A good company is like a proud parent. When they create something special, they love to show it off. Such is the case with the sunglass and apparel company Oakley, who recently invited a few media and retail professionals (trout bums) to Bozeman, Montana for a demonstration of just how green the grass can be through a pair of Oakley sunglasses. It was Oakley’s fly-fishing stop on the Masters of Vision media tour. Before we go any further, I must be honest and admit I own two pairs of sunglasses from Oakley’s two leading competitors. I went to the Masters of Vision event with high expectations for the Oakley sunglasses, but I knew from first-hand experience what they were up against. If you have something to prove don’t just tell me, show me. Nothing else trumps hands-on research and product testing. Few companies compete with Oakley in this regard.
The Rolling O
The morning of the first day was cold and snowy. Great for winter, but this was June. The silver-dollar-sized snowflakes kick-started conversation during breakfast at the Gallatin River Lodge, a first-rate establishment selected as base camp for the event. Steve Gamble, owner of the lodge, summed it up best for all who were unfamiliar with Montana weather. "In Montana we have two seasons, winter and the Fourth of July."
After breakfast, it was time for the High Definition Optics (HDO) course in the Rolling O. Oakley has three such science labs on wheels traveling the U.S., stopping at sporting events, trade shows and other branding opportunities. The idea is to use up-close-and-personal demonstrations to establish Oakley as the preeminent brand in the industry. Spending time inside the lab is the next best thing to touring Oakley’s factory in California where they build each pair of sunglasses to exacting specifications.
The Rolling O reminds me of a modern-day stagecoach. Armed with powerful lasers and high-velocity projectiles, the Oakley posse squashes skepticism in a series of demonstrations: laser prism, refractive power, visual clarity UV protection and impact resistance. View Product Video
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) sanctions these tests, which are a yardstick of performance for the eyewear industry. ANSI is a nonprofit and independent organization ensuring no bias in the results. Engineers strive for a 100% score in all of the tests. This is a frustrating task. Not only do the lenses have to protect your eyes from impact, they must also be free of aberrations that affect vision. Oakley’s proprietary HDO lenses are certified to ANSI Z87.1 standards, the highest in the industry. Each pair of Oakley sunglasses utilizes HDO technology.
What may be most impressive about the testing done in the Rolling O was the confidence of the Oakley representatives. They were willing to test selections from anyone in the audience. Keep in mind, the Master of Vision attendees were specialists in the fishing business, and they all had done their homework. Each of the competing sunglasses underperformed compared with Oakley’s benchmarks.
Laser Prism Test - light bending
The first test measured how Oakley lenses work to eliminate light bending, so objects appear at their true position and each eye sees the same image. A machine emitted two laser beams onto a starburst pattern on the far side of the lab. The beams aligned in the exact middle of the pattern. The Oakley rep placed several pairs of non-Oakley sunglasses in front of the lasers. The beams passed directly through the center of the lenses and each time, the lenses shifted the lasers off the focal point. Out of all those tested, only the Oakleys did not bend the lasers from the center of the pattern.
It comes down to this fact. If you are wearing lenses that bend light in different directions, your brain will have to work harder to put the two images together. This causes eye fatigue and the potential for headaches.
Refractive Power Test/Clarity Test - sharpness and magnification
Next up was a test to measure how distinct and sharp an image appeared when viewed through a lens. An ANSI-sanctioned image of differently sized and positioned lines and numbers were projected through the lens. This image retained a high level of optical clarity and barely shifted when passed through the Oakley HDO lenses. Competing lenses made the image blur and shift dramatically from its true position.
Oakley states that HDO lenses maintain clarity at greater viewing distances, thanks to precision technologies and materials. Some competing lenses can magnify images, acting similar to prescription lenses. This magnification results in visual distortion. HDO lenses work to eliminate any distortion caused by magnification to offer a high level of optical fidelity.
UV Protection and Impact Resistance
The best analogy to describe Oakley sunglasses is to think of them as a shield - both against the sun and harmful impacts. All Oakley sunglasses block 100% of all UVA, UVB, UVC and harmful blue light up to 400nm.
Two demonstrations tested for impact resistance - high velocity and mass impact. The effects to lenses made of glass were especially devastating. If the flying projectile didn’t damage your eye, chances are the shards of broken glass would. In both tests, the objects deflected off the Oakley lenses with barely any noticeable marks. The safety advantages to outdoor enthusiasts are enormous. Shooting sports, fishing and riding a bike or ATV are all examples of situations where impact resistance should be a foremost concern. Just imagine a rock or piece of split shot aimed right at your eye. Reaction time is not going to save your sight.
Oakley has three fishing-specific lenses to choose from, each with its own advantages to match with specific situations.
Deep Blue Polarized
lens are perfect for the combination of bright sun and deep water where you need distinct color recognition to spot the action down below. Deep sea and lake fishing are two great situations for Deep Blue lenses.
When the water isn’t as deep, take advantage of the enhanced contrast of the Shallow Blue Polarized lens to optimize depth perception. They are excellent for wear on rivers and streams.
lenses have a rose-colored base tint to filter blue light and enhance reds and greens. This helps you better spot the color details of different fish and improves depth perception in varying light conditions. This is the best all-around lens choice for most fishing conditions.
Like many people, I used to believe stylish looks and UV protection were the only things that mattered with sunglasses. I was wrong. When you consider just how important your sight is, why trust the protection of your eyes to anything less than the best sunglasses? Oakley sunglasses protect you on three fronts - sun, impact and eye fatigue, all while delivering an elite optical advantage. And don’t worry, when it comes time to check your look in the mirror, that pair of Oakleys will have style to match their substance.
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Wes Wiedmaier was born and raised in the Show-Me state of Missouri, where an appreciation for the outdoors was instilled from a young age - as was the proper way to hook a largemouth. These days he spends most of his time fishing the high country and hunting the high plains. Wes works on staff for Cabela’s as Senior Copywriter.