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The Return of the Bulked-Up Aviator

Acetate aviators were once the go-to glasses for leading men. Now a generation of designers is adapting them for serious drivers and serious dressers.


Photo: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

As the summer stretches out and your patience for getting dressed in the morning wanes, you’ll find yourself wanting a pair of sunglasses that goes with everything.  For our money, we’ll take the acetate aviator, a style of frame synonymous with old-school cool, done in a high-tech material perfect for wear and tear. But don’t just take our word for it: Justin Heit, the founder of the suddenly ubiquitous SoCal sunglass brand Raen, considers the style favored by Paul Newman and seventies Robert Redford (everyone’s favorite Redford) a masculine must: “The summer season was meant for aviators,” explains Heit. “They’re a simple, go-to frame that works with whatever attire you may throw at them, from a casual beach day to a date at dusk.” 

Thicker acetate frames don’t just make a statement. The material makes them a practical choice. "It’s much more flexible and durable than its alternatives and it also retains its color impeccably, because its hue is embedded in the material rather than sprayed on,” says Heit. In other words, you don’t have to worry about these aviators getting bent out of shape.

Here are our favorite acetate aviators on the market. They look great with a suit and better with a convertible.

Photo Courtesy of Raen

Raen hit the jackpot with its Castor frame, a classic and sleek aviator shape perfect for round faces. The acetate is derived from all-natural wood pulp and cotton and there are enough subtle color pairings for everyone. 

Photo Courtesy of Cutler and Gross

Cutler and Gross’s 0927 style in Black and Dark Turtle is retro-inspired and fits like a dream. Made mostly of acetate, they can be worn with anything and have lighter-tinged lenses for guys who don’t like feeling like their sunglasses have plunged them into darkness.



Photo Courtesy of Tom Ford

For those of you with narrower faces, Tom Ford’s Colin Round Aviators are the way to go. Made in Italy with a great acetate detail along the brow bar, they’re bold in execution without trying too hard. 

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