Tested: Oakley Flight Jacket
I can't have nice things. Or rather, I can't have nice fragile things. There's a graveyard of broken laptops and shattered cell phones in my basement. I don't dare leave the house in a clean white shirt, and you don't dare let me eat my fast food on your leather seats. But nothing is more unsafe in my care than a pair of high-end sunglasses. If I'm lucky enough not to lose them, I'll scratch a lens or amputate an arm before they even make it to my first ride. I learned years ago to be content with gas-station-quality shades.
But the Oakley Flight Jackets have ruined that for me. More specifically, their Advancer mechanism ruined that for me. Attached to the otherwise- standard padded nose bridge is a hinged device that, when engaged, will lift the lenses about 5 millimeters away from your face to increase airflow. Primarily, this reduces fog when you're not going fast enough for the breeze to do it for you. But just as importantly, it reduces heat. The skin around our eye sockets is thin, and a lot of blood flows through it. If Earth weren't so damn sunny all day, our eye sockets would be a great place to radiate heat. Instead, we either trap it behind sunglasses and suffer, or we squint and develop unsightly crow's feet. The Advancer means not suffering from either, and the effect is not subtle. Maintaining shade without compromising ventilation offered some precious physical comfort on slow, hot rides. And all the while, the Flight Jackets flat-out refused to gather fog when the Advancer was advanced.
The shape of the Flight Jacket lens pairs brilliantly with the Advancer concept. The function-first ‘Blade’-style frame offers plenty of coverage, but there's no frame across the browline, and that section of the lens is extended a few millimeters above the rest of the glass. With no plastic rim above my eyeballs, I'm able to keep my head tilted down and my neck comfortable without compromising visibility. But the lens extension is the real genius. With the Advancer lever engaged, that tiny bit of extra real estate keeps the Flight Jackets from compromising much functional sun protection. Before getting spoiled by this $223 piece of plastic, I would often pull off my glasses on a hot sunny day for some relief. Now, all I do is reach up with my thumb and index finger, flip the lever, and turn on the A/C. The motion is easy to perform on the fly, and the mechanism itself isn’t at all visible from behind the Flight Jackets, let alone did it make me go cross-eyed like the Opti-Grab. Flipping it back is even simpler. Pressing the glasses back against my face snapped the Advancer closed again, and I was ready to rock.
When in their relaxed position the Flight Jackets offer seamless full-coverage. You don't see the frames. No tunnel vision, no letterbox. They feel like ‘gloggles.’ I've felt the same from other similar Oakley glasses, and more recently from 100%, but rarely with a lens of such moderate size. That's not to say they're subtle-looking enough to feel at home off the trail. Wearing them among regular folks, I feel like I should be playing beach volleyball or killing robots from the future or something. But it's worth it for the protection they offer. Not just sun protection, but debris protection. Every face is different, but I sensed no gap on my cheeks. My front tire can hurl as much of the trail as it wants up at my eyeballs. Nothing's getting in. And for different heads, Oakley includes two different temple lengths. I ran mine beneath my helmet straps, and never felt any interference.
What I haven't talked about yet is the optics. There are six lens shades available in the Flight Jacket, though its lenses are not swappable. I've used the moderately shaded Prizm Trail, the essentially crystal-clear (and $20-cheaper) Prizm Low Light and the Prizm Road shade you see here. Prizm Road never felt like too dark or too bright. The Prizm Trail was slightly better in spotty light, but I preferred the true colors of the Low Light version whenever I wasn't just after maximum sun protection. No matter which lens I used, the Flight Jacket always had that ‘gloggle’ sensation. I felt like I was behind a pane of clean glass that had no edge.
Unfortunately, that is slowly changing. These poor tired shades have borne the wrath of my carelessness. They've been left unprotected in pockets, dropped on the trail, and sat on more than once (thankfully, the arms are likely to safely break away before they break off). But I am also slowly changing along with them. We've been together for over six months, possibly a personal record. I don't want to lose them. I value them enough to carry their silky black bag with them at all times, travel with them in their hard case, and put them a close fourth behind keys, wallet and phone whenever leaving for a ride.