The hardest thing about sunglasses is adding *function.* Form is everything; after all, for most people shades are nothing more than a style choice. Moreover, the polarized market has already reached stability at the high end with Costa’s 580 technology and Smith’s ChromaPOP–while there are undoubtedly better quality polarizing filters on the market, it’s very questionable whether anyone would pay an additional 50% or even 100% for what is sure to be a very minor diminishing return.
What, then, can a sunglass company do to add function? The frames; it’s all about the frames. Over time I have worn a lot of sunglasses. I’ve noticed some things. Those shades with lots of soft rubber that tends to make them most comfortable and face-sticky? That rubber tends to come off. I think sweat dissolves the glue. Similarly, shades with comfort-promoting spring-loaded hinges seem to have a higher failure rate than those with a simple plastic dovetail.
The Playa addresses both those issues and throws in a nice added twist. As evidenced by the Coconut Fade model pictured above, Costa has gotten quite good at creative heat molding of different flavors of plastic. As far as I can tell that’s less of a paint job and more like high end pottery. Secondly, these frames have the ride-softening rubber, but only in small, discrete areas where the rubber pads can be deeply embedded in surrounding plastic housings, increasing the adhesive surface and presumably extending the pads’ life. Finally, these hinges are a complete redesign; still spring loaded, but with the springs themselves deeply sunk in the plastic, where they can take less abuse. Clearly a lot more than simple fashion design has gone into these frames; these are the work of an industrial designer.
Finally, Costa has begun adding pinholes to the rear of each of the stems, allowing you to mount their newest, ultra-light, wire glasses retainers. This is a nice improvement, since it can’t soak up sweat and won’t stick straight out behind your head like some kind of dune buggy CB radio array.
Great job, great shades, from a great company.
Rating: Five Stars out of Five
Purchase: From Costa ($189).