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Hard truth: Expensive sunglasses are kind of a scam.
Allow me to explain: It’s a known trade secret that a single manufacturing giant owns nearly all major sunglasses brands and thus can set prices at whatever they want — even if the product is cheaply made with nothing but plastic. (I’m fairly certain I learned this information in an economics class during the “capitalism” portion of the syllabus, but regardless, you can read more about it here.)
In short: Most pairs of pricey sunglasses you see have been drastically marked up, since sunglasses are generally inexpensive to manufacture. (Yes, in case you’re wondering — this manufacturer certainly makes a massive profit from this practice, which has somehow been okayed by the FTC.) So while this may not technically be illegal, I always look at pricey sunglasses with skepticism now — and typically choose to spend my money elsewhere, so as not to get ripped off. They’re almost always made of flimsy plastic rather than quality materials anyway.
Additionally, the reality is — at least, if you’re me — sunglasses are easy to misplace, accidentally sit on, or lose in the ocean. (Unfortunately, I’ve been guilty of all three. Especially when I was in college.) Why overspend for something that won’t last forever?
All this to say: Affordable sunnies are the way to go, summer or not. And you certainly don’t need to pay a fortune for on-trend, quality shades. Below, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite under-$100 sunnies that definitely won’t feel like a ripoff.
If you’re looking for trendy, affordable sunnies for every mood, look no further than prolific sunglasses brand Le Specs. This pair taps into the ‘90s mini-sunglasses trend celebs have brought back from the dead, at a fraction of the cost of what the Hadids and Kardashians surely paid for theirs.
Contrary to what its name might imply, Crap Eyewear actually makes high-quality, trendy sunglasses for prices that won’t set you back. This pair features on-trend olive lenses and acetate frames, because it’s always good to go beyond all-black sunnies (something that I’m still working on).
Madewell Recycled Keyhole Sunglasses, $29.99 (Orig. $55)
Madewell did everything right with these sunglasses. Not only is the keyhole design sleek and stylish, but the frame is also made from 100% recycled material as part of the brand’s new sustainability push. (Compare that to the cheap plastic sunglasses that sell for five times the cost.)
Prefer polarized lenses? Sunski has you covered with a pair that’s chic, affordable (at only $58) and designed to mega-protect your eyes from those pesky UVA and UVB rays.
You can’t go wrong with a retro aviator shape. These Free People sunnies — only $25! — have a chic, statement-making brow bar.
In the collaboration of our ‘90s fever dreams, Playboy and Pacsun banded together to bring us a collection of trendy, retro-inspired sunglasses. This lime green pair is perfect for throwing in your purse for summer adventures and pool parties (that aren’t hosted by H*gh H*fner).
Online shopping for sunglasses can be tricky for all the same reasons that online shopping for anything can be tricky: It’s always nice to be able to try something on before you buy. Luckily, these round shades are universally flattering for every face shape — just read the thousands of five-star reviews if you don’t believe me.
MVMT Icon Sunglasses, $52.50 (Orig. $75)
Jewelry giant MVMT isn’t just known for its baubles and watches — the brand also makes ultra-elevated and luxe-feeling eyewear. Just take this round, durable pair featuring rose-gold hardware and coordinating pink lenses. (They’re also reflective, in case you like avoiding eye contact whilst in sunnies, too.)
Meet the ultimate cool-girl sunnies. With a sleek, modern twist on the classic aviator shape, this pair of Lyndon Leone frames features a chic, pink quartz and gold frame.
A cat-eye shape with a leopard-print frame? It’s safe to say we’ve officially found the purr-fect pair of sunnies — and they’re only $16.
If you enjoyed this article, check out our top picks for this season’s most nostalgic shoe trend — platforms!
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