Friday, September 2, 2011

Gear Review: Oakley Flak Jacket

I've had Oakley lust since I can remember. As an elementary school kid, I bought a pair of $10 Foakleys at a flea market because they looked almost exactly like the Oakley Twenty (which I believe went by a different name back then, but that name escapes me right now). Unfortunately, as you've probably guessed, while they looked like a genuine pair of Oakleys, they were not made like a genuine pair of Oakleys, and they broke within a few months. Come to think of it, they probably didn't offer very good sun protection either, but I digress. It wasn't until after undergrad that I finally bought a quality pair of sunglasses, and while my running partners at the time all sported either Zeal or Rudy Project, I was unable to resist the siren song of Oakley. The guy I was dating at that point had a pair of Oakley Flak Jackets, and after trying on his, I decided that the next pair of sunglasses I bought were going to be Flak Jackets.
Oakley Flak Jacket with XLJ lens
The Oakley Flak Jacket is a half-frame pair of sports sunglasses with interchangeable lenses. It is available in two models: the Flak Jacket and Flak Jacket XLJ. The XLJ uses a larger lens that provides more coverage for larger faces. Since the lenses are interchangeable, and XLJ lens can fit into the regular Flak Jacket frame, and vice versa. Lenses are available in a variety of tints with different levels of light transmission for different conditions. For the purpose of this review, I will be reviewing the regular Flak Jacket with black iridium lens, a neutral colored lens with 10% light transmission for bright days (simply because those are the lenses my sunglasses came with).

The Flak Jacket is a medium sized frame that fits a range of faces. It's not so small that it doesn't provide enough coverage, but it's also not so huge that you look like Paris Hilton. People with small faces may want to consider the Half Jacket, while people with very large faces may want to consider one of the larger Radars, or at the very least, opt for the Flak Jacket XLJ. However, everyone in between will probably fit the Flak Jacket just fine. I've found that the frame is a weird shape in that it does not stay on the top of my head, so if the sun goes away partway through a run, I'm stuck carrying them (I got stuck carrying them for 13 miles of a marathon, because no way was I tossing a $150 pair of sunglasses on the side of the road). This will vary from person to person depending on the shape of your head, but it may be something to look for if you hate carrying things while running. They do fit on my head backwards and upside down, so I guess that's an alternative if you really don't want to carry them if the sun goes away...but it looks kind of ridiculous, and I'm afraid they'll fall off and I won't notice.

Front view of Oakley Flak Jackets

The Flak Jacket, like most sports sunglasses, has a plastic frame. It's not the lightest frame in the world (they're actually the heaviest sunglasses that I own), but they have a nice, solid feel to them, and they're comfortable on my face. The coverage is very good, with only a little bit of light leakage at the very top of the frame. None on the sides though, and I'm not even using the XLJ. The Flak Jacket has rubber earsocks and a rubber nose piece that stay tacky even when wet that help to keep the sunglasses on your face. I get very little slippage with these sunglasses, which is nice. There are a few different size nose pieces to help customize the fit of the sunglasses. However, the earsocks are not adjustable, and any attempt to bend them will not change their shape.

Side view of Oakley Flak Jackets

The grey iridium lens is dark. It's fantastic for bright, sunny days, though if the sun goes away, it's not a lens you can get away with when it's not as bright out, nor is it the ideal lens for shaded trails. I am happy that this is the lens that came with the sunglasses, however. It's a neutral lens that allows you to see true colors, and I'm really not a fan of those weird colored lenses that make you think you're wearing BluBlockers (even though they are supposedly good for certain light conditions). The lens has a nice mirror-like finish to it, and the iridium coating reduces glare (though it will not work nearly as well as a polarized lens). Additionally, despite the curvature of the lens, there is very little of the distortion that is often present with cheaper sunglasses. I also have absolutely no problems with fogging, which is often a problem with cheaper sunglasses. They're supposed to be treated with something that prevents smudging, but my coating must have worn off, because mine smudge like crazy.

3/4 view of Oakley Flak Jackets

The durability on the Flak Jacket seems to be good. I've owned mine for about 2.5 years now and they haven't fallen apart on me, though to be fair, I've taken pretty good care of them, storing them in a hardshell case when not in use. I have had black something (paint?) flake off of the inside of my earpieces, but it's only on the inside and not noticeable when the sunglasses are on, and obviously does not affect the performance of the sunglasses in any way. The lenses do scratch, but these scratches don't make any difference in the function of the sunglasses, and really the only thing that happens is they don't look quite as pretty from the outside anymore, and again, this does not affect the performance of the sunglasses. (I can only see the scratches looking at the sunglasses from the's still a crystal clear view from the inside). Finally, the earpieces have gotten loose over time, and they tend to flop around when not in use. The screw holding them in is really small and recessed, and I don't have a screwdriver small enough to fix them. However, this is not an issue once the sunglasses are on your face, making all three of these issues relatively minor. Oakley claims that the lenses are impact resistant, though I have cheap sunglasses for mountain biking, and therefore I haven't tested these with any rocks to the face.

Action shot! Rocking the Flak Jackets at the 2009 Colfax Half-Marathon.

I really like these sunglasses. The only thing that makes it kind of hard for me to recommend them is the price tag ($150 for the base model, more for polarized and photochromic models). If you have the money to spend, are they a great pair of sunglasses? Absolutely. These are, by far, the best pair of sunglasses I own (though they are also the most expensive by about $80). Are they twice as good as a $75 pair of sunglasses, or three times as good as a pair of $50 sunglasses? Eh, probably not, especially if you're one of those people who tends to lose sunglasses. Your best bet is probably to look for these online and hope to find them cheaper. However, make absolutely certain that you buy from an authorized Oakley dealer. Fake Oakleys are not just something you buy off the streets in New York, and saving a couple bucks for POS sunglasses is not worth it.

The Oakley Flak Jacket and Flak Jacket XLJ retail for $150-220 depending on color, polarization, and whether they're photochromic, and can be found on the Oakley website. Lenses are also available online, and range in price from $55-145 depending on color, polarization, and whether they're photochromic. Replacement nose pieces and earsocks can be bought online for $13.

Full disclosure: Nothing to disclose, since I bought these. The opinions contained in this review are mine and based on my experience, and do not reflect the opinions of Oakley.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome review! Oakley's amazing! Thank you for sharing this.


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