I long ago discovered the correlation between the price paid for a pair of sunglasses and the speed at which I lose them. I once dropped a sweet pair of Ray-Bans over the side of a friend’s Sunfish and watched them sink to the bottom of Lake Michigan after only one week. Eventually, frugality had forced me to stop wearing sunglasses altogether. That is, until the wretched sunlight began to wear away at my good nature—squinting put me in such a foul state of mind last summer that a stranger stopped me on the street and told me I ought to smile more. It was time to get a real pair of shades.
I already wear prescription specs (and hate contacts, and fear laser surgery), so I needed a pair that would fit over my small Ben Franklin-style oval frames. I knew that regular shades, the type you might find at a Mall of America kiosk, would fit neither my face nor my modest budget.
On a routine visit to Walgreens, however, I found just what I was looking for: the SolarShield Oval Fits-Overs. It has been suggested, quite successfully I might add, that I long ago abandoned any fashion pretense in favor of simple creature comforts. Perhaps the SolarShield Fits-Overs are a reflection of that—they’re unbelievably effective on a glaring summer’s day, but have yet to catch on with the trendy set. Being a whip of a man—thin and un-muscular with a diminutive head—wearing such bulging sunglasses lends me the look of Plastic Man, albeit one clad in cotton cardigans and jeans. Drivers often do a double-take when they see me on the road—admittedly, with my Fits-Overs on, I do resemble a blind man at the wheel. A friend summed it up best when I modeled them for him: “Jesus Christ, you’re not going to wear those?”
But when I slip these babies on, the raging incandescence of a summer’s day is diminished, and if I don’t look cool, I at least feel that way. The SolarShield company has a number of styles, ranging from the bulging pair I like to wear in the car, to a smaller, more compact version. When the same friend stopped by later on, I was lounging in my lawn chair sporting this new, sleeker pair of Fits-Overs. I suggested to him that these were similar to the sort of shades favored by Bono. He rolled his eyes. “Bono?” he said. “Sonny Bono. Maybe.”
With a name that seems borrowed from some turn-of-the-last-century medicine show (Cures all manner of lazy eye! Suppresses optic phantoms! A restorative for ocular fatigue!), the Fits-Overs are a more-evolved version of the wrap-arounds your great-uncle used to wear after cataract surgery, when he couldn’t allow even the smallest ray of sunlight to hit his peepers. Those glasses went well, you might recall, with his golden Sears’ golf shirts, plaid shorts, and black socks with flip-flops. They looked as though they’d been fabricated in a high school shop class—squarish slabs of opaque plastic, ugly as hell.
To the benefit of mankind, someone at the SolarShield company ventured into the realm of the moderately hip, realizing that seeing-impaired sixty-year-olds might wish to look a bit edgier than in years past. In fact, the SolarShield website features pictures of all kinds of people sporting the Fits-Overs, from elderly gents to dashing young men. Despite their considerable size, Fits-Overs are light and comfortable. Each pair is a wonder of design, looking like something from the New York World’s Fair. The giant, polarized lenses are so dark they drop the world into a near-total eclipse, while a small, tinted porthole at the hinge of either temple allows for “peripheral protection,” and gives bus-riders like me an opportunity to eyeball the crackpot in the next seat without incident. The “integrated top bar” slides over the top frame of my prescription glasses and up against my forehead, preventing any penetration of sunlight from above. Best of all, because SolarShield Fits-Overs are cheap, ranging from just twelve to twenty bucks, I don’t care if I lose them. This probably means I’ll have mine forever.
This article originally appeared in The Rake magazine.