Oakley’s new Kato and the inevitability of ugly turning cool

Are they ugly? Yes. Are they destined to be cool? Also yes.

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You’ve seen them teased, and now the release is official: Oakley’s new Kato is the latest in a long line of polarizing, probably ugly sunglasses destined to weasel their way into our aesthetic conscience, culminating in inevitable acceptance, even enthusiasm. Please do not resist.

The Kato, developed along with Mark Cavendish and a host of other high-profile athletes across the sports spectrum, is designed with a “mask-like feel [that] empowers you to channel your inner superpower for limitless possibility,” according to Oakley’s press release.

The major talking point is a rather clever bit of optical engineering that allowed Oakley to forgo the usual central nose cutout and wrap the entire lens up and over the nose. The result, as Oakely alludes to, is a masked superhero vibe that doesn’t look like anything else currently on the market.

“We wake up every morning obsessed with the goal of igniting human possibility”, says Caio Amato, Oakley Global Brand Director.

Underneath that nose shield thing are removable nose pads, which come in a couple sizes to accomodate variety of schnozes. The Kato is further adjustable via a “rake system” that allows the lens itself to pivot in relation to the arms.

Those arms are covered in Oakley’s Unobtanium rubber, which has been in use for a while and provides excellent hold and grip even when sweaty.

Lenses are all Oakley’s Prizm variety, which help to boost contrast and colors.

Oakley’s willingness to push at the edges of cycling aesthetics stretches all the way back to the original Eyeshade in 1984, and, with a few notable exceptions, their efforts have tended to shift our our collective perspective. The Kato, while in some ways wild, follows a few other broader trends in eyewear. They’re a bit shorter, vertically, than the massive face shields of the last few years from the likes of 100%, Scott, and Oakley itself. If the last few years have been a mirror of that 1984 big-shade era, then we know what’s next: the tiny glasses of the mid-90s. The Kato is a step in that direction.

Are they terrible? Yeah, probably. Are they kinda sweet? I’m already beginning to think so. The cognitive dissonance is giving me a headache.

Price is US$291, we’re waiting on prices in other markets.

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