Tifosi Wisp Mocha Sunglasses Review
Sunglasses seem so innocuous. They’re just supposed to be eye protection, allow me to see clearly when the sun is high and bright so I’m not squinting all the time and encouraging crow’s feet wrinkles at a young age. Who knew that sunglass could be so much more than that. I will never look through sunglasses the same way again! Get it, look through sunglasses?! Ok, ok, bad pun, but seriously, there are a lot of things to consider when purchasing a pair of sunglasses because you probably want the pair that will best meet most, if not all your needs, especially if you like to play outdoors. I put a pair of Tifosi Wisp Mocha sunglasses with brown polarized Fototec lenses (big scientific words I’ll get to in a minute) to the test and was pleasantly surprised with what I found. Just like the Little Blue Engine that could, they are the little sunglasses that could.
The Wisp is a smaller frame that is best suited for a woman’s face. And at only 22 grams, it’s also very light and comfortable to wear. The adjustable ear grips have a rubber coating that grips well, even when sweating profusely like I tend to do during the dog days of summer. The nose pads also have the same rubber coating and fit well for me that I never feel like I’m wearing the glasses; they don’t slip or jostle when I’m active, and they don’t leave those telltale indentations on the bridge of your nose either.
I put the glasses to the test for several weeks in a variety of situations, including running, biking, fishing, playing softball, driving, and casual wear around town, even at the lake and pool. Functionally, the glasses did everything they were supposed to: stayed put without me having to constantly adjust them; protected my eyes from the sun and glare, dust and dirt; and generally upped my coolness factor this summer around town. Like most glasses, the Wisp lenses protect 100% against UVA and UVB rays.
So how about the big scientific words I mentioned earlier…Polarized Fototec lenses. Here’s where I learned way more than I thought I ever needed to know about sunglasses. To me polarized is fairly standard, but so as not to exclude anyone, a polarized lens reduces glare, especially around water, making it easier to see without a lot of reflection on bright days and at the same time reducing eye strain and fatigue. Fototec is something new, so let’s discuss. Fototec is an offshoot of photochromic, which simply means that something darkens in the sun. Transition lenses that are popular in many prescription glasses are probably the most common and easily identifiable example. But if you’ve never had to wear prescription lenses, then let me tell you, you are in for a treat with Fototec lenses. Simply put, the Fototec lenses transition from less to more darkness based on the amount of ambient light outside. So in the early morning hours for all you early risers, the lenses are a lighter shade, but never clear, you still receive some of the “darkening” effect you would expect from sunglasses. As the sun rises higher in the sky and the light it emits becomes brighter (for all the science geeks out there – more UV which is what really causes the lenses to darken), the lenses automatically darken. It really is a cool effect and it happens so subtly that the wearer doesn’t even notice the lenses are darkening. According to Tifosi, Fototec polycarbonate lenses are “blended with microscopic photochromes that darken in color when in contact with UV rays.” The lenses darken in about 12 seconds and return to their original color in about two minutes.
Oops, I threw in another big scientific word – polycarbonate. This one is easy, the lenses are really hard to break. While I don’t suggest you take a hammer to your lenses to try this experiment, if you were to try and smash the lenses they would be more likely to flex rather than shatter. The lenses are also decentered to eliminate optical distortion and magnification in your peripheral vision. Long story short, it won’t make you feel nauseous or woozy or induce headaches. Not too shabby for a sweet little pair of sunglasses. Tifosi offers a variety of lens colors to suit your needs depending on the type of activity you plan to partake in. Tifosi also offers interchangeable lenses, however, the Wisp does not come with interchangeable lenses. One of the downsides to the Wisp is that because the lenses are not interchangeable I couldn’t ask my optometrist to swap out the factory lenses with prescription lenses. The advantage to having my optometrist perform this task is that I know that the correct prescription will be inserted and I could have my glasses within a week. However, Tifosi does offer prescription lenses in their glasses, but at your own risk you have to contact a dealer and transmit the prescription to the dealer. The upside is that you would still get to maintain the cool polarized Fototec lenses that Tifosi makes. Bummer that my state doesn’t have a Tifosi dealer, I’d have to go out of state if I really wanted prescription lenses. Thankfully, my prescription is pretty weak and I don’t need to wear glasses on a daily basis so I was able to get a lot of use out of the glasses while I tested them.
The three instances where I really appreciated the Fototec technology were driving, fishing, and playing softball. While driving the lenses lightened up, but provided the glare reducing feature, basically keeping my vision sharp while my eyes were on the road. As any fisherman knows, the fish bite early so getting up before dawn is not uncommon. And waiting for the fish to bite while the sun was rising over the horizon reduced my eye strain sitting out on the water, especially as the lenses gradually darkened to accommodate the brighter light. Finally, playing softball and looking into the sun to catch or hit a ball just don’t mix. The lenses again reduced the glare and allowed me to track the ball in the outfield, and as the sun set, the lenses lightened up while still providing glare reduction.
How about the fine print? The suggested retail price for the Wisp glasses is about $90, which is pretty comparable to most other popular manufacturers of sport sunglasses. A quick search for where to purchase the glasses turned up a local bike shops, running and triathlon specialty shops, golf shops and the big retailer REI. Details matter and I like the fact that you can purchase replacement parts, such as the nose guards and soft cleaning bag from the Tifosi website (www.tifosioptics.com). A warranty is offered on all sunglasses to the original owner for the life of the product with a few minor caveats including scratching of the lenses and normal wear and tear. So basically, the warranty covers manufacturing defects.
Finally, what the heck is Tifosi? You’re curious, right? The Tifosi tagline is “enthusiastic eyewear.” Tifosi is Italian and roughly translates to describe a group of supporters or fans, especially in sports…the super-fan, an enthusiast. Makes sense than that the company is an enthusiast about its product, and Tifosi seems to have gotten it right.