Travel + Leisure

Pilots Reveal Their Favorite Sunglasses for Travel

Forget aviators, these are the sunglasses pilots actually wear. 

By Kristy Alpert

As the daughter of an airline pilot and the wife of an Air Force pilot, I’ve spent most of my life surrounded by professional fliers of some capacity. Delta pilots made up most of the guest list to family barbecues in my younger years and military pilots have become like family to my husband and me throughout our many moves. 

Although they may have worn different uniforms, I began noticing a common thread among the pilots I got to know: they care a lot about their sunglasses. And those sunglasses are, more often than not, Ray-Ban Original Wayfarers. Ask a pilot about their shades and they’ll likely be able to tell you specific features and technical specifications about why they chose that specific pair, because sunglasses are the single most important way to safeguard their most valuable asset … their eyes.  

Amazon Ray-Ban RB2140 Original Wayfarer Polarized Square Sunglasses

To buy:, $174 (originally $213)

“Finding a great pair of flying sunglasses is almost part of the job,” explains Christine Durham, a pilot in the United States Air Force. “I’m constantly flying above the clouds in direct sunlight, so it’s incredibly important for me to protect my eyes. I’ve gone through so many different brands and styles of sunglasses over my career, but I always come back to Ray-Ban Wayfarers.” She continued to explain: “It’s like going to your favorite restaurant and trying something new just to see if you’d like it, but then you realize you should have just gone with your go-to from the start.  Sometimes I just want to change it up a little, but I always end up going back.” 

Pilots and Plane Author Image

Durham isn’t the first pilot to reach for Ray-Bans in flight, as the brand was literally created in the 1930s to cut out the sun’s glare (or “ban the rays”) while preserving vision for military aviators. The public finally got their chance to buy Ray-Ban sunglasses in 1937, and soon everyone had the chance to see why pilots love the glasses so much (i.e., anti-glare, decreased eye fatigue, actual eye protection from solar radiation, etc.). Despite the fact the original Aviator style was created to mimic old-school flight goggles — and despite what Hollywood (ahem, Top Gun) would lead us to believe about pilot sunglass preferences — modern pilots much prefer the Wayfarer style, for many reasons.

Female Pilot Author Image

“A lot of pilots wear Wayfarers or Wayfarer-style glasses,” Durham adds about both military and commercial pilots. “Nothing against aviators, but I feel like Wayfarers are way more fun … but also still iconic. They’re easier to slide up and down without getting caught in my hair, and I also like how the thicker frames give me a little added sun protection from all sides. And, honestly, I just love the look. They’re bold and fun, and they frame my face perfectly.”

Amazon PD Ray-Ban Rb2132 New Wayfarer Square Sunglasses

To buy:, $87 (originally $151)

Aside from the design that makes it easy to go from the bridge of the nose to the crown of the head, Wayfarers offer 100 percent UV protection, which comes in handy even while not flying above the clouds since even brief exposure to UV rays can be like the equivalent of a sunburn on your eyes. They’re also not polarized (unless you get the polarized version, of course), which is a key reason pilots prefer them, since polarization can actually reduce reaction time by making windscreens and some digital devices difficult to read quickly.

Ray-Ban Wayfarers are great in the cockpit, but Durham says she wears them even while on the ground. “They’re my most comfortable sunglasses,” she admits, adding, “I wear them any time I’m outside, whether it’s going for a run or taking my kids to the park. In fact, at a neighbor’s get-together, one of the other women commented how she didn’t recognize me at first without my sunglasses on.”

Amazon Ray-Ban RB2140 Original Wayfarer Classic Sunglasses

To buy:, $163

And lucky for all of us, Ray-Ban just launched a new version of the Wayfarer style with reverse lenses. The new release swaps traditional convex lenses for a concave design, in an effort to reduce reflections by up to 70 percent. The inverted lenses follow the natural curve of the face, creating a seamless line from the cheekbone to the frames. 

Two Pilots Author Image

The new style is available in six different color options (as well as the option for polarized lenses); polished black with green lenses, polished transparent navy blue with blue lenses, polished transparent brown with brown lenses, polished transparent orange with copper lenses, polished transparent red with light gold lenses, and polished transparent dark grey with dark grey lenses. 

So what are you waiting for? Pick up a pair of these stylish, protective Ray-Ban Original Wayfarers that are approved by pilots. And if you’re still on the hunt for that classic Wayfarer style but for less, I’ve got you.

More Wayfarer Sunglasses at Amazon: 

Kaliyadi Sunglasses Men Polarized Sunglasses 

Amazon KALIYADI Sunglasses Men Polarized Sunglasses for Men Women Unisex Semi-Rimless Frame Retro Driving Sun Glasses UV Blocking

To, $17

Caribbean Sol Retro Rectangular Style Polarized Sunglasses 

Amazon Caribbean Sol Retro Rectangular Style Polarized Sunglasses

To, $17

Linvo Polarized Shades ’80s Retro Style  

Amazon LINVO Polarized Sunglasses for Men Driving Sun glasses Shades 80's Retro Style Design Square

To, $10 (originally $14)


Feidusun Polarized Sunglasses for Driving Fishing UV Protection  

Amazon FEIDUSUN Sunglasses Men Polarized Sunglasses for Mens and Womens,Black Retro Sun Glasses Driving Fishing UV Protection

To, $6 with on-site coupon (originally $10)

Joopin Square Sunglasses Polarized UV Protection  

Amazon Joopin Square Sunglasses Polarized UV Protection Trendy Designer Sun Glasses Men Women

To, $12

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