Before 2007, Joe and Elizabeth Earley were in the cycling industry. They were independent sales reps handling a variety of products. They noticed that high-end sunglasses, those with price tags of $150 and $225 and up, weren’t selling.
But as cycling enthusiasts, they knew having eye protection when riding was important. They saw an unfilled niche in the market. And they responded with quality sunglasses between $25 and $80. Then they expanded to golf.
The Earleys knew glasses and goggles had always been a part of competitive cycling. In fact, in the early days of road racing, cyclists borrowed pilots’ eyewear to protect their eyes from gravel, mud, and other debris that kicked up from road surfaces.
By the middle of the 20th century, Ray-Bans and Persol glasses were preferred by many racers. Then Carerra got into cycling, and finally, Oakley, a well-known name in both cycling and, later, golf, entered the market.
But all of those were expensive. Far more expensive than many average cyclists or average golfers could afford. And you know how it is with sunglasses. They have a tendency to get lost, so much so that you could swear somewhere there is a giant repository of lost sunglasses. A veritable mountain of them, and at least 20 pairs belong to you.
To fill the price gap missing from other manufacturers’ product lines, the Earleys decided they would create and manufacture high-quality sunglasses at a value price. In 2007 they started their business which they called Tifosi. There were three guiding principles for the company: Making great quality products. Bringing value to customers. And providing excellent service.
Then, after starting with cycling, they added running and golf sunglasses, which have specialized lenses.
“The lens we developed for golf, this specific lens, is a color enhancing lens,” Earley explained at the most recent PGA Show. “What it does is — we have pigments in the lens that help pick up the greens and help you see the contours.”
He added that it’s easier to see the ball in the air, too. Then he demonstrated where his balls go in the air – a nice banana slice. The lenses don’t make the balls easier to find in deep rough, however. Nothing helps with that except a weed whacker.
The Tifosi golf line features a lens called Enliven, and, according to Earley, that’s the one that enhances the color of the greens. But that is not the only lens choice.
Tifosi has glare-reducing, polarized lenses, and that’s a category by itself.
In addition, there are Fototec lenses that darken in bright light and lighten in darker conditions, depending on the surroundings. Those are similar to photochromic lenses. All Tifosi lenses protect from UV rays.
And one final feature in Tifosi sunglasses is the adjustability of the nose pieces in many styles, which Earley said is important “so you can make sure when you are addressing the ball, you’ve got the right fit.”
Now when it comes to price, for golf, most Tifosi styles are $50 or less. You can spend more if you want to have the Enliven lenses that change color.
“Some are as low as $25, but most are in the $50 to $80 dollar range,” Earley added. “If you want to, you can spend all the way up to $99.95 for photochromic lenses that are polycarbonate.”
That beats the heck out of sunglasses for $150-250 and up. And at $25? Who can resist?
The styles are great, and many can be customized. For instance, straight off the rack or website, check out the Swank in a transparent bottle green frame or bright grass green solid frame ($25). Or pick the Swank SL with a transparent light teal frame ($25).
If you’re partial to wrap-around styles, there are plenty of choices with earpieces that come in black, white, red, blazing blue and bright grass green, and a variety of lens colors ($25-$80). You can even swap the lenses out of some of the styles.
Tifosi, the company name, could be a golf term, but it’s not. It has a cycling origin.
As Early explained, “tifosi” is the name that Italians gave to the avid and sometimes crazy fans at the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and Vuelta a España.
They are the ones who dress up in wild costumes and run up the road with the cyclists. Sometimes they camp out along the way and follow the entire race. They hold signs and wave flags and cheer for their favorites. They are totally dedicated fans of cycling.
While there aren’t any “tifosi,” in the Italian sense, in golf, there are plenty of avid fans and avid golfers. And most of them like products that work and don’t cost more than a trip to the grocery store.
Tifosi has grown from a niche product in the US to selling in 60 countries with products in 3500 stores, all because they spotted a vacancy in the market, a niche where they could use their expertise and create something that hadn’t existed before: high quality, sports performance sunglasses at a reasonable price.
(Tifosi is a USA company, located near Athens, Georgia, about 40 miles east of Atlanta.)