Should you pay through the nose for designer sunglasses? Are they any better than discount store sunglasses or even Matrix sunglasses? In a word…no. Generally speaking, sunglasses that cost hundreds of dollars – like some Prada, Bulgari, Revo, and Ray Ban models – are not much better than their less expensive brethren, if at all.
Why is this the case? Well, there are 3 primary reasons.
1. A Single Manufacturer Dominates the Market
The first reason is that most designer sunglasses are actually made by the same company! Ray Ban, Oakley, Bulgari, Dolce & Gabbana, Salvatore Ferragamo, Burberry, Chanel, Polo Ralph Lauren, Paul Smith, Stella McCartney, Tiffany, Versace, Vogue, Persol, Miu Miu, Tory Burch, Donna Karan, and even Prada sunglasses are all made by Italian manufacturer Luxottica (NYSE: LUX) — one of the largest companies you’ve undoubtedly never heard of. Luxottica also owns retail distributors such as LensCrafters, Pearle Vision and Sunglass Hut. Talk about market domination!
2. You’re Paying for the Brand, not the Quality
The second reason is that the markup on designer sunglasses is through the roof. A significant portion of what you pay for isn’t the quality of the lenses, it’s the brand. Luxottica earns more than a 50% profit margin on its designer sunglasses, and that percentage factors in all the manufacturing, distribution, marketing, sales, advertising, and overhead costs. Wow, sign me up!
3. Designer Sunglasses Offer No Greater Protection
Third, designer sunglasses do not offer better UV protection than their less expensive counterparts. According to Dr. Jay Duker, the chair of ophthalmology at Tufts Medical Center: “$300 sunglasses don’t do anything better than $100 sunglasses, except maybe look better and have a brand name associated with them.”
For about $40, says Dr. Duker, you can get a pair of sunglasses that offers 100% protection against ultra-violet rays. If you spend maybe $70, you can get a pair with polarized lenses that reduce reflective light. Beyond that, the medical benefits tail off rapidly.