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. Aviators were crafted with a lightweight metal frame and brow bar that could tuck under a helmet, teardrop lenses to cover the wearer’s full field of vision, and green lenses to reduce eye strain while cutting glare. Soon after, Bausch & Lomb let civilians in on the fun, dubbing the mass market version the “Ray-Ban Aviator.” Sound familiar?
The Best Aviator Sunglasses for Men Shopping Guide
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 anybody inspired by Top Gun—the original or the sequel. In 2023, superstars like Jay-Z, Timotheé Chalamet, and the entire cast of Fast & Furious are making like Maverick.
The aviator’s unending popularity comes down to its functionality (UV-protection is still key here) and ridiculously versatile cool factor. We haven’t yet found a face shape—or a fit—that they don’t pair well with. From party-ready shirts and fancy leather loafers to flared jeans and fuzzy cardigans, the aviator’s not afraid.
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 25 of the slickest, high-flying-est, most badass pairs to buy right now.
The O.G. Aviators
Ray-Ban and aviators were born together, and the original design remains as handsome and timeless as ever. The brand’s version comes in dozens of frame and lens combinations, including a slew of gradient and mirrored 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 De Niro in Taxi Driver, in case space travel wasn’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.
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
These aviators pack a Paul-Newman-esque retro-Hollywood cool thanks to an acetate frame that’s sleek, sturdy, and above all, affordable. (It helps that Warby Parker lets you add your prescription to them with a few lazy clicks.) At this price, you can snag a few different pairs and still have enough cash left over to buy everyone a round of poolside spritzes. (The right drink—and drink location—for these confidence-filled aviators.)
The Old-School Movie Star Aviators
Popularized by Steve McQueen but favored by legions of young stars looking to borrow some of his swagger, the Persol 649 aviator sunglasses are more at home blasting around in a Mustang Mach 1 than on bombing missions. Which isn’t far off the truth: they were designed for tram operators in Turin before guys like McQueen were getting air over San Francisco’s hills. With their dashing keyhole bridge and Persol’s signature sharp arrow hinges, they bring some serious 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 decadent jewelry and timeless timepieces, but the brand can do more than put a stunning Tank watch on your wrist. If you’re looking for aviators oozing in showoff glamor, the Santos de Cartier’s classic shape and luxury pedigree will give your most basic Erewhon fits the breezy swagger of an A-Lister stepping out of a black SUV and onto the red carpet. (Yeah, they’re expensive—but you can’t afford ‘em if you can’t afford to lose ’em.)