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The Story Behind My Odd Looking, Super Long Lasting Travel Sunglasses

These sunglasses have become a part of me, but all good things must someday end. On to the next iteration of Faded Days.

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Once upon a time sunglasses were a struggle: I’d break them, the hinges would loosen, the lenses would fall out, and, almost invariably, they’d get lost. This was a problem for me, as sunglasses fall into the category of essential travel gear — especially as most travelers tend to gravitate to the great sun belt that girdles our globe.

For many years my strategy was to just stock up on quality aviators and hope I didn’t run out before I could pick up another batch — which was, I have to say, not very optimal. Then I received an email from Ben, the founder and owner of Faded Days Sunglasses at the end of 2015. He invited me to head over to his shop and pick myself out a couple of pairs to try. I went with a funky pair of Polarized Tortoise Club sunglasses, and for the next three years I wore them literally every single day.

Read my review here.

Faded Days sunglasses

The pair that lasted three years.

That’s right, I had a pair of sunglasses last for three years. I wore these things up and down the New Silk Road doing research for my new book — all through Southeast Asia, all over Europe, and on the steppes of Central Asia. They held together through it all. Impressive. Seriously, this was the first time in my 20 year travel career that I had a pair of sunglasses last anywhere near this long.

However, after three years of constant wear even the highest quality sunglasses are going to start showing signs of breaking down. The plastic on the frames eventually cracked, and while they were still wearable they were getting to the point that I was going to have to put them down. So I wrote to Ben: “Hey, man, you know those sunglasses that you sent me three years ago, yeah, well, they’re about ready to bite the dust and I’m just wondering if you could …”

He sent another pair:

Faded Days sunglasses

The new pair.

Although this time I went for the Polarized Motowns, which still had that tortoise pattern that I have to admit has become a part of my … my look, I guess.

You know, when you have kind of a, let’s say, “off style,” the things that you wear kind of become a part of people’s concept of your character. I can’t say that I ever really tried to adhere to any given style, but the belt buckle, the hats, the leather jackets, the big boots, and the sunglasses kind of did that for me. I suppose at this point this get-up has kind of branded me — for better or worse, I’m still not sure which. I’ve been on major TV programs, photographed in big online and print publications looking like … well .. looking like me. So when my trusty sunglasses began biting the dust I knew I had to stay the course: I went back to Faded Days and got another pair that I imagine could last for another three years.

Faded Days is kind of a disruptive company. They were founded by Ben — a British guy who moved to the beaches of Florida — who kept breaking and losing his sunglasses (sounds familiar) and wanted to find a new solution which meshed high quality, fashionable looks, and a cheap price. At that time this combination simply didn’t exist: you could either drop hundreds for Ray-Bans or Oakleys or $20 for gas station crappies. So Ben started making sunglasses himself in his bedroom. People thought they were cool. He started making them for other people. That’s how the story goes.

The most expensive pairs of sunglasses that Faded Days has — the ones that I wear — are only $70. That’s $70 for a pair of sunglasses that can last through the rigors of travel for years. Not bad. The other pairs in their shop are in the $10 to $40 range and for $30 you can design your own pair — just in case you’re looking for something like this:

Randomly selected Faded Days sunglasses.

Randomly selected Faded Days custom sunglasses.

Basically, these sunglasses are good enough to wear and cheap enough not worry about breaking, losing, or simply taking them off and giving them away to the nearest admirer — as I imagine Ben probably does on a regular basis.

They also often have ridiculous — as in $5 a pair — sales advertised through their Facebook page, so there’s really no barrier to entry.

Faded Days sunglasses

The new Motowns and a Tsingdao.

My only problem with these new sunglasses is that I have a hard time seeing the screens of my cameras while wearing them. So when I’m out filming I often need to drop the glasses down to the end of my nose grandma style, get the shot, then move them back up to where they’re supposed to be.

I wonder if Ben could design me a pair that’s kind of like bifocals — clear on the bottom so that I can see my screens and dark on the tops to block the sun when I’m looking straight ahead. I’m not sure if this is possible … but, hey, Faded Days is known for designing sunglasses for people with unusual problems — such as these that they just made for people with fat heads:


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Filed under: Travel Gear

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3720 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

9 comments… add one

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  • Jack March 6, 2019, 12:23 pm

    Dude, you look like a dork but I’m going to go get me some of those anyway. $10? Why not?

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    • Wendy March 6, 2019, 1:51 pm

      Don’t be a jerk.

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  • Wendy March 6, 2019, 1:51 pm

    Look cool. Kind of interesting designs and price seems alright. Thanks for pointing this out. I never heard of this company before.

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    • Wade Shepard March 6, 2019, 2:06 pm

      I think their transparent lens glasses would be your style based on your comments …

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      • Wendy March 6, 2019, 2:07 pm

        Ha Ha.

  • Rob March 6, 2019, 3:16 pm

    I’ve started buying sunglasses in the Walmart fishing department, $4 a pair for the polarized dark glasses. I buy 8 pair at a time.
    Between the car (driving), the RV (driving) & my table in the RV (for out on the bicycle or walking) there is generally a pair right there when needed.

    We’re in southern Florida this winter & it’s been a good winter to be here!
    Florida takes more planning (everyone comes to Florida in the winter so reservations are a good thing but I have trouble planning a year ahead) or not minding having to hunt a place to stay. It also takes more money than the the Texas Gulf coast or the Arizona/Calif southern desert area.
    Our RV has solar, I have cheap sunglasses where they are needed and we’ve managed to find affordable places to stay down here where shorts, a tee shirt & flip-flops have been enough!
    Oh ya, I have internet so I can keep up with people’s blogs while I have coffee in the morning!

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    • Wade Shepard March 6, 2019, 6:15 pm

      That sounds like the life, man. Making me jealous. I used to do the stock up thing too … but an RV is a little bigger than a backpack and having multiple pairs at a time became a little cumbersome haha. Check out Faded Days — I believe they are having a $7 sale or something now. Would rather get them from some dude in Orlando designing glasses in his bedroom than Walmart … nothing against $4 sunglasses though 🙂

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  • Jack March 6, 2019, 4:11 pm

    I have the same problem you used to have with sunglasses. I’ll have to check them out.

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    • Wade Shepard March 6, 2019, 6:17 pm

      Cool! Then we can be twins …

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