aviators

In order to illustrate just how essential our 10 Spring Essentials are, we decided to pick our brains and peruse the internet for examples of great men in history who have, at some point, worn these items with poise and panache.

The first item we’ll take a closer look at is the all-American everyman of protective eyewear: the Aviator. Like most utterly classic menswear items, these military-inspired sunglasses can skew respectable or rebellious, depending on how you wear them—as the individuals herein go to show. Keep reading for our gallery of sunglass-clad style icons.

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STANDARD ISSUE. When they say ‘military grade,’ they mean it. Randolph Engineering is the prime eyewear contractor for the U.S. Military and allied Air Forces worldwide, and has been for the past 30 years. Randolph’s oldest design, the sturdy ‘Aviator,’ has served as standard issue for pilots and even astronauts—in Vietnam, Desert Storm, Korea, Kosovo and beyond.

 

MIL-SPEC. Randolph not only meets but surpasses rigid military specifications (Mil-Spec) set by the U.S. Department of Defense for reliability, value and performance. The Randolph team scours the world for special alloys that won’t rust. Their lenses are chemically tempered for impact resistance. And they guarantee their glasses’ solder joints for life.

 

MADE IN THE USA. Still based in its namesake town of Randolph, Mass., and still family-owned and -operated, Randolph Engineering continues to utilize the custom machinery designed and hand-built by its two founders in 1972. Each pair of sunglasses passes through more than 200 production stages, most of them by hand. See a few of them in the video above, and click here to tour the factory with GQ and Michael Williams of A Continuous Lean.

 

FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION. Randolph’s frames are as stylish as they are sturdy—and icons as varied as Don Draper, Johnny Depp, Travis Bickle and Michael Bastian have shown that opting for world-class quality is a pretty good look.

Which pair are you eyeing? Learn more about individual models below, and browse the full selection here: Shop All Men’s Sunglasses


The Aviator. Randolph’s flagship model, these have been standard issue for the U.S. Military since 1982. Note the signature, un-curved ‘bayonet’-style arms, designed to fit comfortably under a pilot’s headgear. Shop Now

 


The Concorde. This style of tinged, teardrop-shaped lens was developed in the 1920s (with the help of U.S. test pilot John A. Macready) to shield a pilot’s full peripheral vision. Shop Now

 


The Sportsman. Designed for outdoor enthusiasts, this sturdy frame (also available with polarized amber lenses) adds a sweat-bar on the bridge—a cool vintage design detail that’s also totally functional. Shop Now

 


The Intruder. This pair gets its name from the A-6 Intruder, a twin jet-engine, mid-wing attack aircraft. (They also come in gold, but matte-black is more stealthy.) Shop Now

 


The Crew Chief. Classic styling updated with modern materials, including a high-tech metal alloy eyewire for maximum strength while maintaining a thin profile. Like all Randolph models, it features 98–100% UV protection. Shop Now

 


The P-3 Retro Submariner. Originally designed for the U.S. Navy as a prescription frame for use inside submarines. The ‘cable’-style arms wrap around your ear for a secure fit. Shop Now

 

[Top two photos and video courtesy of Randolph Engineering.] 

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Shades for Every Face

Unless you’re into squinting, you know that sunglasses, like your favorite watch and wallet, are essential to daily style and comfort 365 days a year. (Even here at our Seattle headquarters, we keep a pair close at hand year-round. That bright-grey sky is no joke.)

That’s why the fit of your shades is just as important as the cut of your suit, if not more so. They’re perched right up there on that handsome mug of yours, after all. So check out some editor’s picks and fit tips below, and if you’re still not sure, visit a store near you to to try on a few pairs in-person.

 

Keyhole Frame. The subtle cutout on these Italian-made frames makes any nose look good. Just ask GQ Creative Director Jim Moore. Shown: Persol

Classic Wayfarer. JFK proved this versatile shape looks as sharp sailing Hyannis Port as it does suited up for high-stakes foreign relations. Shown: Persol

Metal-Frame Aviator. What worked for bomber pilots works for businessmen. Universally cool (especially in black-on-black). Shown: Calibrate

The Clubmaster. A lesser-known classic from the Ray-Ban archives. Tip, if your head is on the large side, this near-rimless style may be hard to pull off. Shown: Ray-Ban

Plastic-Frame Aviator. A slightly bulkier version of the military classic helps fill out a sizable cranium (and makes small heads look pin-size—fair warning). Shown: Carrera

Squared-Off Wayfarer. Subtle tweaks to the geometry of this familiar silhouette give it a futuristic feel—and perfectly offset a round face. Shown: Gucci

Flat Top. This unique design detail is not for the meek—but if you’re into it, the added bulk will balance out a beard or large mouth. (Best part: This pair is only $10.) Shown: KW

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