Oakley rolls in to town to tout eyewear
By Seth Leonard
The Oakley Rolling O-Lab visited Salisbury on Friday in an effort to blind people with science.
Figuratively, of course.
The lab, which consists of a 30-foot trailer towed by a custom-built Freightliner Sport Chassis truck, is a 67,000 -pound behemoth complete with hi-fi sound inside and out, flat panel TVs and a battery of ballistics and optical testing equipment. It was also well stocked with Oakley’s sun and sport glasses.
Adam Racioppi, formerly of Gainesville, Fla., is the lab’s manager and has been around the world to extol the virtues of his products. Having been most recently to China, Racioppi has a strong understanding of why Oakley’s products are world-renowned.
“Something like 80 percent of Olympic athletes that won medals in Beijing and also wore eye protection were wearing Oakleys,” he said.
The purpose of the whole spectacle is to appeal to those who need to see to believe. According to Racioppi, Oakley subjects its glasses to a level of testing unique to the industry.
“Z-8.3 is the level of testing required for fashion and sports eye-wear by OSHA,” he said. “We’re the only company to require all of our products to pass Z-87.1 testing, which is basically industrial-level standards.”
The testing demonstrated by Racioppi and his associates, James and Bryan, was extensive. Lens strength was demonstrated in two ways. An impact test pitted lenses against a steel BB fired pneumatically at over 100 mph. All brands tested, including Nike and Maui Jim, were destroyed, while the Oakley product deflected the projectile with next to no damage. Z-87.1 requires a lens to deflect 20 similar objects in a row.
A high-mass test involved dropping the same BB onto a lens from six feet high. Typical lenses were punctured or shattered. To demonstrate Oakleys’ durability, a heavy steel slug resembling a .50-caliber rifle round was dropped and failed to puncture the lens.
Other optical tests involving laser focusing through lenses showed that most sunglasses cause vision distortion resulting in eye fatigue and headaches. Oakleys don’t do this, which “allows you to see like you’re wearing no eyewear at all.”
Oakley’s Plutonite material, a patented compound, allows both strength and transparency in all tints and styles. The most common material for other manufacturers is CR-39, which doesn’t meet Oakley’s standards.
Racioppi said something as common as an airbag deploying could shatter sunglasses and damage the eye. Because the eye is the one muscle with no regenerative properties, Oakley believes that it makes sense to protect it with the most durable glasses.
Testing impressed those in attendance, including Salisbury resident and General Electric employee Tyron Neely.
“It seems like their prices are outrageous,” Neely said. The testing impressed him, but he still had reservations. “It’s just hard for me to keep up with sunglasses for long.”
The lab’s staffers are all under the age of 30 and relish their opportunity to travel. They recently threw out the first pitch of a New York Mets game and will soon set up shop at the Indianapolis 500.
The O-Lab works in conjunction with Oakley retailers across the country. The Eye Care Center at 2141 Statesville Blvd., next to Food Lion, welcomed the event.
“It’s going to give people more understanding of the product technology,” said Gladys Dillon, office manager for the center. “It also educates the staff.”
The Eye Care Center has been a long-term fixture in Salisbury. Opening its doors in 1982, the business moved from the Mid-Carolina Mall across the street to its current building, formerly occupied by Rack Room Shoes. They offer full eye care, including examinations and custom-crafted lenses.