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Gear Review: Costa Cheeca and Wingman Sunglasses (For Ladies!)

by Lauren Holt Matthews

Costa Del Mar's Cheeca, new for 2010
A friend of mine and I were recently enjoying a beer at our local bar, chatting about being women in a sport so thoroughly dominated by men. We talked about how we got into the sport, shared a few fish stories, considered the different mechanics of casting as a woman, and compared the different dynamics we encounter in our local shops and when we meet other anglers on the river. “Of course, it's damn near impossible to tell we're not one of the guys until you get within 50 feet of us or we talk,” she said, at once bemused and frustrated.

We spent the rest of the night hashing out what we'd do with the hard and soft goods side of the industry - much like this thread - to make fishing more comfortable and more personalized for women. You guys have numbers and their buying power on your side; you get the benefit of fit and comfort in your gear in return.

My friend and I ran through the usual suspects: waders, shirts, sunglasses, and other pieces of technical gear that, even when ostensibly designed for women, just end up being slightly scaled down and often pastel-ed versions of the gear designed for the boys. We concluded that in reality, it would be pretty easy to make us happy. Designers simply need to focus on truly cutting gear for women. Leave the pastels at home, by and large, and make us gear like they make it for the guys: technical, tough, well-fitting, and not pink or purple.

In reality, of course, it's not always profitable for companies to design entire lines of gear for women. We understand this. Sometimes, though, pieces of gear can find themselves positioned in the unisex sweet spot. I've recently been fishing two different pairs of Costa Del Mar sunglasses that manage to accomplish just that: Costa's Cheeca and Wingman models.

Costa Del Mar's Wingman
Close your eyes and imagine a pair of sunglasses designed specifically for fishing. Did you imagine plastic wraparounds? An interchangeable shield style? Sharp-edged wireframes? These nearly ubiquitous shapes work really well; they're everywhere for a reason. I love my technical sunglasses and like to wear them off-river too, but, frankly, those typical styles are too full of testosterone for me to want to wear them much around town.

Enter Costa’s Cheeca and Wingman.

The Cheeca capitalizes on the current trend in oversized sunglasses for women. A quick flip through the latest InStyle or Vogue demonstrates this; if you don’t regularly peruse such publications - and let’s be real, you probably don’t - check out these by Ralph Lauren, Derek Lam, or Fendi and you’ll see what I mean. And you’d have to live under a rock in a tundra somewhere to have missed the resurgence of aviators. Costa’s Wingman translates the aviator to the river or the surf.

But anyone can design a fashionable pair of sunglasses or other piece of gear if fashion is the only criterion. But my friend and I were looking for form and function, not form alone. And not surprisingly, neither the Cheeca nor the Wingman disappoint on technical functionality. Both pairs of glasses really perform on the water. I’ve fished both in the salt and on freshwater. The 580 glass lenses in my Cheecas are gray; my Wingmans have copper 580 lenses. They cut glare like a charm both on freshwater and in the salt. The Cheeca’s oversized, close-fitting frame has the added benefit of physically blocking out a lot of sun, and the gray lenses sharply render true-to-life colors. The copper 580s in my Wingmans give a warmer picture of things, but not unnaturally so. And surprisingly little light gets behind them, in spite of their seemingly open stylings.

I’m in no way claiming these models exclusively for women anglers. They look just as good on men as women. (In fact, “my” Wingmans are actually “our” Wingmans. I pilfered them from Zach and haven’t willingly given them up since.) But Costa deserves some credit for finding a way to make fishing eyewear that looks stylish on and off the water, whether on a man or a woman.

While my friend and I aren’t holding our breath for full lines of gear for women anglers, Costa has taken us a little bit closer.

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