You probably think “glasses” and “fashion statement” don’t belong in the same sentence. Acquiring a pair has long been considered a necessary evil, one that’s strictly for the focally challenged.
How things have changed. Now glasses are not only for seeing with but for being seen in. And the person behind it all is the Gucci designer Alessandro Michele, who has sent models wearing bug-eyed specs down the catwalk for the past three seasons. Demna Gvasalia of the cult label Vetements also included a boxy, NHS-style pair in his debut collection for Balenciaga.
The Gucci effect has seen glasses sales grow. Luxottica, which owns Ray-Ban and Persol, as well as having exclusive eyewear licence agreements for designer labels, posted net sales of more than £7 billion in 2015, up 17 per cent from 2014. This is because specs are now being seen as fashion accessories, with women buying several frames rather than just one pair. In a survey commissioned by Vision Express, 32 per cent admitted to owning multiple pairs.
It takes confidence, though, to dabble with statement specs. What you’re looking for is the perfect mix of what suits you and what’s fashionable. The eyewear label Hook Ldn has created a new cheat sheet for the six main face shapes, available on hookldn.com, so you can see what style of frame would fit. A square face looks best with a round frame such as the Wander, while a heart-shaped face needs something wider on the forehead with soft edges at the base like the Pagoda (both £170 including lenses).
The founder of Cubitts, Tom Broughton, says fit is often forgotten. Check that your glasses sit properly on the bridge of your nose and that they’re neither pressing against the sides of your head nor slipping off. Broughton says glasses can divert the gaze from areas you don’t like. “A big nose needs glasses that are light at the bridge, heavy at the sides, and a bold colour so the attention’s on the frame,” he says. The honey-coloured Seaford frames (£125 including lenses, cubitts.co.uk) fit the bill.
When the NHS launched in 1948 and gave away glasses there were only seven styles to choose from, whether you were six or 86. Nowadays you’ll find scores of designer frames at high-street opticians and countless independent sellers online. Oliver Peoples has collaborated with the New York Fashion Week label The Row on an eyewear collection that launched this month. Channel Robin Wright in House of Cards with the thick-framed 71st Street (£306.50 not including lenses, pretavoir.co.uk). Black Eyewear is a good place to find whimsical coloured frames, ironically: the strawberry-hued Dinah will brighten up work basics (£204 including lenses, blackeyewear.com). Ace & Tate lets you filter by colour, width, shape and material, so it couldn’t be easier if you know your preferences (from £89 including lenses, aceandtate.co.uk).
For oversized frames, head to Prism. The founder, Anna Laub, says she wanted to make opticals that would add to a person’s style instead of taking away from it: “We spend so much time shopping for shoes and bags but something you wear every day on your face is just an afterthought.” No one looking at Laub’s playfully oversized Berlin style would dream of calling them that (£245 not including lenses, brownsfashion.com).
Found one pair that’s right for you? Now it’s time to track down a contrasting second pair to give you the basis for your new glasses wardrobe. After all, you change your shoes when you’re going out in the evening, why not your glasses? Two different pairs is enough — a classic style for nine to five (try Walter & Herbert, from £270 including lenses, walterandherbert.com), and something more experimental for weekends.
The editor of Glamour, Jo Elvin, who wears glasses by either Persol (from £344 including lenses, davidclulow.com) or Tom Davies (from £740 including lenses, tdtomdavies.com) 90 per cent of the time, has a trick come evening: “I don’t love getting dressed up and then having to put glasses on, but at times like that I think of Jenna Lyons.” To take as your inspiration the head of J Crew, long the world’s most glasses-committed glamourpuss, is good advice. But if you still can’t shake memories of teenage years spent squirming in the optician’s chair, note what’s inscribed on the arm of Kate Spade specs and take heart: “Boys make passes at girls in glasses”. Now more than ever, it would seem.