The material world: Wraparound cool

The Eye Jacket is probably the most technically advanced product you are ever likely to put on the end of your nose. Should a madman bearing a 12-bore shotgun fire at you from 15 metres the lenses will be pitted, but not shattered

Melanie Rickey
Friday 14 July 1995 23:02 BST

The Oakley Eye Jacket may look like just another pair of sunglasses to you or me. But we are mistaken. They are the sunglasses for now, as worn by Andre Agassi, Madonna and Sylvester Stallone. Michael Jordan is rarely seen without his. Of course, the cool factor is high on the agenda for those people who "must have" a pair, but by the time they leave the shop, having parted with pounds 72 for the standard style, or pounds 106 for the Full Metal Jacket, they will be experts on refraction and safe in the knowledge that should a madman bearing a 12-bore shotgun fire at them from 15 metres the lenses of their Eye Jacket will be pitted, but not shattered. The Eye Jacket is probably the most technically advanced product you are ever likely to put on the end of your nose.

Appliance of science

We all know about the potential harm that UV light poses to our eyes and that reflective surfaces, such as the sea or ski slopes, make sporty types particularly vulnerable. All basic Oakley lenses protect the eye against harmful rays, but the Eye Jacket lenses also have an Iridium coating which offers an extra filter to protect the eye. In addition all the lenses are designed to improve optical clarity, reduce refraction and distortion. And to think some twenty and thirtysomethings are wearing them as glorified Alice bands.

Sun in his eyes

Oakley saw the light of day almost by accident. Jim Jannard, its founder, was a keen motorcross rider who found his standard goggles useless at stopping light entering from the side and distorting his vision. This was not an occasional problem, but a constant one. You see, he lived in Irvine, California, and had to travel every day to Los Angeles, on a road that goes from North to South. That meant a whole lot of sun in his eyes. So he invented a perfect semi-circular goggle, which minimised refraction, distortion and glare. They were so effective that soon his motorcross buddies wanted them, too, and, in 1985, the wraparound concept was born. Like all concepts, it had to have key words: Strength, Protection and Clarity. The

sports fraternity were the first to benefit, as Oakley created sunglasses designed to cope with different outdoor environments. They were soon appearing in fashion magazines, and then on the street. A Lifestyle range came next.

Put your name down now

Technicalities aside, the Eye Jacket has reached fashion nirvana. It is an object of desire such that there are waiting lists for them in opticians across the land. Angela Campbell, who owns three outlets in the Manchester area, believes they are the best shades of their type on the market. "Not only do they look good, they stay on the face, don't touch the lashes, and have the best lens quality around. We can't get enough of them." she says. Her Eye Jacket customers include Jason Orange from Take That, and the Manchester United player Paul Ince.

Fingerprint or snake effect, madam?

The Eye Jacket comes in two styles and ten colours. The Full Metal Jacket is completely encased in metal, and comes in shades of matt silver and black. The rest of the range, Cheetah, Fingerprint and Snake effects, are strange but fun, and matt black, ivory bronze, and gold are bestsellers. Trademarks such as "Unobtainium", "O Matter" and "Plutonite" all add to the mystique. The first is the type of rubber which coats the hammer arms, the second the "exclusive stress resistant material" from which the frames are forged, and Plutonite is the coating that stops the madman's bullet. And we thought they looked like simple plastic and rubber

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