Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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September 15, 2012

Why do women have to pay more for sunglasses?

This past weekend I found myself standing over a rack of sunglasses, trying to find a pair that was cheap but would still get the job done.

I have never had good luck with sunglasses. I lose them only to find them years later in the strangest of places. At one time, I knew I had at least three pairs but two of them were missing. When I lost the only pair I had kept tabs on I found one of the missing pairs somehow wedged between my desk and the wall. I had never taken my sunglasses into that area of that room.

With my only current pair broken beyond fixing, I had to trek around town to find a kiosk of sunglasses that weren’t prescription or aimed at 4-year-olds. Though I’m sure the “Dora the Explorer” sunglasses would have gotten the job done, I wouldn’t exactly feel comfortable interviewing police officers or firefighters with them on my face.

Imagine my surprise when I find sunglasses are divided into two sections for men and women. I can understand why there might be some gender-specific sunglasses as they have become high fashion in recent years. I can also understand why guys probably don’t want their sunglasses covered in rhinestones or with flowery patterns doodled on the side.


What I can’t understand is why a plain black pair of men’s sunglasses cost $9.99 while a similar, slightly smaller pair of plain black sunglasses for women costs $14.99. Even when it comes down to details, there seems to be a heftier price on women’s sunglasses. A man’s pair with a sport’s team logo will cost $11.99. A women’s pair with a flower doodle on the side costs $19.99. I may not be in marketing or have studied the economics of fashionable sunglasses, but it just didn’t seem right to me that the cost of UV protection for the eyes cost you $5 more for being a woman.

This is the same reason why for years I have bought coats, jackets and sweatshirts in the men’s department. When I moved up to West Virginia, I didn’t have a really heavy jacket for those times in between the snows. I went out in search of one.

In the women’s section, I found a bunch of flimsy jackets with frilly decor and fur claiming to be good for foul weather like snow. They also boasted a price tag of $30 to $40. I didn’t know if I wanted to pay that much for something I would only be wearing maybe four or five months out of the year.

Across the aisle, I spied the men’s section where those jackets were on display. There wasn’t anything that exactly screamed “manly” about these jackets. They were blue and gray and soft. The men’s jackets —which were much heavier, more insulated and had more fabric than the women’s jacket’s — cost between $10 and $15. Something didn’t add up. I bought a jacket out of the men’s section and it has kept me comfortable ever since.

The same with sweatshirts. A store I went into was asking $20 to $30 for purple, pink and baby blue women’s sweatshirts. The men’s sweatshirts in the same size — albeit in colors like black, blue and white — were on sale for $5 to $10. There was no difference in these sweatshirts. They were just plain, old loaf around the house sweatshirts.

I’ve never understood the disconnect between clothing prices between attire for men and women. When I was growing up it always seemed to me that my brother’s clothes were much more durable than mine or my sister’s even though our clothes seemed to cost our parents significantly more.

I’ve also noticed that my brother’s shoes cost considerably less money though he did have a penchant for tearing those up much faster than my sister and I did. However, my sister and I have always had a larger quantity of shoes. We probably didn’t wear ours out as fast because we weren’t wearing the same pair every day.

A part of me wonders if it is because women are willing to pay more to be “fashionable” or “en vogue” while most men could care less about the brand of shirt, cut of jean or style of shoe they are purchasing as long as it gets the job done. I am sure there are fellas out there right now wondering what a “cut of jean” is.

I’m not particularly a slave to fashion, but I still don’t believe that women should be overcharged for wanting to look their best. We women already have to put out the big bucks for make up, hair products, nail polish, and the other myriad of things that go into the average woman’s daily beauty regime. I don’t know if it has to do with society, marketing or greed from top fashion designers.

What I do know is that I will be spending plenty of time outside in my “men’s” jacket and “men’s” sunglasses this winter.

Katy Coil is a reporter for the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at


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