‘Tis the season of new swimwear and sunglasses. It’s also the season of spending too much money on outdoor apparel. Get caught up in the designer label craze and the amount you spend to outfit yourself for the summer could rival your Christmas spending. Here’s a dirty little secret: you don’t have to spend a fortune on designer shades.

You do not have to spend a fortune on designer anything. However, this post focuses on sunglasses given their popularity right now. Designer sunglasses are hot, but not so hot that you have to spend a week’s pay on a new pair. You can get a good-looking pair with quality that matches the most expensive labels on the market – at a fraction of the cost.

Budget Sunglasses Look Good

Proving the point of this post is an article that recently appeared on the Inverse.com website. The Christina Wood article was essentially a brief review of budget sunglasses that are available online and at various retailers. Some of those sunglasses were from brands you would instantly recognize. Others were not.

Here’s what is most important: most people can’t tell the difference between the designer sunglasses featured in Wood’s article and the most expensive brands on the market. The fact is they look nearly identical. Any differences between them are subtle, at best. Take your typical wayfarers for example. You could put two pairs of wayfarers side-by-side and discover that the only noticeable difference between them is the name etched on the one arm.

So why does one pair cost $300 while the other is a more reasonable $50? It is really about the name. Luxottica can charge an arm and a leg for the latest pair of Oakley sunglasses because customers are willing to pay for the brand name. That’s fine, by the way. Consumers certainly have the right and privilege to buy the pair of sunglasses they choose. But if you don’t want to pay for the name, you don’t have to.

No Compromising on Quality

Start talking about budget sunglasses and some people immediately assume lower quality. Such assumptions are not based in fact, they are based in consumer perceptions that say cheap price equals low quality. Yet you can get less expensive sunglasses boasting high-quality craftsmanship without paying hundreds of dollars. You just have to know what to look for.

Olympic Eyewear, a Utah company that specializes in designer-style sunglasses at budget prices, says that looking at a few key things will tell you all you need to know about quality. Start with the hinges. You are looking for metal hinges that are tightly secured and properly aligned. If the hinges pass, move on to the lenses.

Lenses should be firmly seated in the frames without any freedom of movement. Lenses should also offer a minimum of UV 300 protection. UV 400 is even better. If the lenses pass, move on to the bridge/nose piece. This last item doesn’t apply to plastic frames with molded nose pieces, by the way.

As for those metal frames, nose pieces should be just as firmly affixed as the hinges. They should look and feel solid. Lastly, they should not be easy to bend. Otherwise, they may break off at the first adjustment.

There are plenty of fashionable designer shades out there that don’t require an arm and a leg to buy. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars if you don’t want to. In fact, saving a little money on sunglasses allows you to put more money into doing those things that summer is all about.