The aviator sunglasses with the mirrored lenses worn by Morgan Woodward in the film Cool Hand Luke made him look like one of the coolest, baddest guys in the deep South. And for purposes of Hollywood storytelling, that may have been the sole purpose. But there is more behind mirrored shades in the real world. Mirrored lenses actually serve a valuable purpose.
Mirrored coatings are also known as flash coatings. They are applied to the exterior surface of lenses to reflect a fair amount of visible sunlight. In fact, the lenses are very similar to one-way windows you might find at a police precinct or bank. They are coated on the exterior to reflect light. The interior is left untouched so that you can still see through.
Flash Coatings Increase Comfort
Any good pair of sunglasses offers 100% UV protection. However direct sunlight – what we do see with the naked eye – can still be problematic. The more of it that reaches the eye on a sunny day, the more uncomfortable a person is. Flash coatings are designed to reflect as much of that sunlight as possible and thus increase comfort.
The flash coatings of decades ago created what was essentially twin mirrors on the face. Today’s coatings are more advanced. Not only are they better at reflecting direct sunlight but they also do not have to be in that old mirror finish. Flash coatings come in a variety of colors from gold to blue to hot pink.
Reflective shades are a big hit with skiers, boaters, and folks who spend a lot of time on the road. Flash coatings are very good at reducing the discomfort of looking at snow, water, and road surfaces on sunny days.
About Those Gradient Lenses
While we’re at it, let’s talk gradient lenses. According to Utah-based Olympic Eyewear, gradient lenses are one of the more popular items in sunglasses right now. Gradient lenses are lenses with a specific tint – be it amber, gray, or another color. The signature of gradient lenses is that they are tinted from top to bottom.
A top-to-bottom tint makes the top of the lenses darker than the bottom. This offers maximum filtering of direct sunlight overhead while making it easier to see things positioned below your eyes (car dashboard, smartphone, etc.). Gradient lenses can make you more comfortable during peak sunlight hours.
A cousin of the gradient lens is the double gradient. Olympic describes this kind of lens as one that is tinted in both directions. In other words, tint goes from the top-down and bottom-up. No, the gradients do not cancel one another out. Rather, you have darker areas at the top and bottom with a lighter area at the center of the lens.
The double gradient filters out intense sunlight from overhead and reflected sunlight from surfaces like water and sand. Double gradient lenses are gaining followers in beach-heavy states like Florida and California.
It Is All About the Eyes
So now you know a little bit more about reflective shades and gradient lenses. Next time you see someone supporting either kind, consider that he or she might not be wearing them just to look cool. He/she may look awesome, but he/she is also probably a lot more comfortable too.
At the end of the day it’s all about protecting the eyes. We look for UV protection to keep us safe from light we can’t see with the naked eye; we choose reflective shades or gradient lenses to protect them from the light we can see. When the eyes are protected, they are also more comfortable.