Wraparound style sunglasses favored by many sportspeople provide that extra side protection from the sun's rays, but their curved lenses can make them bulky even when folded up. They create an uncomfortable bulge in the pocket, can be annoying perched on your head or hanging off your shirt, and are easy to lose. A new design called Popticals is designed to be easier to store and transport.
I wear wraparound sunglasses (Smith Pivlocks), so I'm familiar with the problem that Popticals were designed to solve. My sunglasses fit okay in a jacket but, like most wraparound designs featuring curved lenses, won't fit comfortably in a pants pocket. If I'm not wearing a jacket, I end up with them propped on my forehead, hanging from my shirt collar or just placed on the table, making them easy to lose or forget. The small package created by the Popticals rail system looks easier to stuff into a pants pocket.
Popticals from new eyewear manufacturer VisOptical are sport sunglasses that feature a patent-pending rail system that separates the lenses, allowing one lens to slide and spoon inside the other. The earpieces also fold in half, creating a small, portable package that should fit more easily in a pocket. They come with a hard case for protection, which measures 4 x 1.75 inches (10 x 4.5 cm). The idea is to combine the sun protection of a wraparound design with portability more similar to square sunglasses that fold flat.
In addition to their unique rail system, Popticals use sport-inspired construction. The frames are made from flexible Swiss Grilamid TR-90 thermoplastic, and the impact- and scratch-resistant lenses are made from recycled material. The lenses include polarized cores and provide 100 percent UV protection, according to VisOptical.
I had a chance to try the Popticals out briefly. The rail system is extremely easy to use and will only add an extra couple of seconds to the process of taking sunglasses off and putting them away in a case. One thing I would worry about, particularly with an item designed for sports use, is durability. While VisOptical describes the thermoplastic frames as "nearly indestructible," the rail system is a clear weak point. It seems like the rails would be easy to bend or break, and I could see a fall resulting in the glasses getting mangled or split in two. They carry a one-year warranty, and the VisOptical rep we spoke to said that the company plans to offer repairs but not replacement parts.
Style is personal preference, but these glasses miss the mark for me. There are six different styles, and they all look a bit thick and clunky. I'll assume it has to do with housing the extra hardware, but none of the styles looks all that flattering, especially not considering the retail price of US$229. Those that like the styling (or can forgive it for the function) will be able to purchase Popticals when they hit the market in the Northern Hemisphere spring.