray color, offer superior optical enhancement. And we love the way the gradiated lenses look!
The PeakVision XK5's win by a mile. We loved the sleek sporty look of these sunglasses and the lense shape that doesn't resemble an insects eye - eww, hate that sci-fi eye look.
The Peak XK5's weigh just 26 grams and let me tell you that's feather light. The frame hinges have that nice super flexible feel to them and the XK5's fit gently but securely. And the nose pads ... we can't believe we are actually blogging about nose pads), but we are because the Peaks have a fully adjustable bridge and specially designed "comfort" Migol rubber nose pads and frame tips. We're having a tough time wearing ANY other glasses after being spoilt by the Peaks.
International dressage rider and trainer Shawna Harding says, "When I first tried PEAKS there was a definite WOW factor." That's right Shawna, you are experiencing PeakVision's proprietary lens technology called the "Zero-Distortion" lens material. This revolutionary Hybrid Monomer lens has an amazingly high abbe value, while providing the safety factor of impact resistance that a glass lens would not offer equestrians. The gradiated amber lenses are a sleek sophisticated look and we love that the XK5's are frameless along the bottom.
The SSG Close Contacts are, well cheap, in every sense of the word. The hinges felt inflexible and were significantly less comfortable on the ears. And from a style standpoint, the shape was fine, but we hated the uniform dark grey color of the lenses. The nose bridge on the SSG's consists of a little extra molding of plastic along the frame which resulted in placement of the lenses so close my eyelashes (and while I wish I could brag that my eyelashes are extraordinarily long and lush, they're just like regular eyelashes nothing special) brushed against them. Talk about irritating. I couldn't wait to get these off and order up a return shipping label. Thank you SmartPak Happiness Delivered ... and Happiness Returned.
Thanks for blogging with SHADBELLY.