Randolph sunglasses are worn daily by celebrities like Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp, but are they really worth the hefty price tag? In this review, I test out two of their most popular models.
In 2022, Top Gun Maverick took the world by storm. Not only did the film smash box office records, it also had an almost immediate cultural impact.
Most noticeably, young twenty-something guys started sprouting furry caterpillars on their upper lips in imitation of hotshot “Rooster” Bradshaw. However, it takes a certain x-factor to rock a mustache well.
Ok, end of rant. The point is, yes, draw upon Top Gun for style inspiration. Just shave that sorry-looking soup-strainer, and get a quality pair of aviator sunglasses instead.
If you really want to look the part, consider buying sunglasses from Randolph, a brand trusted by the US military since 1978.
History of Randolph
Randolph Engineering’s sunglasses are made in the USA by skilled craftsmen.
Shortly after WWII, Jan Waszkiewicz and Stanley Zaleski immigrated to the United States from Poland and became fast friends as machinists in South Boston. Both worked hard to learn the ins and outs of the optical industry and to hone their engineering skills.
In 1973 they began building a revolutionary eyewear company from the ground up. Just five years later, they landed a contract with the military and they’ve been making shades for Uncle Sam ever since.
During Desert Storm, The US Department of Defense contracted Randolph to produce 200,000 optical inserts annually and quickly for the M17 chemical-biological mask. Not a single unit was returned due to Randolph’s high-quality control systems.
In more recent years, many celebrities have been seen sporting a pair of Randolphs.
Johnny Depp wears Randolph Aviator sunglasses daily, Tom Cruise also wears Randolphs regularly, as well as in several movies, and Jon Hamm’s Don Draper wore them in AMC’s Mad Men. (Check out this list for dozens more celebrities that have been spotted wearing Randolph shades).
When Randolph opened shop almost 50 years ago, eyewear manufacturers still dotted the Eastern Seaboard. Today, however, Randolph is one of the only brands that still manufacture their frames right here in America — the brand’s longevity is a testament to the quality of their products.
Tour of Factory
As part of my review of Randolph, I was lucky enough to get a tour of Randolph’s eyewear factory in Randolph, Massachusetts.
Tim Zaleski, an engineer and third-generation Randolph man, walked me through the process of making a pair of Randolph frames. I was told there are right around 200 steps that go into making each pair of sunglasses.
During my tour, Tim used a lot of complicated jargon. I asked a lot of questions, but it was still hard for me to completely follow the process. However, it was incredible to see the factory.
Tim showed me a large wall full of brass lens patterns — all the lens shapes they’ve ever produced were accounted for. Plastic blanks are sent to opticals.
I watched as metal components were soldered into place, some workers still using the original equipment designed and produced by Randolph’s founders.
I saw where lenses are created (they don’t make the glass in-house).
Huge tumblers filled with pellets (ceramic or crushed walnuts) smooth metal frames prior to the final finishing process. (Many frames are gold-plated. Gold plating is done by another company just down the road in Rhode Island).
Nearby, adjacent to shelves full of sunglasses ready to be shipped, are workstations for final assembly, quality control checks, and packaging.
My favorite part was seeing some prototypes for the military — special sunglasses inserts for gas masks (do our troops really wear gas masks enough that they need sunglasses in them?) and sunglasses made specifically for Apache helicopter pilots. I wasn’t allowed to take photographs at this stop of the tour.
Finally, I perused their front showroom, where Tim told me about their “Ranger” brand. Ranger is their brand for sports-specific frames.
He was especially excited to show me frames specifically designed and produced for competitive shooters. He listed off several Olympic athletes that use Ranger sunglasses.
As I mentioned before, according to Tim, there are 200+ steps to crafting a pair of Randolph sunglasses.
Their sunglasses are handcrafted from quality materials, and they go through a meticulous quality control check before being shipped.
I showed both of my pairs of Randolph aviators to an optometrist in my family, and he confirmed that they seem very well-made.
Since visiting the factory and getting my own Randolph shades, I’ve seen one other person wearing the brand while I was walking around town. From the quality and styling, the sunglasses were recognizable as Randolph, even from quite a distance away. As I got closer, I was almost 100% certain that I was correct.
However, unless people are looking out for the brand like I was, no one’s going to know that you’re wearing a pair of $250+ sunglasses. Personally, I’ve yet to have anyone comment on them. In my book, that’s a good thing — that means that they don’t stand out too much.
However, others might notice the quality, but even if they don’t, you sure will! Picking up my Randolph sunglasses somehow helps to elevate my day. Besides that, I feel good wearing them!
I considered ordering a pair of Randolph Aviators in Matte Black, but a friend convinced me that they might make me look a little bit too much like a cop.
Since I already get mistaken as a cop occasionally, I want to do what I can to avoid the awkward conversations caused by this kind of mistaken identity. (“Are you sure you’re not the guy who arrested me last year?”).
So, having ruled out Matte Black, I decided to go for the 23k White Gold Aviator frame with Glass Cobalt lenses, and I’m glad I did. These frames are stunning, especially when set with Cobalt Blue lenses. They really do look like jewelry.
For the Concordes, I finally opted for a 23k gold finish for a classic aviator look. These frames look pretty bold. (Having your eyes encircled by golden rims will do that).
These glasses feel solid. They are quite a bit heavier than all other pairs of glasses I’ve worn (and I’ve had specs since I was in the second grade).
They’re hefty, in large part, because Randolph uses real glass instead of plastic lenses. However, they’re not so heavy that they feel uncomfortable when worn for long periods of time — at least not that I’ve noticed.
However, I’ve heard others online mention that the weight of their Randolph sunglasses bothers them after wearing them for hours on end.
I like that the hinges feel really smooth and that the glasses stay in whatever position I put them in. For instance, when I’m indoors, I often fold up my shades and hang them on the placket of my shirt.
Other sunglasses I’ve owned have fallen off. My Randolphs simply stay put. I just have to be careful not to scratch them if I brush past something (such as when I squeeze through a hole in a fence to take a shortcut).
When I first placed my order to get samples from Randolph, I selected “American Grey” lenses for both frames. Then, after visiting their factory showroom and seeing their wares in person, I started gravitating towards their “Cobalt Blue” lenses.
Online, I thought the blue mirrored lenses looked a little too bold for my taste. Then, in person, I decided that they weren’t the intense “mirrors” like I initially thought. They’re not what I’d call “true mirrored sunglasses.”
Yes, they’re somewhat mirrored and may appear kind of intimidating to some, but they’re not “drill sergeant screaming at you two inches from your face” kind of intimidating.
I think the Cobalt Blue lenses are more versatile than some of the other blue lenses that Randolph offers. That said, they are somewhat bolder than more traditionally-colored lenses, but I still feel comfortable wearing these sunglasses in more formal situations, even while a suit.
The American Grey lenses on the Concorde aviators are classic. I don’t have too much to say about them except that they look cool.
Honestly, I don’t notice much difference when I switch between my sunglasses with grey and blue lenses. I thought maybe looking through Cobalt Blue lenses would make the world look kind of… well, cobalt blue.
If they do, I don’t really notice when I’m wearing them. Both pairs of shades cut down on glares and make the world easier to see when it’s sunny outside.
I like to think that I can tell the difference in the quality of my vision between premium glass lenses and cheap plastic lenses, but, again, it’s kind of hard to tell.
I’m not sure how much is just the placebo effect caused by my mind knowing when I’m wearing a pair of Randolph aviators worth almost $400 and when I’m wearing my $35 Huckberry Weekenders.
I can tell you one thing, I definitely feel pretty suave when wearing my Randolphs!
Despite what you might think, these titanium nose pads aren’t uncomfortable. I kind of like them, but to be honest, I don’t really think about them being metal unless I’m running with my Aviators on, and then occasionally I’ll hear the nose pads click.
Review Randolph Aviators
I really like my Randolph Aviators. Initially, I was a little bit concerned that they might not be comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.
First, off, the frames are made with quality materials, including real glass lenses in lieu of the kind of plastic lenses the vast majority of sunglasses use.
Second, I wasn’t so sure about the bayonet temples, as they looked like they might be uncomfortable. This temple style is made specifically so military personnel can more easily wear helmets and/or headphones with their shades on.
Finally, instead of soft plastic nosepieces, these frames have more durable titanium nosepieces.
I’m happy to report that despite my worries the Aviators fit my face well and are very comfortable to wear.
There’s also no problem with these frames staying on my face. I’ve gone running and hiking with these shades on without them slipping off my face.
I do have to say that three or four miles into a run when my face starts to get sweaty, they start to slip and sometimes bounce a little bit on my face. However, that’s not a big deal to me — every pair of sunglasses I’ve ever worn have done this.
I’ve also worn my Aviators on a trip to see salmon “run” upstream to their spawning place. While the fatigued fish were difficult to see underwater with the naked eye, with these polarized sunglasses on I could get a crystal-clear view. It was incredible to see the differences that quality polarized lenses make.
These days, Randolph Aviators are my go-to sunglasses.
Review Randolph Concordes
I also ordered Randolph Concordes in 23K gold with American Gray lenses.
The Concordes have a classic teardrop shape. They have clear rubber nose pads and temples that wrap around the ears.
These shades are just as comfortable as the Aviators, perhaps even more so. The wrap-around temples keep them snuggly on the face.
I’ve also gone running with these sunglasses on. Again, right around mile three to four, they start slipping down my nose and bouncing a little bit.
Like I said before about the Aviators, I never feel like they’re going to fall off, it just can be a little annoying. Besides running, even when jumping through windows my Concordes stay on my face (don’t ask).
To me, it seems like they wear a little bit larger on the face than the Aviators do.
A month or so back I stopped into a sunglasses store in an upscale mall. Out of curiosity, I asked if they sold “Randolph” sunglasses. The clerk hadn’t heard of the brand. I showed them my Randolph Aviators and was informed that they’re not “real” aviators.
The clerk went on to explain that since Luxottica holds the trademark name “aviators,” Luxottica-owned Ray-Ban aviators are the only classic tear-drop-shaped aviators that can be legally called “aviators.”
Further discussion revealed that other brands can call non-teardrop lens shapes “aviators.” That’s probably why Randolph Concordes aren’t named “Aviators” (because they are the classic tear-drop shape).
Another reason is that since Top Gun is having such a big moment culturally, for me, wearing the more classic teardrop style aviators can make me feel a little bit like I’m vying to be an extra in the next movie. (Especially if I’m wearing a bomber jacket and boots).
I think that this feeling will dissipate in a few months after the film has moved away from center stage.
Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about Randolph Engineering sunglasses:
Are Randolph Sunglasses Made in America?
Yes, Randolph Sunglasses are handmade in Randolph, Massachusetts.
Does Randolph Sunglasses Offer a Military Discount?
Yes! They offer a 20% discount to military personnel: “Active Duty, Retirees, Veterans, Military Spouses, Military Family Members, and First Responders.” Just verify your I.D. (or the I.D. of a military family member) to receive the discount at checkout!
Are Randolph Sunglasses Worth It?
Yes, for what you are getting I think that they are worth it.
Where Are Randolph Sunglasses Sold?
How Can I Tell if Randolph Sunglasses Are Real?
Real Randolph sunglasses will have a logo on the lens and on the frames. Also, I believe that once you’ve seen, held, and tried on a pair of Randolph sunglasses in a reputable shop you’ll be able to spot fakes in the future. The quality of Randolph frames and lenses is easy to spot once you’ve seen the real deal.
I’d recommend that you turn to Randolph for sunglasses that are extremely high-quality and made in America. I’d be surprised to find a better-made pair of aviators at any price point. I honestly think Randolph is likely the best in the business.
Yes, they’re expensive, but think of all the money you saved on mustache wax by following my advice 😉.
Normally when I’m writing a review I have at least two or three things to gripe about. I don’t really have any “cons” to report this time, it’s all “pros.”
While they cost significantly more than what I’d be used to paying for sunglasses, I think the high price tag is warranted in this case considering what you’re getting.
I’d recommend Randolph to anyone looking to splurge and get a pair of what just might be the best-made sunglasses on the market.
Questions? Comments? Leave them below!