Ray-Ban sunglasses is one of, if not the most popular eyewear in the world, and it’s often associated with a timelessly fashionable look. Its Aviator sunglasses soared into popularity during World War II when General Douglas MacArthur was captured in a photograph wearing them while landing on a beach in the Philippines.
Ray-Ban has also appeared in movies and televisions with top Hollywood stars seen flaunting them such as James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause,” Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Tom Cruise in “Risky Business” and “Rain Man,” and many more.
Thanks to its celebrity status, Ray-Ban has become luxury eyewear which means it’s not for everyone. You can, however, still have the same stylish look if you opt for affordable Ray-Ban alternatives.
Check out the list below for the best pair of sunglasses that won’t burn your pocket.
Cheap Alternatives to Ray-Ban Aviators
Ray-Ban’s Aviator sunglasses are both iconic and classic. They have a long history behind their company, having developed special goggles for the U.S. military during World War 2. However, they are very expensive. Here are a few of the better Ray-Ban alternatives.
Good Vibrations Line
Source: Eye Buy Direct
For starters, we have the “Good Vibrations” line of aviator sunglasses. These glasses are available in solid black with black lenses, and in silver with gray lenses. You get the same classic look, but with a much lower cost. Ray-Ban Aviators can cost as much as $200, but the “Good Vibrations” will cost you about $40.
- Very low cost compared to the original.
- Available in two different styles.
- Well-designed cushioning system for both the nose pieces and the temples.
- Look almost identical to Ray-Bans. The average person will never know the difference.
- Anti-scratch lens coating helps to keep them looking chic.
- Glasses are very lightweight, coming in at 12 grams.
- These glasses convey a classic look that commands respect. These are the ones you wear when you mean business.
- Not particularly sturdy compared to the original.
- Lightweight design makes them more likely to come loose.
- These glasses are only available in one size which does not necessarily fit all.
- Not available with prescription lenses. A real letdown for those who want a stylish alternative to contact lenses.
Marshall’s “Military Aviator Sunglasses”
These glasses are a little different in that they do not mimic the Ray-Ban Aviators very well. They are made in the same basic style but are less likely to be mistaken for the original. However, they are still a great alternative that some people might even prefer.
These glasses have a look and feel that is similar to the Ray-Bans but is thicker and a little more square. The straight horizontal temples are a little unorthodox but are better for some people. This will have more to do with the shape of your head than with your personal stylistic preferences.
- Thick, durable construction helps these glasses to last longer.
- Straight temples will be preferred by some people. There is a slight inward curve to the temples that helps to offset the lack of ear grip.
- These glasses are incredibly cheap, costing only $25.
- Available in 7 different styles and colors, making it easy to customize for your style.
- Good thick tint protects your eyes from the sun.
- These glasses have wide, tall lenses that cover the entire field of view so that you don’t have to turn your head to see everything clearly.
- Inferior sunlight deflection compared to the Ray-Ban Aviators.
- Straight temples will be uncomfortable for some.
- Nose pad pieces are a little awkward and uncomfortable until you get used to them.
- Much more likely to fall off due to their straighter temple design. This is by far the biggest negative.
Cheap Alternatives to Ray-Ban Wayfarers
The Wayfarer is another style of sunglasses that are very popular, and which was originally produced by Ray-Ban in 1952. Like the classic cars of that decade, these glasses have sharpish fins on either side and an angled design that seems aerodynamic and sophisticated at the same time. There are some cheaper alternatives to the Ray-Ban Wayfarers, which normally sell for $150 to $170.
The Banana Republic Tortoise Wayfarers
Source: Banana Republic
While they may seem excessively cheap at only $16, these are some nice-looking glasses. Made exclusively for Banana Republic stores, these glasses give you that sophisticated and serious look in a bare-bones form. All the crucial design elements are there but stripped down to the basics. Of course, at such a low price you can’t expect anything special, but these glasses make a reasonable substitute.
- Very stylish and appealing.
- Faux tortoiseshell plastic looks convincing.
- A simple, sturdy design gives them decent durability.
- These glasses are so cheap that you don’t have to worry much about breaking them or losing them. If you leave these glasses behind in a restaurant, you probably don’t even need to worry about going back for them.
- The nose pads are just an extension of the frame, making it more difficult to break or damage them.
- -These glasses promise 100% UV protection, which is very nice when you consider their low cost.
- Unlikely to be mistaken for the real thing.
- Lenses have a very light tint. This isn’t a huge problem when you consider their high level of UV protection.
- Nose pads are not soft and somewhat uncomfortable. However, they become much more tolerable over time.
- The four screw heads in the upper corners (two on each side) are an eyesore that distracts from the overall appearance and looks very cheap.
- Wide temple pieces might not be comfortable for some people.
RAEN Optics Arlo Polarized Sunglasses
RAEN Optics did not produce the Arlos to be a direct copy of the Wayfarers, but you can definitely see the influence when you compare them to one another. Compared to the Banana Republic model, these glasses do a much better job of approximating the quality of the original with more or less the same look and design. They do not sweep upward in a graceful “V” shape like the Wayfarers, but other than that they are almost identical in structure. The average cost is about $50-$100.
- Very cheap for the level of quality that they deliver.
- Made from acetate like the originals, as opposed to plastic versions like the previous example.
- The straighter profile eliminates that “school teacher” look.
- Strong stainless steel hinges make these glasses much more difficult to break.
- Thinner, sleeker design as compared to the Wayfarers.
- Lenses offer 100% UV protection and a heavy tint.
- These lenses are more expensive than most substitutes. Some variations might cost as much as $135.
- These reproductions are distinctively different from the original, though the same style is retained.
- The transparent version exposes the wireframe core and is thus somewhat ugly.
- Like all Wayfarer-type glasses, these have no significant nose padding.
- These glasses are a little tight on most faces, but this will vary with the user.
Cheap Alternatives to Ray-Ban Clubmasters
The Ray-Ban Clubmasters, first produced in the 1980s, is based on the browline eyeglasses that were very popular in America in the 1950s and 1960s. As with all other expensive Ray-Ban glasses, cheaper versions and substitutes exist. This style is much more common for prescription eyeglasses.
Zenni Browline Glasses
Source: Zenni Optical
These glasses deliver the classic look of the Clubmasters at a fraction of the cost. Ray-Ban Clubmasters will cost you $150-$200, but these can be obtained for only $15.95. When you see these glasses, you cannot help but think of the stylish, upswept designs of many classic cars.
- Perfectly captures the classic browline style in an elegant and pleasing way.
- Perfect for those who enjoy a “retro” look.
- Custom Engraving is available as an option for these glasses, for those who want to stand out.
- These glasses can be used with any lenses that range between -20.00 and +12.00.
- Very easy to customize for various sizes and preferences, and thus cheaper to customize as well.
- Not available as sunglasses. These are strictly for prescription use.
- The angled eyebrow-like shape may create an angry and hostile impression.
- Temples do not curve enough, reducing retention.
- The thick frame might feel constricting for those who are accustomed to standard eyeglasses.
- The bottom part of the lens frame is much weaker and thinner, creating a sleek contrast at the expense of durability.
- Change of materials in the middle of the frame could create a weak point.
SWG Dirk Clubmasters
This impressive pair of glasses does a good job of capturing that classic vintage look while avoiding the “nerd” stereotype that some people associate with horn-rimmed glasses such as these.
- Available in two different styles, one with a straight top profile and one with a slight “V” shape along the top edge. Lenses are also available in black, grey, blue and red lenses.
- Relatively inexpensive at $30 a pair.
- Lenses absorb 99% of all UVA and UVB light, providing maximum eye protection.
- A durable frame is made from plastic reinforced with metal for good support.
- Polarized lenses grab the eye and make a statement with their shine and flash.
- The unapologetically retro look doesn’t fit with everyone’s style.
- These glasses are slightly heavier than most, resulting in a little more nose wear.
- The plastic frame is inferior to acetate even with the steel core.
- Not available as eyeglasses.
- Many people do not like sunglasses that look more like stereotypical eyeglasses.