I don’t think anyone can argue that eyewear has gone through changes over the decades. Changes in design? Of course. Changes in perception? Most definitely. I believe we’re in a very interesting time for eyewear in our current decade, but we still battle some old perspectives on what eyewear should be… and what it really is.
I’ve needed vision correction since I was in 4th grade. In about 2008, it was time for me to finally get some new frames. I had held off buying new frames through about 3 changes in prescriptions, so I resigned myself to it being time to get some new, updated frames. (I’d been wearing contact lenses since I was 13, so glasses were only worn as a back-up.)
Everything looked the same up on that optician’s board, and there were a ton of options to choose from. It was like a sea of sameness… where do I even begin? The optician came over to help me, and after a moment of thought, he handed me a pair of burgundy frames with an intricate design on the temples. “No way,” my mind automatically reacted. “Those are different.” Cue feelings of hesitation. Skepticism. There might’ve even bit a bit of fear mixed in.
He gently encouraged me to try them on, and I was amazed to see that I looked… good. Was it possible that I could pull these off? I liked how they looked on me. “But, they’re different.”
As I’m prone to do when I’m deciding on a purchase, I tried other frames on to make sure I was being thorough. But, everything still looked the same, and nothing made me feel as good as those burgundy frames did. I kept thinking about them, and they had unknowingly become the benchmark that everything else was being compared to.
“Is it okay to do this? Can I do this?” I kept asking myself.
It didn’t occur to me at the time, but why was I so hesitant to wear something “different”?
Katy Perry nailed the 80's glasses look in her video for "Last Friday Night"
Remember what the glasses were like in the 80′s? Big. Plastic. Round. Personally, I couldn’t wait to get contact lenses, because frames were generally ugly, and perceived as negatively nerdy, unattractive, and boring. If you got contact lenses, your coolness factor was restored.
Nice frames, Gillian Anderson.
Then, in the 90s, vision correction surgery came on the scene, and everyone I knew was talking about it and/or getting it. Glasses during that period really gravitated toward wire frames: minimal, maybe with a little color (mine were purple wire), and smaller. But, I still remember the general consensus was that glasses just weren’t cool, and everyone was trying to get out of them any way they could.
Looking back at how glasses shaped my perception of others and how others perceived me, it makes sense that I would be hesitant to get a pair that would (gasp) call attention to the fact that I was wearing glasses. In fact, if I got glasses with this much care and attention put into the design, I would have to (double gasp) wear them.
In the end, I bought the burgundy frames. And, I started to wear them outside of the house. At first, I wore them every few days or so, but as I started getting compliments from co-workers, family members, and friends, I started wearing them more often. Positive reinforcement does wonders, doesn’t it? Hearing “I love your glasses!” or “Those look really good on you” is a great encouragement.
I think my own relationship with eyewear is similar to many others’. The industry is changing, and it’s becoming more socially-acceptable to wear glasses and look cool doing it. But eyewear manufacturers won’t make sales if customers aren’t interested in buying what they’re offering. If the majority of Americans who wear glasses just want to minimize the fact that they have to wear them, that’s the majority of frames that will be made available.
It’s funny how one shopping experience for glasses could have such a significant impact on how I presented myself to the public, but that’s exactly what happened. If it weren’t for my optician’s encouragement, I would never have stepped outside of my perceived comfort zone. I’m glad I did, because it gave me a more open mind about eyewear, and a clearer understanding of what frames-wearers consider when they’re buying glasses.
When I started working for ZIG Eyewear, I had the honor of having Cendrine, the designer herself, pick out the right frames for me. This time, I was much more open to wearing “something different” – in fact, I was looking forward to it.
These are one of the frames I wear, and the the ones Cendrine selected for me:
The next time you’re shopping for eyewear, I challenge you to try on something different than you’ve worn in the past. You might just see more clearly, in more ways than one.