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As a young Marine, I spent my limited free time wandering around the beach villages of southern California. I was too cheap to pay for internet, TV, or furniture, so I didn’t have anything better to do than ride my motorcycle and explore new places until it was late enough to crash on the twin mattress laying on my apartment floor.
One evening, a store in Del Mar lured me in with a window full of sunglasses. They had the usual Oakleys, Ray-Bans, and the like, but something else caught my eye. One of the displays looked a little unfamiliar––in a good way. The salesperson told me the brand was Italian and the name meant “for the sun.” How appropriate. I tried on a pair, loved the look, and agreed to take them without even looking at the price tag (pro tip: don’t ever do that). A few seconds later, I paid more than $200 for the pair, too shocked to realize what was happening.
Walking out of the store with a twinge of buyer’s remorse, I slid the sunglasses on my face. At least they were comfortable. I pulled my motorcycle helmet over my head and looked into the blazing sunset before turning into traffic. Suddenly glare wasn’t an issue––that was a nice change. By the time I finished the short ride back to my empty apartment, I was totally happy with my purchase.
The theme of these sunglasses seems to be style that doesn’t try too hard. In keeping with that, the hard case is a simple black leather-clad clamshell with Persol stamped in one corner. The magnetic snap closes the lid with a satisfying thud. A branded cleaning cloth is also included, which I use to wrap the lenses for an extra layer of protection.
Persol uses a type of acetate derived from cotton flowers for frames, and high-end glass for lenses. The hinges are robust without being bulky. One feature I appreciated right away was the adjustable earpieces. A pair of metal inserts on each side allow earpieces to be bent into position to fit different head shapes without damaging them. After all, for this much money I expect a perfect fit.
Everything about these sunglasses, from the construction to the packaging, is practical. Think of this as an old-school approach to designer goods, when luxury meant reliability and useful features rather than fragility and attention-seeking flare. If you’re looking for a luxury brand that doesn’t have to be babied, these are the shades for you.
How we tested the Persol PO2803S sunglasses
In my eight or so years of ownership, these sunglasses have had a chance to strut their stuff in all kinds of situations. On the road, I’ve crammed them under many motorcycle helmets to keep my vision clear during, ahem, spirited canyon rides. They’ve kept the glare down for cross-country PCS road trips fueled by gas station coffee and energy drinks. They earned me street cred at secret car meets I honestly had no business being invited to.
During my time off, my Persol sunglasses have been peppered with windblown sand on California beaches and dusted with snow in the Sierra Nevadas. It’s always nice to enjoy the moment without a poorly-made hinge off a cheap pair of sunglasses falling apart right when you need them. During more than one outdoor wedding, I kept the sun out of my eyes with polarized lenses that look just as stylish as the rest of a formal outfit. No suit-and-tie affair has made these glasses seem out of place, and it’s pretty impressive to know that they’ve done all of these things so well.
Like a good dive watch, they look equally at home ordering a scotch at an upscale outdoor bar or riding the train through downtown Bogota, Colombia. These aren’t just the only sunglasses I travel with, they’re the only ones I need.
What we like about the Persol PO2803S sunglasses
These sunglasses have appeal whether you care about fashion or not. I certainly do not, as evidenced by my wardrobe made almost entirely of brewery T-shirts, but even I can appreciate what Persol builds.
One thing I never mind paying for is true craftsmanship. Whether it’s a pair of sunglasses or plumbing in my house, I respect someone who masters their trade and knows what it’s worth. I appreciate that these aren’t thrown together in some sweatshop or churned out by machines and then labeled as a designer item. Persol sunglasses are built by hand in Lauriano, Italy, where workers have taken pride in crafting premium eyewear since Italian fighter pilots first asked for eye protection in 1917. Every detail, from the iconic arrow-shaped hinge to the tiny name etched into the lenses and earpieces, shows that these sunglasses were built to last.
Style is subjective, but the Italians seem to have it pretty much figured out. From cars and cathedrals to luxury items and high fashion, they simply will not miss. I think these sunglasses are an example of that. The tortoise-shell frame––a color they call Havana––looks great in any setting. I’ve worn these to work, the beach, and weddings, and they never seem out of place. Dress them up or dress them down. Protect your eyes and look fantastic doing it.
Value, on the other hand, is a little easier to quantify. Would I condone spending thousands of dollars on some limited-edition pair of bedazzled frames? Hell no. By the same logic, I can’t really get on board with throwing money away on cheap sunglasses that fall apart after a month because that adds up quickly––ask me how I know. So far, these sunglasses from Persol have cost me about $25 a year. That’s an undeniable value.
What we don’t like about the Persol PO2803S sunglasses
There are two things that bug me. Neither is a deal-breaker, but I want to be open about my experience.
As we’ve already established, you get what you pay for with these sunglasses. They’re worth every penny, but that stack of pennies is a significant chunk of change. I can’t help wanting to be a little bit precious with them as a result. I’m somewhat careful about where I take them and obsessively wipe them clean every time I take them off. This says more about me being a miser than the sunglasses themselves, but I wouldn’t care so much if I didn’t spend so much on them. My advice? Don’t let the price tag bother you. Persol makes quality items that age well, so don’t be afraid to use them.
This is nit-picking, but I really dislike generic, alphanumeric names. PO2803S? Seriously? They couldn’t name these after a town in Italy, a historic fighter ace, or some kind of natural wonder? Loads of brands do this and it drives me crazy because it makes products harder to remember and––by extension––care about. Would you rather tell people you drive an AMG GLA 45 or a damn Viper? They’re both cool cars, but one has a name that sounds like an internet error code and one sounds like a predator that haunts the streets assassinating crossover SUVs. You get the point. Soapbox rant over.
I’m just shy of a decade into Persol ownership and I couldn’t be happier with my purchase. First of all, I like to support people who take personal pride in what they build––and the people in Persol’s Lauriano workshop obviously do. I can’t help but appreciate the little details every time I take these sunglasses out of their case or wipe them down before putting them away.
As a person who doesn’t typically put a great deal of effort into my appearance, it’s nice to have the ability to class up my usual T-shirt and jeans. These sunglasses add a touch of style in the same way that a nice watch would.
Finally, there seems to be a bit of an in-the-know factor surrounding this brand. Most people will just think they look nice and go on their way. Those who know what’s what will stop to compliment your taste and tell you how long they’ve owned their pair. It’s kind of fun to catch that knowing nod from another Persol owner.
My great-grandmother who immigrated to the U.S. around the time Persol was founded always said that it’s better to have a few nice things than a lot of cheap things. Well, that and her theory that not eating enough butter would make your head shrink. I’ve taken the first piece of advice to heart. While I pinch pennies and try very hard to live within my means, there are a few things I never skimp on. Besides name-brand toilet paper, I appreciate well-built guitars, skis, and little things like Persol sunglasses and Craftsman tools. I recommend you forego the fast food runs and checkout counter impulse purchases to save up for things that will last. Gear like this is worth paying for.
FAQs about the Persol PO2803S sunglasses
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q. How much does a pair of Persol PO2803S sunglasses cost?
A. These glorious bastards have a sticker price of about $280. Hit the sales right, though, and you can get away with spending half that.
Q. Is Persol a good brand?
A. It’s hard to keep up with all the startups selling sunglasses and watches online. With so many “just pay shipping” gimmicks bombarding us, it can be difficult to sort out the quality products from the imitators. Persol is definitely the real deal. The company has been producing sunglasses since 1917 when Italian fighter pilots needed to cut down the sun’s glare. The build quality is excellent and we all know how seriously Italians take style, so you can be confident that what you’re getting is worth the money.
Q. Are these lenses polarized?
A. Yes, Persol offers polarized lenses in a total of 61 different frames.
Q. Are these sunglasses ballistics-rated?
A. No, definitely not. As gangster as you would look slinging full-auto 7.62 from behind a pair of these, they are not ballistics glasses and should not be worn on the range. I get why you’d want to, so do I, but don’t.
Q. Are Persol sunglasses available with prescription lenses?
A. Yes, Persol will work with you to set up a pair of sunglasses that works for your prescription.
Q. Where are Persol sunglasses made?
A. Italy, baby. Tutte le cose più belle vengono dall’Italia, no?
Got questions? Comment below & talk with T&P’s editors
Scott Murdock is a Marine Corps veteran and contributor to Task & Purpose. He’s selflessly committed himself to experiencing the best gear, gadgets, stories, and alcoholic beverages in the service of you, the reader.