About 2 months ago, Stephen Pulvirent put me in touch with the brand Shauns Shades, a California based sunglass brand which I had never heard of before. Their slogan, “Buy One, Give One Sight,” says it all: for every pair of sunglasses you buy, a person in need will get a pair of spectacles too! While this seems to be a trend with some optical companies lately, I think a social component is a good idea if done properly. In the following, we were provided a pair of sunglasses and had the chance to interview Shaun Paterson – the man behind Shauns Shades – for an in-depth look at the brand.
Shauns Shades – The Brand
Originally from Edinburgh, Scotland, (yes, you can hear the accent) 32 year-old Shaun always had a passion for entrepreneurship and social work. He volunteered with disabled children, taught rugby youth teams, and even spent some time working with kids in a slum in Costa Rica. Nevertheless, Shaun stated, “I always thought that I would pursue a career in business, and give back afterwards.” This keen passion for entrepreneurship lead him to the MBA program at Stanford, where he realized that he could combine his social and business interests. The idea evolved to start a company for sunglasses because Shaun has been wearing glasses ever since he was 13. Without them, he is, in fact, legally blind. Although he never really felt handicapped by his vision impairment, he found out that poor eyesight is the number one reason for young people dropping out of school! Based on this, he decided to start an eponymous sunglass company, Shauns Shades (spelled without the apostrophe, for you grammar fanatics), which would provide glasses for people in need.
Buy One, Give One Sight
Of course, these kinds of programs had been around for years, and so, instead of reinventing the wheel, Shauns Shades decided to partner with some leading optician volunteer groups. These organizations send teams to third world countries to provide people with free eye exams before they receive either a pair of sunglasses, reading glasses or distance vision glasses. So far, they have participated in three clinics in Honduras and one in Ecuador.
Shauns Shades Collection
With all this positive social engagement, I was curious to see how the product would actually stand up. The current collection consists of 12 different styles, of which 8 are unisex and 4 are for women. The way these 12 sunglass styles evolved is quite interesting. First, Shaun produced certain designs in collaboration with an engineer, a psychologist, and an economist, which resulted in some basic ideas for the styles. After Shaun returned disappointed from a trip to visit various Chinese sunglass manufacturers, he decided to have the sunglasses made by an Italian family business. They were able to help a lot in terms of style design. Surprisingly, seven of the men’s frames have heavily aviator-influenced frames. Though it is simply personal preference that determines whether a style is appealing, very little additional information is provided to assist in making an online purchase. All of the frames are the same size, though the exact size, usually in millimeters, is not available, which makes determining suitability difficult. Only a few come in different colors and about half have two lenses to choose from. However, the virtual mirror is a tool that is the next best thing to trying them on in person. By uploading a picture, a customer can “try on” various styles online. In my case, the virtual mirror was mostly, but not completely, accurate. It was a far better alternative to guessing, and if you are unhappy with your choice, US and UK customers can return sunglasses within 30 days.
Nevis – Square Aviator Style
Using the mirror application, I decided on the rather square Nevis aviator style, because I already own a pair of traditional aviators from Randolph Engineering.
Slightly oversized, this model in gun metal with sea foam green gradient lenses has clean lines and features minimal decoration aside from the small “Shauns” engraved on one lens. The nose pads are very flexible in order to accommodate a broad range of noses, which is apparently quite challenging in the field of sunglasses. Unfortunately, this accommodation makes the nose pads rattle.
Build & Quality
While the clear frames are made of acetate, the Nevis aviators are produced of a metal alloy. When I took the Nevis sunglasses out of the box for the first time, they didn’t seem as sturdy as my pair of RE sunglasses. The lower weight of 31 grams (1.1 oz.) of the Shauns pair, compared to 36.7g (1.3 oz.) weight of the Randolph Engineering pair, is probably the main reason for the difference. Unfortunately, because the frames are not sized and the nose pads are flexible, they produce a noticeable rattle that inadvertently contributes the feeling of flimsiness. When worn, the sunglasses rest comfortably on my nose and ears, but I can still hear the occasional unpleasant rattling noise when moving.
One thing I really like on the Nevis sunglasses is the spring mechanism where the temples connect to the frame. This flexible connection helps to comfortably and effortlessly put on and take off your glasses. I would not have thought that such a little spring would have such a big impact on comfort, but it definitely does.
I once dropped these glasses accidentally and they fell on the floor from about 4feet away. A lens popped out immediately, which just confirmed the expressions I had to begin with.
One of the most important features of sunglasses are the lenses. My Shauns Shades lenses have excellent optics. They seem absolutely free of distortion and the gradiation is very smooth. Shaun decided to go with quality lenses, and as such chose Zeiss, one of the leading lens manufacturers in the world. Apparently, Zeiss has the most rigorous quality control standards in the industry, resulting in superior coating and optics. Interestingly, not a single pair of Shauns sunglasses is currently available with polarized lenses. When I pointed that out to Shaun, he said that lately there has been a slight trend towards polarized lenses since they are expected to be of higher quality. It is indeed true that a polarized lens provides better colors and reduces glare. If the optical quality of a lens is not great, adding polarization still results in a mediocre lens. Shaun decided to focus on top notch optical quality first, and the plan is to introduce polarized lenses with the Fall 2012 collection. Of course, these will be about 15% – 20% more expensive than the regular versions because of the increased lens cost.
Acetate sunglasses will cost you anywhere from $160 to $295, while metal alloy aviators will set you back between $235 – $240.
Overall, Shauns Shades are definitely at the higher quality end of the optical sunglass spectrum, whereas the frame and built seems rather poor. I would recommend them if they were a bit more sturdy, but as it stands I would suggest you don’t buy Shaun Shades, even though the Zeiss lenses are great.