(This page contains affiliate links. OGR may receive compensation if you click a link and make a purchase.)
Both Oakley and Maui Jim make excellent sunglasses for sunny days on the water. But which brand will suit you best?
Oakley vs. Maui Jim: Which Is Better?
The short answer: Oakley is an all-around winner for almost every active sport, whether you’re cycling, running, or playing golf. But if you’re looking for that crystal clear imagery and glare protection on the water, Maui Jim is where it’s at.
Founded in 1975 with a tiny investment of just $300, Oakley stumbled onto the eyewear scene, more or less. The company had only one employee: the founder, James Jannard.
Oakley didn’t take the market by storm with pairs of fashionable sports eyewear. Instead, Jannard sold motocross handle grips out of the back of his car. Five years later, Oakley experimented with selling goggles.
The ever-present logo was branded on the strap, and more and more professional sports players started to wear Oakleys. The brand soon became a household name, rising to global prominence soon after.
It should also be mentioned that Milanese giant Luxottica now owns Oakley. The brand has since expanded to selling everyday eyewear that keeps its dynamic edge.
You can trust a region of the world bathed in sunlight to make good sunglasses. Founded in Lahaina, Hawaii, the company has grown to global prominence since its debut in 1980. It is currently one of the world’s top sunglasses manufacturers.
Maui Jim is currently headquartered in Peoria, Illinois, but has kept its island charm in it’s service and products.
The company has a pseudo-mythical beginning, as the original Maui Jim was said to be a Hawaiian fisherman selling sunglasses on the beach. Walter Hester (a boat captain at the time) saw what Jim was doing and was inspired to start a sunglasses company.
Of course, he named his shades after Maui Jim. The brand is now an international giant famous for its water sports eyewear line.
Oakley vs. Maui Jim: Lenses
In the long tradition of sportswear becoming popular everyday accessories, Oakleys have gone past their sports-only use. The company produces excellent casual-wear glasses, in addition to its sports-dedicated line.
Oakley has multiple lens technologies from their Prizm lenses to the mirrored Iridium coating that you can mix and match along with a multitude of tints. They also sell sunglasses with both polarized and non-polarized lenses.
While polarized glasses are great for bright outdoor conditions, they can make it harder to see screen displays, waves on the water, and ice on the road. In addition, they tend to darken everything.
Maui Jim sunglasses are all polarized and are considered some of the best in the world for water sports and waterside activity. Their lenses are designed to filter out damaging UV radiation and excess glare that reflect off the water, making it easier to distinguish the movement of fish below the surface.
Their PolarizedPlus2® lens technology efficiently blocks out nearly 100% of the horizontal glare that washes out color when you’re looking at flat, smooth, or reflective surfaces.
Besides the impressive glare reduction, they also give you excellent color contrast, even in darker shades. The SuperThin Glass lens is the most optically superior and scratch-resistant, while their bi-gradient mirror coating “squints” for you so your eyes can relax.
Top tip: get a rubberized nose rest with heavier lenses. It makes prolonged use more comfortable.
Both companies produce eyewear leagues ahead of the standard shades you might pick up on a whim from your local gas station.
It’s very much a personal preference, but overwhelmingly, most people feel that Maui Jim’s glass lenses have sharper contrast, a clearer image, and lessen the “rainbow effect” that can occur when looking at digital devices with polarized lenses.
The main downside is that glass lenses aren’t as impact-resistant, so it’s a bit of a trade-off.
Oakley vs. Maui Jim: Frames
Oakley’s performance frames are field-tested for impact-resistance and durability, both by the company and countless customers. Every day across the world, countless pairs of Oakley are subjected to conditions and abuse that would break other frames.
Their famous O Matter™ material – a flexible, lightweight nylon composite – is standard in the vast majority of their frames. They’re able to withstand heat and cold without becoming brittle and cracking.
Oakley’s wraparound frames are excellent for all sorts of active pursuits, and many are ANSI-rated as safety glasses. Models like the Batwolf with its side-shields cover the eye from more angles and protect from side-glare.
Their frames also work well on narrower faces, as their selection does include narrower models such as the Frogskin. Also, their Unobtainium rubber ear and nose grips will get progressively tackier as you sweat, preventing them from slipping.
The reason so many outdoorsmen prefer this company is pretty obvious. Frame-wise, Oakley does a great job at making durable frames that can withstand lots of use (particularly their performance frames).
Their famous “3-point fit” technology reduces pressure on your face. Wearing a pair of Oakleys all day is quite comfortable and nearly unnoticeable.
Maui Jim frames are made from acetate, nylon, or metal. The nylon ones are quite durable, but the overall consensus is that their lenses are the centerpiece while the frame is more of an accessory.
However, Maui Jim offers more options when it comes to streamlined, rimless frames. They’re less bulky, and are very lightweight and comfortable to wear.
Oakley vs. Maui Jim: Style
Maui Jim frames have classic, conservative styles that look great for pretty much any occasion. They won’t look out of place whether you’re on a boat, the beach, or out for a night on the town.
If a sportier, flashier style is what you want, then Oakley will be more your thing.
Oakley prides itself on dynamic, youthful, and sport-oriented designs like the Flak 2.0 XL. They still make goggles like the O-frame 2.0 and single-shields like the Radar EV Path that give you full uninterrupted vision across your nose bridge too.
Style-wise, Oakleys are great for outdoorsmen, hunters, and extreme sports lovers.
Maui Jim is more favored by anglers, rowers, and yachters. Their aviators look so great that they can be worn out on the town.
Oakley vs. Maui Jim: Price
In terms of price, neither brand is cheap. But Oakley has more frames to choose from for under $200, like the Oakley Split Shot.
These glasses won’t break the bank, yet they don’t look cheap. A comparable model from Maui Jim, Red Sands, retails for over $220.
Overall, Maui Jim’s are more expensive, but most people agree the extra cost is worth it when you need to see clearly in the deep blue open ocean or in shallow murky water.
Oakley Split Shot vs. Maui Jim Red Sands
Both the Oakley Split Shot and Maui Jim’s Red Sands are popular models for those into fishing and spending a full day on the water.
Oakley’s Split Shot is a wraparound model, offering more protection for people who expect glare from all directions. They’re most effective during boat fishing trips when you are surrounded by water on all sides.
The Red Sands have a similar wraparound design with plenty of lens coverage. Where it really shines is in the lenses, of course. The contrast between colors is more pronounced, giving you that extra edge (get the neutral gray for bright sunny days for deep sea fishing).
On the other hand, some find the frame somewhat flimsy, but it’s lightweight and generally a very comfortable fit for most.
Overall, the Maui Red Sands are the superior option for fishing and open water activities (although not by a wide margin). The image clarity is the main feature, and in this regard, Maui Jim takes the cake.