It may be fast approaching winter as I write this, but when the sun does appear in the skies, it hangs low and can be blinding when you’re out driving or riding. Especially if, like me, your eyes are painfully light-sensitive.
I tend to go through sunglasses at a much faster rate than the average human being, and always tend to have about three pairs on hand so I’m never caught without a pair. It’s ridiculous.
For a long time now, my go-to brand for eyewear has been Oakley, simply because my eyes seem to prefer them, although most of the company’s designs are best described as ‘sporting’ rather than ‘stylish’ – fine for weekends but not so flash if you’re dressed a bit more formally.
Of all the brands I’ve tried over the years, one I’d never bought was American brand Serengeti – partly because they’re not as readily available on every high street from the major eyewear chains. So when Serengeti asked me to review a pair of its sunglasses, I was keen to give them a go.
The particular glasses I’ve been evaluating are called the Serengeti Livio, which retail for £179 (although you can find better prices shopping around). They have amber polarised “Drivers” lenses and a rubberised nylon frame.
The Livio is a traditional-looking pair of glasses, much in the style of the iconic Ray-Ban Wayfarer or the highly-popular Oakley Frogskins.
It’s available in four different colourways; three with sanded a black frame, with either grey or blue everyday lenses or the amber “Drivers” lenses; while the fourth choice is a sanded brown frame with amber “Drivers gold” lenses that are better for very bright conditions.
Fit and finish
The Livio is classed by Serengeti as a medium-fit frame, but I found it a touch tight compared to other brands. This is despite being identical (according to the official measurements) to two pairs of Oakleys I was comparing against the Livio.
The Livio frame itself has a very solid feel and the hinges appear to be of a robust and quality construction – so you’re not likely to suffer annoying breakages in your day-to-day adventures.
The so-called Drivers lens featured on this model is designed to suit the needs of driving (hence the name), designed to help distinguish red, green and yellow colours as used in virtually all traffic-related infrastructure worldwide. It is the original lens colour first launched by Serengeti in 1985 and remains popular today.
So how do they fare?
The amber lens colour gives a warm, sepia tone to everything, which many people don’t really like but I find helpful when out and about, and especially when driving.
It essentially filters the blue out of everything, so the sky always looks a bit threatening even when it’s clear, but the flip side is that the red/yellow/green spectrum does really pop quite well. When driving, this is particularly useful as you genuinely do find it easier to spot traffic lights and signs much earlier against a crowded urban background.
The main issue I had with this particular lens treatment was that it didn’t provide enough protection in brighter sunshine, which left me scrambling to hurriedly switch sunglasses for a darker pair. To be fair, the Serengeti site specifically identifies these lenses as suitable for “overcast to medium light conditions”, which seems about right.
I have a pair of Oakley Enduros (sadly no longer in production) with a very similar lens treatment, and the performance of these and the Serengeti Livio side-by-side appeared to me to be virtually identical.
Overall, I was quite pleased with the performance of the Serengeti Livio in most everyday situations against similar sorts of competitor models. They are certainly pricey, but comparable with other premium-brand sunglasses from rival manufacturers.
The frame has a reassuringly solid feel. As a bonus, the glasses come in a proper hard case rather than a rubbish soft bag (yes, I’m looking at you, Oakley) for added protection when you’re not wearing them.
For driving use, I think I’d be more inclined to go for the version with the “Drivers gold” lenses that provide more protection in brighter conditions, but that’s more because of my stupidly light-sensitive eyes.
If you’re buying online, be aware that the frames are a slightly tighter fit than the dimensions suggest, but I’d always recommend buying from your local high street store anyway so you can try them on in person.
You may have to hunt around a bit to find Serengeti glasses in the big high street chains (and it doesn’t help that the same company that owns Oakley, Ray-Ban and most of the big brands also owns most of the stores…), but it’s definitely well worth the effort.