It’s been said that reading glasses demonstrate that disability can be attractive. We like to think that’s not far from the truth.
Various men on and off the silver screen have owned their affliction with tremendous élan. Colin Farrell’s optical selection in Kingsman proved that a guy can be bespectacled and still call back to vintage 007 style. And who could forget Michael Caine in the Get Carter era of cinema, when chunky square frames were committed to sartorial immortality. If that’s not enough, both Ryan Reynolds and Sam Smith have found their way onto the red carpet with frames that synchronise nicely with a solid dinner suit.
Optics are a deep market. There’s something for sartorial inclination and we’d argue that you would be hard pressed to find something that doesn’t do you (and your pupils) justice. We’ve curated a selection of tips on different frame styles and materials, and a gallery of reading glasses to boot, to ensure that you can grab your short sightedness by the throat and look (not squint) to the future with sartorial aplomb.
Reading glasses are constructed from a range of materials that depend on the designer’s intended audience, budget, and the anticipated lifestyle of the wearer. Plastic and metal are the most common, but hybrid and natural alternatives are growing in the market.
Additionally, many metal frames are flexible and easily adjustable (such as flexon memory metal and beryllium) and can be combined with acetate to conform to the shape of the wearer’s head. Metal frames also resist corrosion and maintain their colour better than plastic. They are, however, more expensive than mass-produced cellulose frames, and can pose an allergy risk to susceptible wearers.
The everyman of eyewear. Plastic frames – made from TR-90, polymer, and other synthetics – are exploding in popularity. These are usually (but not always) created through an injection molding process. This involves heating the plastic into a liquefied solution, then pouring the plastic into a predetermined set to construct the frame.
This process is quick as lightning and cheaply facilitates mass-production. Unlike acetate frames, plastics are sprayed or painted and thus lose their colour easily, especially with robust wear. However, they are favoured for everyday-wear as they are lighter than other frames and don’t obliterate any your spending account in the process. Plastics are overtaking metal frames on the market for these reasons and their market share has adjusted accordingly.
Although acetate is a form of plastic, its omnipresence in eyewear warrants an entry of its own. Acetate is derived from renewable cotton and wood semi-synthetics. Although the process depends on the designer, acetate is usually created by reforming the plastic (through heat or compression) into molded blocks, then laminating it into sheets that are then hand-cut into frames. Acetate offer a number of benefits to opticians.
They are generally more flexible, and can be crafted into different shapes. Acetate frames and stems can be coloured efficiently, which doesn’t corrode with time or sun exposure. Acetate is also hypoallergenic, helping you save face (literally) from the potential embarrassment of a nasty reaction to the frame materials. They might be pricier than other plastics, but they’re universal for damn good reasons.
A recent (and trendy) entry on the market, wooden frames sit outside the normal hierarchy of eyewear. Wood frames are lightweight, flattering on most complexions, and ethically sourced. Bamboo frames, for example, don’t require the use of environmentally corrosive products such as plastic or petroleum derivatives, making them an eco-friendly option. Brands that offer these frames also like to remind customers that bamboo is bio-degradable and regenerates quite easily.
For environmentally-conscious shoppers, therefore, they’re an excellent alternative that is becoming more a solid competitor to acetate and metal frames. They can even be lighter than featherweight plastic frames, making them a solid choice for prolonged wear. They are, however, delicate and don’t tolerate the punishment you can subject to metal eyewear (so learn from your clumsiness and don’t sit on them).
Tortoiseshell frames are advertised everywhere, but there’s more to them than meets the eye. Today, brand descriptions refer to the colour – not the construction itself. Today, ‘Tortoiseshell’ frames are no longer constructed from real tortoiseshells, due to obvious ethical implications. After a prolonged uproar, they’re now made from acetate or other plastic derivatives.
Designers modify the stem and frames through various processes to achieve the artful discolouration, and thus replicate the unique patina that made tortoiseshell frames iconic. This provides wearers with the timeless cool of a vintage tortoiseshell frame, without harming innocent sea creatures. Win-win.
As technology rockets towards the future, hybrid frames are taking off. In an attempt to distinguish their collections from the hum drum of mass production, brands are offering cutting-edge frames from proprietary materials – often blends of plastic, metal, and rubber. However, hybrid frames aren’t for budget shoppers. Due to the manufacturing process and cost of materials, they are usually featured in specialist or luxury collections and might discourage the everyday guy from purchasing them.
Ask yourself if metal or acetate can’t do the job before walking into the optometrist without a decent monetary cushion in your back pocket. Composition aside, there are a few key styles that never truly leave the market. Your environment and facial structure will to some extent determine which style works for you.
Aviator frames are like medium-rare scotch fillets and early episodes of the Simpsons – they appeal to almost everyone and never look bad. Aviators are usually distinguished by large lenses and a teardrop shape. They lean towards an oversized shape, so they’re more confronting than other options. Aviators entered the the market after being worn by flying officers in WWII. Afterwards, they featured on the silver screen during the 20th century, and the rest is history with which you are readily familiar.
The prospective wearer needs to consider that aviators, particularly oversized variants, can overwhelm small or narrow features. They do, however, complement oval or angular features and soften harsh square faces. Optical aviators have matured on the market, particularly over 2016 and the new year. In addition, there’s no standard template to the style. Brands like Bottega Veneta offer thin-framed aviators with a softer silhouette, while Alexander McQueen offers classically masculine options with thicker frames. Your local optical specialist will be able to fill your pockets (and empty your wallet) in quick succession.
A close relative of aviators, square frames have been a consistent choice for business-friendly spectacles. Square frames differ from aviators in that they possess defined, sharp edges without a teardrop bend at the bottom of the lens. Square frames add definition to soft, round features, but can be overwhelming on gaunt or square faces. Due to their wide dimensions, they suit people with broad features.
Oversized fashion-forward variants might come in a bit too hot for an office setting, too, so it’s important to find a style that has enough mileage for your lifestyle. There are stylish compromises available, though. Kingsman x Cutler & Gross, for example, combine the masculine silhouette of square frames, but with softer edges – making them suitable for the square and soft jawed bloke alike. Buy something like this as a middle ground between aviators and round frames if either option doesn’t inspire you.
Rectangular frames offer the same overall aesthetic to square frames, but they’re not quite the same thing. While most square frames have defined edges and a powerful silhouette, their rectangular cousins relax things a bit – although their stylistic overlap makes some optical enthusiasts wonder if the distinction is necessary.
Rectangular frames opt for curved, softer edges and a narrower bridge. They’re an appropriate middle ground if your face is too wide for round frames, but you find that square or aviator glasses are too conspicuous for your environment or personal aesthetic. These aren’t terribly fashion-forward, but that’s not a bad thing. They’re timeless and have plenty of time left on the sartorial radar, to which the ubiquitous Ray-Ban wayfarer testifies.
The round frame took off in the swinging 60’s and was hungrily adopted by across the cultural spectrum. They usually have a narrow bridge and small lenses, but can come in various shapes, with chunky acetate frames or more minimalist steel options. This style can work wonders on sharp or angular features.
The rounded edges on the frame can soften severe cheekbones. Their softer shape is less intense than square frames or aviators, so they’re perfect for a more understated, approachable look. There are some sartorial caveats, though. Due to their narrow dimensions, they can make your head look larger than it is. So, if you have a big noggin, you might want to look elsewhere. Lastly, if you have round features, avoid these frames as they can simply accentuate what you already have. Opt instead for something that’ll add definition to your face.