Last fall, professional cyclist Chris Froome was spotted rocking a pair of previously unseen Oakley sunglasses during the Vuelta a España, a 21-stage Grand Tour race that winds around the Iberian peninsula. The sleek, all-black shades bore Oakley's signature wraparound design but seemed to lack a frame entirely — and they included a unique extension of the one-piece lens over the bridge of the nose.
This past spring, Oakley finally revealed the mysterious shades, and with the help of none other than Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes: the Oakley Kato.
Now, a special edition of the innovative specs will be on display in Tokyo for the Olympics, beginning in earnest this weekend — and to your face if you so desire. That's right, the Oakley Kato with Prizm 24K lenses ($291) is available on Oakley's site and in select Oakley stores. These particular lenses are designed to enhance color and contrast, enabling you to see more detail — almost like you are upgrading your TV from standard def to HD, but in real life.
As you may have noticed, the Kato is strange, mask-like and completely frameless. Oakley figured out how to get rid of the extra plastic and instead put frame-mimicking points of rigidity right in the lens — notice how the lens gets thicker and flares outward at the forehead, like a frame. Oakley says that building the glasses this way brings the lens closer to the face.
The Kato's feature set doesn't stop with the frameless design either. It has a place for rubberized nose pads that is seemingly stuck right onto the back of the lens and comes with three different sizes. Plus, its sidearms rotate, changing the tilt of the glasses to accommodate variations in face shape while maintaining the close fit.
Alongside Mahomes, Oakley worked with Mark Cavendish, Nigel Sylvester and Joseph Newgarden to fine tune the Kato's fit. The fact that elite athletes will rock the unusual-looking shades in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics calls to mind the moment when sprinter Ato Boldon stepped onto the track at the 2000 Sydney Games wearing Oakley's wild OVERTHETOP sport glasses.
It seemed as though Boldon pulled his sunglasses out of a comic book, and it was hard for cycling fans not to comment on Froome's mask-like shades with references to Batman. They have the wrong superhero, though; while it makes no explicit mention of the character, Oakley seems to be referencing Kato, the Green Hornet's masked sidekick, who Bruce Lee famously played on the 1960s TV show.
Editor's Note: Anticipating that the masked-athlete look might be a little much, Oakley offers another version of the new sunglasses called the Kato X. Available at the same price ($291), this pair uses the same frameless molded lens design, but there's no expanded nose piece. Without it, the Kato X more closely resembles the performance eyewear Oakley has been making for decades.