A while back I promised you more information on polarization, and so here it is. If you’re not that into science, feel free to hop around to the more fashion-minded posts, but if you do enjoy a little “how things work,” this post is for you.
To help you out, here are a few tips for the maintenance of your sunglasses so you can keep them in as good a shape as possible, for as long as possible.
How Polarized Lenses Work
Hopefully you remember what polarization is, but in case you forgot, here’s a little reminder. Light scatters all over the place, until it’s reflected from a flat surface. When this happens, the light tends to travel in a more uniform direction – typically horizontal. This may sound pretty cool (as most science is), but it’s really bad for our eyes. All that reflected light is more intense, causes glare, and makes it harder for us to see because of the reduced visibility.
Thanks to the people who invented polarized lenses (yes, there’s a post here on that too), this reflection doesn’t have to be such a problem. Regular sunglasses reduce the amount of light that comes in – both horizontally and vertically. In contrast, polarized lenses allow vertical light waves to come through while absorbing horizontal waves. When light comes in in only one direction like this, glare is greatly reduced, meaning you can see a whole lot better.
Now here’s where something extra cool comes into play: Brewster’s angle. You’ve probably never heard of it, but if you have, bear with me for a second here. Brewster’s angle is the angle of reflection at which light becomes completely polarized. And this angle is different for different surfaces: for water it’s 53 degrees, for glass it’s 56, and for plastic and other surfaces it varies.
Now this isn’t to say that you have to stand so that your glasses are at a 53 degree angle when you’re on a boat, but just be aware of the differences so you don’t freak out if you notice minute differences in the amount of glare reduction. Don’t forget the simple test to make sure your men’s wooden sunglasses have polarized lenses: hold your shades in front of a reflective surface, and rotate them to a 90-degree angle. If the reflective glare diminishes significantly, then your glasses are polarized. If it diminishes only slightly, fear not – it’s that Brewster’s angle at work.
Glare is everywhere, so it’s important to buy only men’s wooden sunglasses (or women’s) with polarized lenses. But if you’re any of the following, then polarized lenses are especially important for you:
- Boater or fisherman
- professional driver (I’m expanding this here to include Lyft and Uber and taxi drivers, too!)
Some Myths and Truths
When it comes to polarization, there are several myths about it, so here’s some myth busting to make sure you have your facts straight:
- The sun’s glare off of the ocean isn’t highly polarized: You should know this by now, but if you didn’t, after reading this post you sure will. Next time you’re on a boat in the ocean, try this: see if the sea water doesn’t look more transparent with your polarized glasses.
- When you’re at sea and the water is rather choppy, the polarization will vary a bit place by place. This is because different parts of the glare are reflected from different wave slopes, so the polarization can’t be uniform.
- Polarized glasses sometimes help with skiing and snowboarding. Think about it: when you’re skiing, you don’t want to block the light that reflects off of icy patches because this is how you know when you’re approaching a hazard. Snow sports are one area where it’s important to get sunglasses created for your sport.
- Do not – and I repeat – do not ever use 3-D polarized sunglasses for fishing. I’m not sure why you would have these anyway, but just because they’re polarized doesn’t mean they’re okay to use out on the water. These lenses will treat horizontal and vertical incoming light equally, plus you’ll probably get super dizzy. Leave those guys at home!
Keeping Your Eyes Healthy
So you now know the basics (and a bit more) about polarization. Take caution when looking for your women’s and men’s wooden sunglasses, as not all pairs are created equal. While you’re shopping around online, check out the brand new Origins line – I’m really loving the Smoke Bamboo ones lately. A cute frame, flat temple and bamboo frame make these shades a must-have, stylish addition to your wardrobe for end of winter (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere). Super classy, these shades come with a cork storage box, soft cloth case and cleaning cloth – everything you need to take care of your new shades!