02 June 2011

Worth Every Penny: American Optical Sunglasses

It's well known I do love my RayBans, but they can get heavy on the face when the weather turns hot. Enter the other classic essential sunglasses, the aviator, or as American Optical calls them, the "original pilot".
Sunglasses are one thing I believe are worth spending a few bucks on for a good pair. When you have nice ones, you tend to take care of them, keep track of them, try hard not to sit on them and so forth, and in return you have them forever. So, flush from the recent Top Shelf Flea Market III, my plan was to spoil myself with a pair from Randolph Engineering. But I dig these even better. Allow me to explain.

I wanted the lenses to be that particular green shade, but I didn't know what the terminology was with the Randolphs. So I asked a friend who has served in the military, His answer was forget Randolph, go with American Optical. Just as good, with just as good a provenance, only much less expensive. That, my friends, is speaking my language.

Randolph Engineering glasses are very "in" right now, being the official glasses of the US armed forces and a favorite of Don Draper (you know, that t.v. character who dictates style these days, even though I learned his bag from my grandfather, who sort of was him in real life. Some day, I'll rant about friggin Mad Men). But American Optical were the glasses of choice back in the 1950s. So, if Don Draper were a real person, he would likely have had these instead.

The glasses are sturdy and tough, but feather light to wear. The lenses, which are glass, not only block harmful rays but also heat. Colors remain true to sight through them. They do have logos, but they are so small as to be nearly invisible. A simple "AO" on the arms, tiny, and a tiny "AO" printed on one lens is all. Bayonet style temples seal the deal for me, but the do come in standard style and also wrap around wire. Just like Randolphs.

American Optical has been making glasses in Southbridge Massachusetts since  1826, so these should appeal to the Americana fetishists on both style and origin, as well as history. I don't have any problem supporting Massachusetts business either...just like Randolphs.

Today I actually saw and held a pair from Randolph Engineering, and apart from logos the two are practically indistinguishable. There is, however, one striking difference. Randolph Engineering sunglasses cost $109 or more, American Optical sells for $74. I got mine from Optics Planet for $41.99.

They are worth every penny.

36 comments:

Tony (College Trad) said...

Thanks for the writeup and was thinking of getting these. Been looking for a pair of "beater" sunglasses for when I don't want to potentially ruin my nicer ones. Although I have a feeling these AOs will get top shelf!

Mason said...

I wonder if the Trad's penny trick will work on the AO, though I can't think why it wouldn't.

BCM said...

My Grandfather spent 25 years of his life as an officer and aviator in the United States Marine Corps. As a pilot he only wore AO "aviator" sunglasses. He recently passed away and I was fortunate enough to find them in his dresser drawer. They're the real deal....AO, gold frame, green lenses, and bayonet temples. They're way too large for my face but what's really important to me is that I have a piece of personal history from a man whom I admire greatly. Knowing that he wore these while actually flying for the Corps makes them that much more special to me.

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

So, how much did you get paid for this little advertisement?

You're a fake and a poseur.

Honestly, don't you undertstand that people are laughing at you? LOL!

Dumbass.

Giuseppe said...

Laguna,

You truly are a miserable, insufferable wretch. I only published this comment of yours to let you know it will be your last. I'm banning you from this blog, though I doubt it will stop you from sending your typical well reasoned and sharply worded arguments.

No hard feelings though, and have a nice life. I wish you all the best, and truly hope that your inflated and false sense of superiority, your deep rooted misanthropy and your extensive vocabulary of bigotted and rude names for others will fill the void left by your total lack of integrity and personality.

By the way, someone I know in finance tells me that no one uses the term "stock broker" these days. It comes as no surpirse to me, of course, that you don't even know how to lie about yourself.

Pip pip cheerio, old chap.

mpr said...

The penny trick does work. Have a pair in my pocket right sans logo.

Giuseppe said...

I know, just scraped it off.

Cisco said...

I think you are making a mistake by banning LBT. Here's why. In my opinion, the banning concedes the point that he's getting under you skin, which in a sense, legitimizes and empowers his vile remarks. Secondly, by banning him, you forfeit the opportunity to counterpunch...something that you usually do pretty well.

Just my opinion...I could be wrong.

Fergus said...

Thanks for the perfectly timed PSA. I've no sunglasses and I'm off to Sicily in 3 weeks time. These AO's look perfect and very well priced.

My Rayban aviators are 'missing' from an evidence locker in a police station. Long story but suffice to say there's a cop out there with a nice pair of aviators.

Giuseppe said...

Having him around brings this blog down, reducing it a childish sand-kicking match. I will admit to being entertained by the opportunity for counterpunch, but enough is enough.

gentleman mac said...

Thanks for banning him, G. He's a broken record with no point. I think he is simply trying to drum up more traffic for his blog. Nice shades, BTW.

Rakish Tilt said...

I have AO's in matte chrome. Couldn't be happier with them. Nice post on a product that deserves the exposure.

Anonymous said...

Thank You for this tip! Ordered, and they are inbound...

Anonymous said...

"Laguna Beach Fogey" is a name I recognize as a commentator on another gear blog. Equating snark with wit and bluster with sophistication, he lacks, as we say in the South, "home training."

NCJack said...

Ditto on the AOs, got my first large pair from a surplus store, second smaller pair of the net, together the retail price for Ray-Bans. Great fit, coverage, everything. No need to get any other aviators unless you have to flash the brand

Kionon said...

This is precisely the type of content I enjoy reading your blog for, G. You identify a style, you identify longevity, and you identify value.

I can often afford to spend more, but why would I want to?

As for certain... critics, well. I don't follow their blogs anyway, since I find them less about style, and more about culture wars. I have no interest in the latter.

Stu Hodgkiss said...

Thanks for the recommendation, I shall give them a look.

Mr.C said...

Gotta say, I almost bought a pair of RE's, and the I found AO.
So nice. They feel solid and well built. And honestly, if you're wearing aviators, I thought the point *wasn't* the brand, but rather the quality and shape- making the AO's all the more enticing. I like to think of them as the loveable underdog, and I'm all for that.
Love my pair.

Jho78 said...

My roommate had a pair of these as part of his ROTC uniform freshman year in college. I know stealing is wrong, but I was very tempted to nab them from him at the time...

Kionon said...

Man, I didn't get any cool glasses with MY NROTC uniform... but then I DID have those killer dress whites to reenact scenes from Top Gun in...

I feel cheated. :(

But at least I learned how to sail as a midshipman, so my deck shoes actually... well... go on boats.

The Red Velvet Shoe said...

My mother's first job out of school was at "The AO" in Southbridge...I wish she had the foresight to keep a pair of glasses for me! ~M.

Anonymous said...

LBF's comment seems to be missing a line, right before "Dumbass". I believe he omitted to write "Yours sincerely".

Sum

Anonymous said...

Dang it, you have let the cat out of the bag! And you even got them in the "pilot" style instead of the "General"!

I bought a pair of AO Pilots when I was a lowly E-3 in the Navy, which seemed like a big outlay of cash when you're making $24 a day.

Young Fogey said...

Did LBF get bonked on the head or something?

Giuseppe has never, ever pretended to be anything other than what he says he is: the grandson of Italian immigrants; an ex-punk rocker; someone with some college but no degree; and, the most important things for this blog, a cheapskate who loves clothes. He even admits to being a peacock.

G refuses advertising, and has been scrupulously honest about revealing when he receives gifts from businesses.

LBF is so far off base that he makes it look like he's gone around the bend. No one needs another rude jerk, here or anywhere else, so I'm glad you will be refusing future droppings from him.

Long live An Affordable Wardrobe! Long live Giuseppe!

Anonymous said...

All this talk about sunglasses. I wear the same AO's that our U.S. military aircrews wear. Good enough for them at Mach II, then good enough for me at 65mph. I got them at www.AOEyewearOnline.com Enough said.

StacyShepherd11 said...

Rubbish!! American Optical are rubbish now. They rarely use glass & don't make larger sizes (62mm lens) anymore. In addition their once famed lenses (Kalichrome, photo chromatic etc) are not made. They have cut corners & sold out their integrity! Ray Ban now are even worse since being bought by Luxottica - Randolph Engineering are the only USA made sunglasses that have any quality & durability to them. They are old school & the old saying "you get what you pay for" holds true!!!!

Anonymous said...

I've got 23 years military service behind me and AO and only AO is the military choice for pilots and aircrew. They have been building to the 1958 military specification since it was first written. RE only came onto the scene in the 80's. RE is also about 3 times more expensive but not any better as they are both built to the military specification. Go with AO as that is what the pros wear.

SoCal92057

Anonymous said...

By the way, Randolph Engineering sunglasses are made in China. I saw them profiled on "How It's Made" on television.

Anonymous said...

Made in USA. Not China.

http://www.acontinuouslean.com/2010/06/30/randolph-engineering-made-in-these-united-states/

Shaman said...

Buy American!

Anonymous said...

I would really like to know how to date AO Original Pilot glasses. I have 2 pair of GF on hand but know the age. There must be a way to tell buy the nosepiece or hinges or something but I have done hours of research and can't find anything out.

Anonymous said...

Why OA sunglasses are so cheap ? They are made in china ?
Thanks

Steve Jacobs said...

Been wearing AO Aviators for over 10 years. If I may, I'll tell you I got them at the factory web site www.AOEyewearOnline.com If not just edit it out. Great sunglasses at an amazing low price.

Cheers

be-cause said...

very nice review. just wrote something about this nice sunglasses, rare to get over here in germany.
But I like my American Optical Original Pilot Sunglasses already.

American Optical Original Pilot Sunglasses 

Anonymous said...

Love your site. Let's all be gentlemen and relate what fashion means to each of us. The AO sunglasses that are discussed are an exceptional piece of classic eyewear. I am concerned that there are many look-a-like counterfeits out there as for any name brand. The Chinese make such good counterfeits. I went to the factory outlet store at AOEyewearOnline.com and got the genuine article, plus they have some really neat images of military aviation.

Old School said...

Allow me to strongly recommend the Ray Ban Caravans (model no. 3136), a model that has been around since 1957. They are the same shape as the RE and AO frames described here, but less bulky, thanks to the thinner temples/arms/sides: the same ones that Ray Ban use for their teardrop-shape aviator glasses.