The Most Durable & Stylish Sunglasses I Own: The Randolph Engineering Aviator

Randolph Engineering Aviators

When I look for sunglasses I look for comfort and style, but not at the expense of durability.

Durability is very important if these are going to be your main pair of sunglasses.

You don't want them to crack a week after you buy them, so always make sure to buy high quality sunglasses.

When you think of high quality, durable sunglasses you think of one thing: military spec sunglasses.

But military spec doesn't mean you have to be in the military to wear them, military spec really just means high quality durability.

Military spec sunglasses are able to stand up to heavy daily use and they provide you with the best clarity and glare reduction available.

That's why I wear and love Randolph Engineering sunglasses. They're as durable as can be and they have a timeless style.

I've owned a pair of Randolph Engineering Aviator's for about a year now and I love them.

Before I get into my personal experience with Randolph Engineering's product, here's a quick fact sheet to give you a better idea of what goes into each pair of these sunglasses…

6 Quick Reasons Why I Initially Bought Randolph Engineering Sunglasses (Construction And Quality)

randolph engineering aviator review made in usa

Randolph Engineering didn't start out making eyewear, they started in 1972 as makers of tools and equipment used by other optical companies. 

By the late 1970s they became a subcontractor for the United States Air Force and started producing military spec aviators. They used their success in military contracting as a solid jump off point into the commercial market.

That's what initially got me interested in their sunglasses.

When I found out the 6 ways they maintain quality to this very day, that's when I decided to buy.

These are the 6 ways they ensure quality goes into every pair of sunglasses:

  1. 200+ step manufacturing process (mostly by hand)
  2. Made in the U.S.A
  3. Sourced US materials, when feasible
  4. Dedicated to providing great working conditions for employees
  5. Family run business
  6. Lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects

My Experience With Randolph Engineering

I've had a pair of Randolph Engineering Aviator sunglasses for about a year and a half and here's my experience with them.

randolph engineering aviator review angle

My particular glasses are the original military-spec Aviator model and feature:

  • 23K gold plating
  • Glass polarized lenses
  • Bayonet temples

randolph engineering aviator review 23k gold

The fit and finish on these glasses is excellent.

Unlike cheap gas station shades, my Randolph Engineering Aviator sunglasses don't have any gaps between the individual parts, sloppy solder joints, or wimpy hinges.

Everything just plain fits together nicely and you can tell that care went into their creation.

randolph engineering aviator review polarized glass

The polarized glass lenses are beautiful and really scratch resistant, but they do add significant weight.

randolph engineering aviator review frames

The hinges are quite beefy compared to many other brands. They operate smoothly and hold tension at any angle, which is especially useful when hooking them in your shirt collar when not in use.

randolph engineering aviator review hinge quality

When I got these in early spring, I wore them nearly everyday until fall, then just a couple times per week since then.

Even with more than 100 wears at the time I took the photos above, they still look like I just took them out of the box.

I haven't exactly abused these sunglasses, but I haven't babied them either. There have been a couple accidental drops and a few times I've lightly sat on them before realizing at the last second.

Still, the lenses are virtually scratch-free and the frames are shiny and true. The only visible defects are a few small paint chips on the various lettering inside the frame and the Randolph logo on the left lens.

Comfort And Performance Of Randolph Engineering Sunglasses

randolph engineering aviator review summer style

Due to the robust construction and stout materials, namely the polarized glass lenses, these sunglasses feel a little heavy if you're used to lighter weight shades.

I'm not saying that they're uncomfortable or unbearable, but they're hefty in the way work boots are heavy compared to running shoes.

Note: This weight issue only applies to the glass lenses. There are alternative lens materials available including a new lightweight collection that will solve this problem.

Other than the excess weight, these sunglasses are really comfortable and they have great clarity and glare reduction, which is a really interesting feature if you've never experienced it.

For example, if I'm looking at a parked car down the street but can't see inside because of the glare on the windshield, I can put on my Randolph Engineering glasses and the glare disappears, allowing me to see through the windshield.

One downside to the glass lenses is that they create a weird 3D effect on metal surfaces. When wearing these glasses, drain covers and metal staircases have an almost holographic look.

I'm sure I looked a little funny while wearing them at first because this visual effect made me hesitant to step on any metal surfaces, but I got used to it really quick.

How To Wear Randolph Engineering Sunglasses With Style

randolph engineering aviator review casual style

As far as styling goes, these shades are a true classic.

They aren't too trendy, but they don't look at all dated. That means that they go with everything.

I avoid wearing them to places like the beach because I really don't want them to get destroyed or lost. But other than that, I've worn them with shorts and a t-shirt, wool trousers and a silk sweater, and a full suit and tie.

Also, I wear them almost as much durning the winter as I do in the summer since they cut down the glare from snow and ice significantly.

Basically, they complete any look most guys are likely to wear during any season.

Buying Randolph Engineering Aviator Sunglasses (the exact ones I have)

While this specific Aviator model doesn't have the teardrop shape that comes to mind when thinking of pilot glasses, it's their flagship product and has been a standard military issue since 1982.

randolph engineering aviator AF51611_2

Buy Randolph Engineering Aviator here on Amazon

Final thoughts On Randolph Engineering

randolph engineering aviator review

What I Like About Randolph Engineering Aviator

  • Kick ass styling
  • Bulletproof construction
  • Made in the U.S.A
  • Military heritage

What I Dislike About Randolph Engineering Aviator

  • They feel a little heavy with the glass lenses (other materials available)
  • I get a weird 3D effect on metal surfaces (i.e., drain covers, diamond plate stairs)

With all factors considered, I'm very happy with my Randolph Engineering Aviators. I like them so much that I wore them almost exclusively for an entire summer. I think you'll like them too.

All the best,


PS – Don't forget to grab your Randolph Engineering Aviators here.


You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    August 24, 2016 at 10:36 am

    A note on functionality; inadequate UV protection can result in blindness in later life.

    Everyone focuses on style in sunglasses, but they are there to perform a protective function. Randolph, Oakley, and Ray Bans are all great because they have real engineering to provide that protection as opposed to a thin spray on coat that wears away and can actually worsen eye damage (wider pupils because of the tint, combined with letting all of the UV rays in).

    Honestly, I only started spending real money on sunglasses once I realized that even many expensive brands are basically ornamental and about as safe as a tanning bed. Quality means quality, not just style.

  • Reply
    August 24, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Hey Nate,

    I own a pair of American Optical aviators. They’re also military spec and much cheaper. And they seem to be identical to Randolph’s. Any reason why you prefer Randolph?

    • Reply
      August 24, 2016 at 4:22 pm

      Not Nate but I had a previous pair of AO aviators. One thing that’s an upgrade is the nose pieces. With my AOs when I sweated they would get slick and the frames would slide down. Randolphs the material gets tackier and they stay in place.

      • Reply
        August 25, 2016 at 5:54 am

        Thanks for the input Jason. Even with the heavier glass lenses on my Aviators there is no slippage and they remain comfortable all day even in the heat and humidity. Maybe I’ll pick up a pair from AO for comparison.

    • Reply
      August 25, 2016 at 5:52 am

      I don’t have a real preference of one over the other, I’ve just never owned anything from American Optical. But now that you’ve brought them to my attention, I have my eye on their General sunglass. Thanks!

  • Reply
    August 24, 2016 at 2:48 pm

    Hiya. The preferential glare reduction from reflected surfaces (snow, water, glass, underside of clouds) and that weird 3d effect you sometimes get in certain situations are both properties of the polarized-ness of the lens, not the glass-ness. This also happens when you put polarized lenses of any material behind a curved visor, which is why it is a REALLY bad idea to use pol lenses under a motorcycle helmet – they wickedly screw with depth perception.

    That aside, good review. The Randolph stuff is excellent, no question.

    • Reply
      August 25, 2016 at 5:56 am

      This is the first pair of glass lens sunglasses I’ve owned and the ones with the most pronounced 3D effect so I was attributing it to that. Thanks for the clarification.

    • Reply
      August 26, 2016 at 12:13 pm

      Good point! I had that effect when I was riding – the curved visor always looked ‘weird’ but I did not attribute it to the polarized lenses at the time. The best place for polarized lenses, imho, is on the water – there is nothing better to get rid of all that glare bouncing off the surface – that’s where polarization really shines!

  • Reply
    August 26, 2016 at 12:10 pm


    These shades look great, but I have an unusual comment regarding ‘aviator glasses’ in general – if you actually go flying, you really want to get non-polarized lenses, although polarized lenses do a great job. The reason for this is that a lot of aircraft use ‘glass panels’ – primary flight displays are digital monitors – and when you wear polarized glasses they become a solid black due to their crystals being oriented at a different angle from the orientation of the polarizing element of the lens glass. Tilt your head and the gauges reappear! ))) I found this out the hard way – once I got into the cockpit – that’s when I went out and bought a pair of Ray Ban Aviators with regular lenses just for flying. Never heard about this company, but they do sound great and their product looks top-notch! Keep up the good work.

  • Reply
    Jake Ryan
    September 17, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    I am a huge fan of anything Randolph as well. I have the matte chrome 55mm aviator. I’ve been wearing them for almost two years consistently and they have stood up to everyday wear. Loved this review!

  • Reply
    February 4, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    I’ve owned a number of sunglasses including Randolph and American optical. People say they’re the same design, as in identical (both the same milspec) but they’re subtly different and dependent on face shape, can make a huge difference.

    Basically put, the RE’s have more of a curve than the AO’s which results in a narrower apparent fit across the face.

    As a result, I can wear 55mm RE’s, but 55mm AO’s appear much too wide on my face, and I downsize to 52mm.

    That said, it’s not an issue for everyone.

    On the polarization thing, think of polarization as a picket fence that only lets vertical waves of light in. When light is reflected, it scatters in all orientations, and polarised sunglasses block this “glare”.

    Because the orientation of flight instruments polarization is different than the sunglasses, the orientation of the light coming from the instruments can’t pass the sunglasses.

    If you have 2 pairs of polarized sunglasses, hold one pair in front of the other, and turn the front pair through 180 degrees. At one point it’ll turn completely black and no light will pass thru. Sane thing as flight instruments.


  • Reply
    July 31, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    Nate, what is the size of your sunglasses, 55 or 52mm?

  • Leave a Reply

    About Me

    Casual Style 101

    Free style guide