The first time I put on a pair of glacier glasses, I was a 12 year old living in Quebec and I’m pretty sure I had never seen a glacier. But I had seen the lead singer of Def Leppard wearing a pair and I really really wanted some – that and a “Frankie Says Relax” T-shirt. It wasn’t until I went on an especially sunny canoe trip along the Rideau Canal that I understood the value of having a decent pair of sunglasses with shields: a buddy of mine didn’t have any sunglasses and ended up getting a sunburn on his eyeballs – something I didn’t even know could happen! My eyes were fine, however, thanks to my stylish glacier glasses which, not only made me look like a rock star (or so I thought), but helped stop reflected UV rays from reaching my pupils either from the side or head on.
Sunglasses have come a long way since the 1980s but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that, for its 125th anniversary, France-based company Julbo relaunched its classic Vermont mountaineering glasses. Founded by Jules Baud, who originally made goggles for masons, Julbo is now a brand name synonymous with adventure eyewear and they’ve outfitted such legendary mountaineers as Yannick Lord and Eric Escoffier. Today, the company makes over 50 different styles of sunglasses, mostly using plastic and various polymers, and they all have a styling that I would consider distinctly “Euro.” But now they have the reintroduced Vermont which is a league onto its own. Here’s what the company has to say about it:
“Our traditional mountaineering glasses are a timeless piece, a signature of our mountain history. Rockstars, mountaineers and Julbo fans from all walks of life have sung their praise. To celebrate our 125th Anniversary and give our fans the sunglasses they’ve been requesting, we’ve brought back the Vermont Classics. This is our traditional mountaineering frame with round lens, a leather nose piece and leather side shields.”
I’m not a big steampunk fan so I can’t remember the last time I wore a piece of gear that incorporated chrome, leather, rubber and polycarbonate so needless to say I was excited to don the Julbo Vermonts and get outside.
Features of the Julbo Vermont Classic Sunglasses
Spectron 4 Polycarbonate lenses
Removable leather nose piece
Leather side shields
360°curved, rubberized temple bars
1 hard case
Since receiving the Julbo Vermont Classic sunglasses I’ve had a chance to wear them while mountain biking, rock climbing and backcountry skiing and they were definitely ideal for the latter activity. (The lenses were a bit too dark for the forested bike rides I was going on and the wrap-around coverage was more than I needed while climbing.) These were designed for mountaineering and glacier travel, though, so it makes sense they performed really well on snow. The first thing I noticed about the Vermonts was how everyone else noticed them. “Oh my God, where did you find those?” asked one of my skiing partners. “I haven’t seen those since I last skied Saudan Couloir, like 30 years ago.” These sunglasses are all about being seen. Sure they provide technical excellence in terms of lens craftsmanship but really, not many who wear these glasses will care that much. The Julbo Vermont Classics are like the high-waisted jeans of the sunglasses world – they’re inevitable comeback has arrived.
The second thing I noticed about the Vermonts was their weightlessness. Even after having them on my face for a full day, I didn’t suffer nose indentations or sore ears. That said, I didn’t enjoy total wrap around coverage either but that’s more the fault of my head than the sunglasses. Let me explain: my face is narrow and I have a really high nose bridge, which means it can be difficult to find a pair of glasses that fit well. The Vermonts sat high on my nose and there was a 1.5cm gap between the bottom of the lens and my cheek, which meant reflected light streamed in. Again, that’s no fault of the glasses though.
What most impressed me about the Julbo Vermont sunglasses were the lenses. Made from Spectron Polycarbonate, the lenses have a “flash finish” and “anti-reflective coating” according to the company literature, as well as a “5% visible light transmission rate.” That last number describes the amount of sunlight that will go through your lenses and into your eyes. (Zero percent is black as night while 100% is clear as day.) The Vermont’s 5% rating means they have fairly dark lenses, thus explaining why it’s not ideal for mountain biking in dark forests. (The company does not recommend them for driving.) What they are good for is bright conditions and it offers a protection index of 4, or high. All that jargon aside, the lenses offer excellent clarity.
Lastly, I have to applaud the curved, rubberized temple mounts that snuggly hooked behind my ears and ensured the glasses didn’t budge no matter what. In fact, my buddy borrowed them for a ski run, landed in a tree well and said they didn’t move a millimetre off his face. (They did however, get packed with snow and fogged up.)
Another minor thing I noticed about the Julbo Vermonts is that light shone through the air holes in the leather side shields, which took a bit getting used to. Also, the company says the side shields are removable but I wouldn’t recommend it – you’ll have to use needle-nose pliers to loosen the two screws at the top of the frame in order to slide out the shields but getting them back in requires the dexterity of a Swiss Cuckoo Clock make. (Incidentally, I was hoping those screws meant the glasses could flip up á la Dwayne Wayne from Different Strokes – does that date me? – but sadly they should only be used it you want to swap out the entire lens.
In conclusion, the Julbo Vermont Classic sunglasses are perfect for those who have $150 to spend on high-quality protective eyewear in the mountains or on the snow AND who want to make a fashion statement. They might also be good for aging rock stars looking to make a comeback.
Rating of the Julbo Vermont Classic Sunglasses – 7/10
Quality / Price 1/2
Stylish, lightweight and the curled, rubberized arms ensure they remain snug to your face. The lens quality and clarity is also excellent.
Light shines through the holes in the leather side shields; the two screws on top of the mount are mostly decorative; and the dark lenses are not suitable for driving or adventuring in darker environments such as forests.
Julbo Vermont Classic Sunglasses Specs
Includes 1 pair of sunglasses and one hard case