Built for athletes, we review the Oakley Flight Jacket sunglasses to see if this latest sport frame is worth your time!
Another 3 years has passed, and in what seems to be a pattern since the Jawbone, we again have been welcomed to some new additions to Oakley’s sport line including the new Oakley Flight Jacket! We break down the Flight Jacket and compare them to the Jawbreaker, Radar EV and Zero EV to see if you should be thinking about upgrading.
Most people to this day can’t go wrong with any of latest Oakley releases for their intended purposes, and even flexing them for cross-discipline use. After seeing the design on Oakley.com, I instantly loved it. So naturally, I was going to reach for the Flight Jacket first (before the Field Jacket) in the latest release.
I do cycle my sunglasses, and so of course I’m going to gravitate to such a pair. I purchased the Flight Jacket the day it appeared on the Oakley website. Since, I have been cycling and generally wearing them ever since leading to this review – about 2 weeks total.
Through this review I’ll break down my impressions across the frame and lenses of the Flight Jacket!
Oakley Flight Jacket Frame
The highlight design cue for the Flight Jacket frame is the additional lens volume in the absence of the upper rim/frame. Peripheral viewing range is improved since there’s no Switchlock pivot to accommodate at the temples. Oakley utilized the “EV” design practice in a way even more focused for cycling, and at the same time shaved the excess of the Jawbreaker’s features.
Changeable Arms / Earstems
Instead of adjustable arms, you’re provided with a long and short set of stems. This swap is intentionally difficult in the interest of keeping things held together tight. This may also be due to a realization that not many people will want to switch settings on a regular basis. I felt this way about the Jawbreaker; I stuck with the longest setting for the best hold and only swapped when I was playing with stem colors.
One item I do miss from the Jawbreaker is the flared, non-rubbered tips to ease placement on the fly. Both pairs are “set-and-forget” for me, but it’s what I expected to be a standard detail on modern day sport designs.
Icons and Temples
Some people aren’t a fan of the plain icon placement, whereas in past pairs we’ve seen detailed housings and surrounds. Function is at the forefront of the Flight Jacket, so most we get is complimentary stem lines and temple “slashes” to give it a more distinctive aesthetic.
Nosepads and Vents
One area where the Flight Jacket is adjustable (and ironically in a way the Jawbreaker isn’t) is the nose. Oakley touts this as their “Advancer” setup. In layman’s terms it’s a nosepiece linkage setup that can pitch the lens a bit forward and out. I’m not a fan of having that as branded marketing “technology”, but such is business. To Oakley’s credit, it is indeed functional.
It’s interesting in the sense that it makes no use of lower vents and therefore the pair is relying on air flow at the nosepiece if there’s nothing coming though the very bottom of the frames. This might be a problem with full-face helmets, though, as I’m not sure there’s a real exit path up top in that scenario.
Without the nose-pad in place. The mounts are like over-sized versions of what you find with the Radar and Zero EV series. Ironically, while the replaceable stems are a bit of a stubborn swap, nosepad swapping with the Flight Jacket is of the easiest I’ve experienced.
Nosepad and Grip
Since the main pivot point is the nose, it is technically true that you then have to take on a different angle of the nosepiece, or the frames altogether. In my experience I feel it’s more of the former, as the pair as a whole scoots forwards. This isn’t a “full floating” mechanism, but in the practical sense it doesn’t have to be in my experience. It didn’t screw with me as I primarily like running the open position. This is because it presses the bridge of the nosepad right on my nosebridge.
As you can see, there is quite a bit of space to contact the wearer’s nose bridge. The Flight Jacket has a thin profile so it can conform effectively to your face. It’s a much more purposeful nosepad design compared to those found in the Jawbreaker, Zero EV and Radar line.
Oakley Flight Jacket Lenses
The mode of simplification for the Flight Jacket also includes lenses which are not intended to be swapped. At best it sounds like a Zero EV situation as it actually is possible – but you’re not really supposed to.
You can see that even though the upper rim is absent, the lower “jaw” continues around the ends of the lens. I’d imagine it takes an unpleasant degree of frame manipulation, as this member of the frame was designed to be rigid so it didn’t handle as loosely as the Zero EV.
So after giving us a run of very swap-friendly designs, why would Oakley turn around and do this? Maybe profit margins — customers have to buy new pairs to get different lenses, and/or avoid the cost of producing additional lenses.
Or maybe they found that replacement lenses aren’t selling too well. Personally having 6 Jawbreakers, I myself don’t really care to swap lenses all that much. Prizm Road is my riding lens, period. For casual use, almost any lens works for me, and I don’t particularly need the selection.
In the end, this keeps the lens simple. It’s not the best justification, but less moving/removable parts allows a more rigid/robust system. Doing more with less does lend to successful design if executed properly.
Lens Fogging and Air Flow
I’m not a heavy sweater to start, but when cycling on climbs in humid conditions with no air flow, I can generally get lenses to fog up. The “open top” of the Flight Jacket does seem to help the lenses recover faster than the Jawbreaker or Radar EV.
Opening up with the “Advancer” feature does improve the situation a bit more both ways — it takes a bit more to fog up, and a bit less to clear. I don’t have a quantitative and/or visual way to demonstrate this, but I find that this does indeed work. People who are more prone to fogging up their lenses will like this optional feature available at their disposal.
However, I don’t like working the Advancer switch on the fly. It’s stiff, even though I’ve been fudging with it to make it wear in sooner. It does get better, but more often than not my finger slips off and I touch the lens anyway. Treating the Flight Jacket as if it didn’t have the option for instantaneous adjustment isn’t the end of the world, though. I personally set before going on the move so I can do it carefully. It’s highly unlikely I’d need to switch over mid-ride unless weather changes.
Taking the Flight Jacket for the sum of its parts does make me find that it feels very proper under a helmet. The naysayer crowd can say that the current Oakley sport pairs can do most of the same things for cycling. But at this point, it’s an exercise of seeking refinement.
I get it, some people want to assure themselves they don’t have to spend money. We all could’ve sat on having M-Frames that’d work just fine as long as we were provided the lens/pad/frame options. But ultimately, the design and performance enhancements Oakley continues to release provide value.
Flight Jacket vs. Jawbreaker, Radar EV and Zero EV
Since many of you here may be looking at other Oakley Cycling Sunglasses, we’ve provided a quick and dirty comparison below. These are the most similar sunglasses by Oakley that you’re likely also to consider.
Pros: Interchangeable lenses, easier stem adjustment protected upper rim.
Cons: Less upper and peripheral viewing range. The Flight Jacket may be able to fit better under full face helmets since the stems are simpler.
Pros: Interchangeable lenses, more rigid stem setup with more aggressive hammer profiles as an option. Different lens cut options.
Cons: Stems can therefore be bulky in some situations, and you don’t have control over length/width without buying another frame altogether. Upper viewing range of course isn’t matched even if it’s already an “EV” we’re talking about.
Pros: Lighter, and completely uninterrupted view since there’s no rims. Different lens cut options.
Cons: more delicate to handle, no degrees of adjustment
I wouldn’t quite say the Flight Jacket directly tries to up another pair by design. But it does try to take the best of the Jawbreaker and Zero EV into one. I’d say more than being an attempt at a replacement, it’s a welcomed addition to Oakley’s lineup.
Flight Jacket Pricing
Pricing starts at $203 USD for the Prizm Low Light Flight Jacket package, and all the way up to $253 USD for the Ruby Prizm Polarized offering. As shown in this review with Prizm Road is $223 USD — which is a $10 USD markup over the Jawbreaker with the same lens.
That is just a number, and yes the Flight Jacket will hit discount at some point in its life, but it’s still something to note given what it does and doesn’t do.
I honestly have switched to the Oakley Flight Jacket exclusively when cycling now. All the small details add up: better viewing range, more “seamless” fit with helmets, lighter feel, position options for when I need them. And again, I don’t need any other lens for the purpose of cycling.
However, if you’ve got a Jawbreaker and are on the fence, the Flight Jacket is not a must-have. It’s a preference matter on perhaps very particular aspects. You could liken the advantages to another subject in cycling; this is very much like comparing Shimano Dura-Ace to Ultegra — the former does have its advantages, most anyone would take it if they could, but they’re not totally missing anything without it.
The casual wearer may not find much merit beyond aesthetic, and maybe prefer the fit ever so slightly. The Advancer/airflow benefits may work out as a benefit for runners, though. I’m sure some people will be inclined to complain that Oakley didn’t do something more extreme here, but they went with an attempt to make incremental measures as opposed to reinventing the wheel with products they’ve already had working so well.