Since Top Gun and innumerable movies before it, sunglasses seem to have played a role in the way the public perceives aviators. The ‘cool’ of the huge pearl shaped Ray Bans™ turned TC into a cheesy icon, ‘kept the sun out of his eyes and emphasized yet again the importance of that essential accessory, sunglasses, ‘Sunnies’ as Australians call them. RBs don’t do it for me.
I have always had an eye on the Randolph® product, in the late seventies they were the height of cool and have always seemed to me to be practical with their flat side-stems and Mil-Spec construction standards. The USAF liked them and so did I, they would slide under a helmet without puncturing silicon filled ear pieces that then soaked your neck with body temperature guck. I have always craved a pair, and now that they have their own Classical position in history, they appeared on my doorstep!
It was a very pleasant surprise for me when John White dropped me a line to ask if I would be interested in ‘doing a piece’ on the Randolphs, he sells them through his website and as I discovered, believes in them. ‘Sure, why not’ I said. To my delight he sends a pair across from the US, in fact I have them on my desk in front of me as I write.
My plan was to write a review post on a trip to Buenos Aires, although flown mostly in the dark, the flight’s arrival and departure on the return sector happen in the sunshine – an ideal opportunity to nail together some feedback from colleagues. In the event it didn’t turn out that well as the whole crew (four of us) used corrective lenses and the others were a little shy. A quick ‘Chicago’ provided the next opportunity. Enter ‘Ivan’, my first officer and the perfect candidate to provide feedback. He never wears sunglasses, “never has” – he doesn’t like wearing them, Dang! After some begging and simpering from me he finally agrees to give them a try.
Those who understand the mysteries of how the world works will know that when flying East at jet speeds the sun sets very rapidly. When going West you are chasing the sun down, so it sets very, very slowly. In the process of setting we all know that the sun comes towards the horizon before slipping into bed for the night. What a useful characteristic this was on this flight as it gave Ivan plenty of opportunity to benefit from the power of tinted, optically perfect glass – Randolph® glass.
Ivan and I chatted for hours, did all the usual pilot stuff, reading, writing etc, eventually we started down across Lake Mitchigan towards The Windy City and 27L at O’Hare. We turned onto the gate and after rolling to a halt, shut down. I looked across at Ivan who on completion of the shutdown checklist had started to pack away charts and prepare for our exit. “Do you think I could have the Randolphs back now please Ivan?” I said. He was still wearing them…
I could give you a bunch of words that describe the sunglasses but I won’t, I will direct you instead to John’s and Randolph’s own websites with the graphic links below for you to gather your own research. What I will say is this, Ivan never took them off and was actually very positive about them. When I asked about comfort he had found them to be excellent, in fact ceased to notice that he was wearing them, even as dark approached. They didn’t change his mind about wearing sunglasses generally of course as he… well, he doesn’t ‘do’ sunglasses.
I love them, of course I had to pay import duty on them even though they were gift. I will be taking them to my optician and having Nikon grey tinted vari-focal lenses fitted, the frames are superb, I don’t think I have ever come across a better made set of Sunnies, period. I will be using them until I retire and beyond – with the flat stems they fit comfortably under a particularly uncomfortable headset made by <redacted>. Bearing in mind we often wear headsets on ultra long-haul flights for up to six hours at a stretch, I think that is quite a tribute. Had I not liked them I assure you I would have popped them in the post back to the USA and not written a word.
If you fancy a pair of these for yourself, why not talk to John, he has a fine, informative blog, ‘All things Aviation’ that’s well worth a visit. I discovered across a few emails that he is a man of his word, we used to live within five miles of each other in the ’80s when he worked for Uncle Sam and I flew charter. What a small world this is.
Thanks again John.