All shades are some degree of cool, but the best aviator sunglasses for men might be the absolute coolest. Originally developed in the 1930s, aviators were designed to replace the bulky goggles worn by military pilots, which would frequently fog up at high altitudes. They were crafted with a lightweight metal frame and brow bar that could easily fit under a helmet, teardrop lenses which covered the wearer’s entire field of vision, and green lenses to reduce blue light eye strain and cut through 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-suited Mad Men in the ‘60s, bell-bottomed disco dancers in the ’70s, and just about anybody who watched Top Gun in the ’80s—or the sequel this year. In 2022, superstars like Jay-Z, Timotheé Chalamet, and the entire cast of Fast & Furious are keeping aviators trending, and you’re as likely to spot them on the runway of a Gucci show as you are on the streets of Manhattan. Their unending popularity comes down to their endless versatility: the teardrop shape means they look great on virtually all face shapes, and pair well with everything from party-ready shirts and fancy leather loafers to flared jeans and fuzzy cardigans.
Whether you’re in the market for club-ready frames, hyper-luxe shades, or a clean and classic statement piece, there’s a pair of men’s aviator sunglasses that’s just right for you. These are 21 of the slickest, high-flying-est, most badass pairs to buy right now.
The O.G. Aviators
Ray-Ban damn near invented aviator sunglasses nearly a century ago, and the original design remains as handsome and timeless as ever. They come in dozens of frame and lens combinations, including a slew of gradient lenses, but this gold frame and black lens pair is the preferred pairing for our Commander-in-Chief and Maverick from Top Gun. Whether you’re piloting a jumbo jet or nursing a hangover, these polarized aviator sunglasses will keep you looking fly.
The Aviators That Look Good On Everybody
These sunglasses have literally been to the moon. American Optical’s sunglasses were worn by the entire Apollo 11 crew—and DeNiro in Taxi Driver, in case that weren’t enough. The Original Pilots are built to U.S. Military specifications, so you’ll lose them long before you break them. While standard aviators feature a triangular teardrop lens, AO’s version are a touch more square, making them ideal for a variety of face shapes.
The Aviators Real Pilots Wear
As far as quality goes, you can’t do better than Randolph Engineering—the official sunglass supplier to the Air Force since 1982. Their signature model, which requires six weeks to build a single pair, is nicknamed “The Tank,” thanks to its near-indestructible frames. They’re a bit more expensive than the other big-name options, especially for non-polarized lenses, but the quality and pedigree is worth it.
The Affordable Aviators
Not only do these aviators pack the kind of timeless cool made famous by Hollywood stars of old, they do it via a handsome acetate frame that’s sleek, sturdy, and above all, affordable. (It helps that you can add your prescription to them with a few lazy clicks.) At that price, you can snag a pair for multiple occasions and still have enough cash left over to re-up on poolside aperol spritzes (the preferred adult beverage—and the preferred place to drink ’em—among aviator-wearers according to, you know, science.)
The Old-School 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 planes. With its dashing, iconic keyhole bridge and sharp arrow hinges, they’ll bring some serious Old Hollywood flair to a casual golf jacket and jeans or a smart turtleneck and dress pants.
The New-School Movie Star Aviators
Cartier is king when it comes to the kind of seriously decadent jewelry and retro-leaning timepieces celebrities (and their deep-pocketed imitators) can’t get enough of, but who says the rush of slipping on one of the brand’s legendary Love bracelets or Tank watches has to stop at your wrist? If you’re prone to losing your knockabout shades at the end of a boozy night out, the $1,000+ asking price might make you blanche. But if you’re looking for aviators oozing in right-now Tinseltown charm, their classic shape and luxury pedigree will imbue your plainest fits with the breezy swagger of a newly-minted A-Lister waltzing down the red carpet.
16 More Aviator Sunglasses Worth Rocking