Oakley is going back to the future with its reintroduced Sub Zero sunglasses. By carefully preserving the original design and only updating its technical specs, Oakley's forward-looking (pun... intended?) eyewear is as close as it gets to owning the OG, except even better.
Back in the early '90s, the Oakley Sub Zero's ultralight frame and massive, shielding lenses redefined the term "technical sunglasses." Until the early '90s, no other eyewear brand had dared to concoct something so dangerously elegant, yet reliably tough.
It's just that the mainstream wasn't ready for the Sub Zero's vision (literally). Popular fashion at the time lacked Oakley's vision of ultra-sleek frames powered by top-shelf functionality.
Oh, how times have changed.
The shape of Oakley's 2022 Sub Zero sunglasses — which launched April 28 via Oakley and the Highsnobiety Shop — is nearly identical to the one that first arrived in 1992.
However, Oakley has made a few under-the-hood updates, like beefing up the lenses with Prizm tech and swapping in Unobtainium nosepads and earsocks to lock the Sub Zero in place atop the wearer's face.
Despite the new tweaks, the resulting shades are still featherweight — weighing in at about 0.7 lb — because no one knows better than Oakley how to squeeze maximum performance into a minute package.
“In the ’90s, Sub Zero didn’t just break the mold of what sunglasses could look like: it changed the way they were made,” Brian Takumi, Oakley VP, Brand Soul and Creative, explained. “It completely altered both the look and feel of modern eyewear, showcasing that when you stop at nothing to reach a goal, the impossible can be achieved.”
“Thirty years ago, Sub Zero set the stage for Oakley’s next chapter, fueling an unprecedented era of success. Now, the re-issue sets the stage for what’s to come in the future.”
Part of Oakley's MUZM collection, the Sub Zero is follows last year's X-Metal release as the latest Oakley classic to return with modern tweaks.
And, just like how Damian Lillard boosted the X-Metal revival, Oakley has tapped another top-tier athlete to ring in the Sub Zero's relaunch.
This time, the Californian sportswear specialist is aligning with Olympic vet, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 skater, and Team Oakley member Aori Nishimura, who stars in the campaign that kicks off the Sub Zero's triumphant return.
“Skate culture influences my style when I am on and off my skateboard,” Nishimura said. “I am naturally drawn to unique and disruptive designs, so I was immediately into the Sub Zero.”
Considering that Oakley's Sub Zero was launched nine years before Nishimura was even born, the sunglasses' immediate appeal is testament not only to the contemporary appeal of flexing high-tech specs, but also Oakley's inimitable design acumen.
With the fashion biz only just now catching up to where Oakley was decades ago, the timing of the Sub Zero's rebirth couldn't be more fortuitous.