Oakley Sutro are the sports sunglasses of 2019. Here's why ...
When Egan Bernal crossed the finish line to become the youngest person in 110 years to win the Tour de France, he did it wearing a pair of Oakley Sutro sunglasses.
Of course he could have been wearing any sunglasses. It’s not the eyewear that makes a Grand Tour winner, but his choice spoke volumes - about both the performance of these sunglasses and the way that in 2019, Oakley Sutro have become an across-the-board favourite, from the pro peloton to the club rider and the hipster fixie kid.
It is the latter that Oakley targeted in its marketing for these frames. Sports sunglasses, in particular those designed for cycling, have become a fashion staple and the Sutro were positioned towards urban cycling, a shield against the harmful side of city riding.
The fact they look so good while remaining totally functional has widened their appeal. Sutro have a retro whiff about them that harks back to the earlier frame shapes Oakley made its name with, such as the Eyeshades, another model to span sports and fashion spheres when it was released in 1984.
“They don’t even cost that much, I think that’s part of the appeal,” says Stuart Clapp, Desire Editor of Rouleur. He picked up on the appeal of Sutro when they were released earlier in the year, spotting them first on Instagram. When he saw them in an airport on the way to a training holiday in Mallorca, he bought a pair on the spot.
“Tiffany Cromwell was the first person I remember wearing them and straight away I though Oakley are going to smash it with these, they just look so good on the face.”
Stuart said he couldn’t believe the price. At around £130 retail, they compete well with similar sports eyewear brands such as Ride 100% but are up to half the price of some rivals. Look around and you will find a pair below £100.
Stuart bought two pairs - one with a black mirrored lens for sunny days and a low-light lens for when it is dull. “I’ve been a massive fan of the Prizm lens and although they are positioned as urban, they just work. They are bang on trend right now. And they are Oakley. Say what you like about them, but they make great sunglasses.
“We’ve used them in a couple of shoots now, each time my own pairs.”
This is a model of sunglasses that look so good that WorldTour cyclists chose them over their more task-specific brethren, that was developed for the urban landscape but has proven to be just as at home at the top of an alpine ascent. This, and the fact they tick all the boxes, from weight to price to styling, is why they are the Paperbike sunglasses of 2019.
Review: Oakley Sutro
It’s quite handy that sports eyewear has over the past few seasons been getting bigger, because it does wonders for its intended purpose.
When you’re riding along at 30+ kph, things tend to hit your face, especially down our way. Rain, wind, sand, the other day we had a swarm of flying ants. Riding through them was like having shingle thrown in your face, I never realised those little insects were so hard.
With the Oakley Sutro on, at least I didn’t need to worry about being able to see my way through. It reminded me of a competition I once entered to win a pair of Racing Jackets (the ones Geraint Thomas still insists on wearing), with the line: “When the shit hits your face, you’ll still have some eyes left.”
We can thank the lens technology for that - Oakey’s Plutonite lenses are bombproof, quite possibly literally. This is a tough polycarbonate which means there really isn’t much you can do to damage them, and most importantly, the Prizm light technology is built into the lens, which means there’s no coating to rub off.
Prizm, Oakley says, provides “unprecedented control of light transmission resulting in colours precisely tuned to maximise contrast and enhance visibility.” In other words, they make you see better in a range of light conditions.
Which light conditions does depend on the lens tint you go for. In the case of our test pair, this was black, and perfect for sunny days with bright sunshine. The Prizm lens puts an almost mauve tin on things and does an amazing job of adding clarity where you would otherwise get glare. You need this more than anything on the UK roads, where the surfaces are now in such a shocking state of disrepair that you need to call on every trick available to avoid potholes.
We’ve also taken these Sutro off-road, skirting freshly ploughed fields and ploughing through dust clouds on farm tracks. Even through woods the Sutro help bring roots and other obstacles into sharp relief as the sunlight streams in through the tree canopy, although a different lens variation might arguably be more suitable to deep woodland riding.
Another aspect that makes Sutro so appealing to cyclists is the weight. These might cover half your face but they weigh in at only 32 grams, which is remarkable. The nose pad is made of Oakley’s Unobtanium material which stays put even when you’re dripping with effort. This is a marked improvement on the Flight Jackets, which we found needed to be regularly pushed back on the temple.
When you take everything about the Sutro into account, it can be difficult to find anything to fault them. They look stunning on anyone and perform incredibly in any condition.
And considering these are Oakley, they will last aeons. Which brings us to possibly the only consideration. This is a style of the moment, a fusion of modern and retro, or “modtro” as Stuart Clapp called it. It’s a style that references the massive sunglasses of the Eighties, a look which is having a revival right now. Soon, though, other styles might be revived, and when something like the Matrix-esque E-Wire makes a reappearance, you might be facing a tough decision. Because the Sutro are almost guaranteed to have plenty of life left in them.
Summary: We’ve called them the sunglasses of the year for good reason. Oakley Sutro perform incredibly and look fantastic, and have been tested at the sharp end of professional cycling. Not bad for a model that was developed for urban riding. What’s more, at only 32g, there’s a good chance you’ll forget you’re even wearing them. The thing is, they’re so good and so on-point, will you want to put them away when they go out of style?