Oakley’s identity is hard to pin down. Depending on your hobbies, you might know it as a snowboard goggle brand, or a performance cycling sunglasses brand or even, thanks to a recent partnership with the NFL, the maker of helmet eye shields worn by pro football players. All of these views are correct. And now, with the launch of the Clifden, Oakley is aiming to plant its flag on another category: mountaineering.
The move makes sense. Sunglasses are a critical piece of gear for climbers as snow blindness — sunburn of the eye caused by UV exposure in snowy, high altitude areas — can be dangerous and debilitating. Oakley already has the production infrastructure to create top-notch performance eyewear for harsh uses and environments; all it needed to do was harness that in a mountaineering-oriented design.
The Clifdens, as a result, are distinctly Oakley but also rely on classic mountaineering sunglass design elements. The lenses, which feature the brand’s contrast-enhancing Prizm technology, are circular and goggle-like. A removable nose bridge piece and side shields further protect against rays of sunlight, and an integrated leash helps keep the glasses in place. The Clifdens also include a grippy nose pad made of Unobtainium — the same rubber Oakley used way back established its original identity as a maker of innovative BMX handlebar grips.
The new sunglasses are bug-eyed and goofy looking, which is ideal for walking on a glacier — and likely won’t stop inventive fashionistas from wearing them on city streets, either.
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