All shades are kinda cool, but the best aviator sunglasses for men might be the absolute the coolest. Originally developed in the 1930s, aviators were designed to replace the bulky goggles worn by military pilots, which frequently fogged up at high altitudes. They were designed with a lightweight metal frame and brow bar that could easily fit under a helmet, teardrop lenses that covered the wearer’s entire field of vision, and green lenses to reduce eye strain from blue light and cut glare. Soon after, Bausch & Lomb introduced the style to the civilian market, dubbing them the Ray-Ban Aviator. Sound familiar?
From there, aviator sunglasses for men exploded in popularity, worn by flannel Mad Men in the ’60s, bell-bottomed disco dancers in the ’70s, and just about anyone who watched. Superior gun in the 80s. In 2021, superstars like Jay-Z, Timotheé Chalamet and the entire cast of fast furious keep aviators in style, and you’re as likely to spot them on the runway at a Gucci show as you are on the streets of Manhattan. Their endless popularity comes down to their endless versatility: the teardrop shape means they look great on virtually any face shape and pair well with everything from party-ready shirts and leather loafers fantasy to flared jeans and fuzzy cardigans.
Whether you’re looking for club-ready frames, hyper-luxe hues, or a clean, classic piece, there’s a pair of aviator sunglasses for men that’s just right for you. Here are a dozen bakers of the most stylish, high-performing, and badass pairs to buy right now.
The OG Airmen
Ray-Ban nearly invented aviator sunglasses nearly a century ago, and the original design remains as beautiful and timeless as ever. They come in dozens of frame and lens combinations, including a slew of gradient lenses, but this pair of gold frames and black lenses is our Commander-in-Chief’s favorite pair. and Maverick’s Superior gun. Whether you’re piloting a jumbo jet or nursing a hangover, these polarized aviator sunglasses will make you look like you’re flying.
The aviators that look good on everyone
These sunglasses have literally been on the moon. American Optical sunglasses were worn by the entire Apollo 11 crew—and From Niro in Taxi driver, in case that is not enough. The original pilots are built to US military specs, so you’ll lose them long before you break them. While the standard aviators feature a triangular teardrop lens, the AO version is a little squarer, making them ideal for a variety of face shapes.
The Best Affordable Airmen
Looking like you have a pilot’s license doesn’t require a wad of cash. Le Spec’s take is a great alternative to American Optical, with a lightweight metal frame and square lenses that look great on most faces. They may not come with anti-glare polarized lenses, but at less than half the price of other options, you won’t miss them much.
movie star aviators
Synonymous with Steve McQueen, the Persol 649 aviator sunglasses were designed more for riding in road-ripping sports cars than high-flying airplanes. With its iconic, dashing keyhole bridge and pointed arrowhead hinges, it’ll bring some serious Old Hollywood flair to a casual golf jacket and jeans or a sleek turtleneck and dressy slacks.
The aviators that real pilots wear
When it comes to quality, you can’t do better than Randolph Engineering, the Air Force’s official sunglasses supplier since 1982. Their signature model, which takes six weeks to make a single pair, is dubbed “The Tank”, thanks to its nearly indestructible frames. They are a bit more expensive than other big name options, especially for non-polarized lenses, but the quality and pedigree are worth it.
Eight Other Aviator Sunglasses Worth Checking Out