Evolution of M, Learn the history of M Frame and a complete review to see if it’s the frame for you!
With my recent acquisition of an Oakley M2 Frame I thought I’d put together a little photo spread of the frames history along with my review. Instead of just a plain old review.
History of M Frame
Before we know where we’re going, we need to know where we’ve been.
Back in 1989 Oakley debuted the Mumbo. The first HDO, XYZ optically corrected pair from the company. Carrying over from the Blade system, the Mumbo had 3 lens options; V, 67, and Hybrid. Due to copyright issues (which still plague Oakley today with pairs like the Jawbone) the name was changed to “M Frame” in 1990.
One of the main features of the Mumbo were the hammer stems – a bend in the stem at the temple that moves the stem out from the head to accentuate the 3-Point-Fit principle and allow room for things like helmet straps. Below is an example of the first generation M Frame which is identical except in packaging to the Mumbo. The example has a Sweep lens in Blue Iridium. The Sweep lens was added, along with the Strip and Heater in 1991.
Skip 1992, and in 1993 The Strike and Slash lenses are added to the lineup. The Slash is unique in that it’s coupled with a frame upgraded with a foam strip at the brow for sweat and a strap to keep the pair even more secure. This pair is a Fingerprint frame with Black Iridium lens.
A year later in 1994 the M Frame is overhauled for the first time. The stem hinges are reinforced and have a slight geometric change, the stems are extended past the earsocks with Oakley’s “Hammer Fangs” and the logo on the stem is changed from the familiar Oakley font to the molded Icon. This pair is a second generation with a swapped set of stems and a Hybrid lens in Blue Iridium.
1996 saw an expansion of the M Frame with sports-specific collections, most notably a straight stem version in the Baseball lineup designed to fit in a ball cap more easily. Late in 1996 we also had the introduction of the Pro M Frame. This was another overhaul in the design of the M Frame. The boxy lines were left behind and curves took their place.
The hammer stems were revised to form “wings”, a design cue that carried over into several other pairs of the era. The stems on the Pro pair are fixed, which makes one handed manipulation easier while performing tasks such as riding a bicycle. The rubber on the stems was changed to mimic what was used on the Jackets and increased the surface area in contact with the user’s head. This pair is a Pro frame custom painted by Dr. Chop and has a Heater lens in Ice Iridium.
The beginning of the modern era was marked by an entire product-line update in 1999. Oakley’s O Matter frame material was reformulated to a more resilient, flexible blend. The M Frame benefited greatly from the update and had the ‘New’ moniker added unofficially.
The third major overhaul brought the design of the Pro frame to the main M Frame with only a few subtle changes. Hinges were added, of course. The remaining boxiness of the interior of the frame was changed to sculpted features, the hammer wings were toned down a bit, and the icons were changed from the raised/molded type to the “true metal” type that is still in use today. This frame is a New M Frame in black with a vented Heater lens in Slate Iridium.
Fast forward all the way to 2006. A prototype M Frame, inspired by the design of the Thump and trialed by Lance Armstrong is released as the M Frame 2.0. This is a military-specific release and is a Ballistic model. Subtle changes to the existing M Frame had been made prior, which included thicker lenses to resist harsher impact, and the addition of a lens clip to pass military requirements for lens retention during an impact. The intent of the 2.0 is to provide an eyewear package that fits inside helmets and has less wrap to the stems to make use easier. The frame is thicker and has substantially less torsional flex. The option of a clip on strap is also introduced.
The 2.0 was redesigned in 2012 and the M Frame 3.0 was released through SI. The 3.0 retains the style of the 2.0, but has several design changes aimed at improving performance for military use. To better interface with night vision optics the fit is slightly slimmer and the rake of the lens is increased to hug the face more closely. Anti-fog coating is standard to combat fogging with the closer fit. The size of the lens is increased to provide more peripheral coverage (later named the Agro lens).
To work better with hearing protection and communication equipment the stems are thinned, the rubber removed, and the wrap increased to improve retention without rubber. This pair is a 3.0 frame in Dark Bone with a ballistic Strike lens in Grey (note the clip is removed to allow use of lenses without a clip hole).
The ‘New’ version of the M Frame remains in production. It’s still sold as Oakley’s Industrial Eyewear and through Oakley’s SI program. With the addition of the Oakley M2, the M Frame line has been in continuous production for the last 25 years.
Oakley M2 Frame Review
Finally in 2014 we have the next generation. Seeing as it’s been 15 years since the introduction of the New M2 Frame I suppose it was time for an overhaul. Personally I was hoping for the 2.0/3.0 to be the inspiration for the Oakley M2 Frame, but design cues are noticeably shared with Oakley’s other sports releases of the last few years such as the Radarlock, Half Jacket 2.0, and Fast Jacket.
The biggest change is the most noticeable – the lens shape is all new. The Oakley M2 Frame has been released with a single lens shape. The look of it may seem a bit funky, but I must admit it is extremely functional. I have a large face and traditionally wear M Frame Heater and Strike lenses almost exclusively. The M2 lens isn’t quite as big as I’d prefer, but it doesn’t leave large gaps in coverage like the smaller M Frame lenses, or the Path lens from the Radar line.
Overall size I’d say is similar to a second generation Hybrid from the M Frame line. The M2 Frame is front and center, with a Hybrid and Hybrid S flanking. The rear row are Slash, Strike, and Heater lenses. It certainly doesn’t have the panache of the Heater, or the attitude of the Strike.
Another immediate difference is that the M2 is a smaller pair. The frame is thinner and the stems are shorter, akin to removing the hammer fangs from an M Frame. The hammer of the stem is also less defined. The wing is redesigned and is interchangeable, hinting at possible future modifications, straight stems, or other possibilities.
A curious design note is a ridge on the inside of the frame in the center above the nose. I tried fitting the Helo Kit, which attaches to the New, 2.0, and 3.0 frame, but was unsuccessful. It does seem this could be used for a future wind gasket, or other attachment.
The Helo kit profile fits the lens, and it can technically be used, but the top of the Helo’s orbital interferes with the brow of the M2.
The strap from the 2.0/3.0 and New Racing Jacket is compatible.
The M2 lens is NOT backwards compatible.
M Frame lenses ARE forward compatible. Previous lenses fit with little fussing. There is sufficient tension to hold the lens, but I’m not sure about how it might stand up to serious performance or impact.
The frame’s flexibility can likely be pointed at as the cause of the lens interchangeability. The lens channel is traditionally the stiffest portion of an M Frame frame, with minimal flex required to fit and tension a lens. The M2 requires significantly more frame manipulation to fit its native lens. This is a new frame and may be stiff yet (which sounds funny because it’s quite flexible), but lens changes are somewhat cumbersome in comparison to the M Frame, but the method is identical and learning how the change the M2 will come with time. Hopefully a wide range of M2 lenses are offered in the future, one of the big draws of the M Frame has been its wide array of lens options.
Staying on the lens topic, I will note that using the Heater and Slash lenses in the M2 felt quite awkward. I haven’t tried to figure out why, it’s just not something I’d plan on doing. Hybrid and Strike lenses were much less offensive.