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May 22, 2020 5:48 PM   Subscribe

What's the deal with fancy glasses? To be clear, I'm not talking about the frames made by Luxottica with well-known designer labels slapped on; more the kinds of frames the fancy glasses shop I used to live near would stock. Is it purely a style/cachet thing (I'm sure it is after a certain point), or is there a point where improved quality/workmanship over glasses from Zenni, Warby Parker et al. would be noticeable to the average person who has a pair of glasses on their face every waking minute of the day?

I ask because I have a good chunk of money set aside in an FSA for a medical procedure that likely won't be happening this year, and I could use some new glasses. I have a pretty strong prescription so I always spring for the extra-thin ($$$) lenses so even glasses from the discount online places can be pretty pricey. Probably the practical thing would be to get duplicates of something reasonably-priced so I can have spares, but I've always been curious about this.. Anyone love their fancy glasses and could tell us why?
posted by btfreek to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (39 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Dr. Advicepig swears by her fancy glasses. She has a tough RX that Zenni screwed up twice. Her frames are fancy too, but given she wears them everyday for a couple of years, it’s worth it to her. She also takes advantage of the optical fitting them.

I’m a low brow fast fashion Zenni fan.
posted by advicepig at 6:05 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]

Put a pair of Warby Parker’s next to a pair of SALTs. The craftsmanship/quality of the SALTs is obviously better. I own both, but I do think it’s worth paying more for quality glasses if you can afford it.
posted by david1230 at 6:11 PM on May 22 [5 favorites]

For me, it’s a choice thing. I don’t know that I’m at the top end of glasses fanciness, but I buy from a little boutique where the salesperson talks over your preferences with you and pulls things from drawers for you to try on. I find it much less stressful. They routinely have a variety of interesting and unusual frames, compared to the selection I see at my optometrist’s. I can go in and describe whatever weird vibe I’m feeling (this time it was The Eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg) and they will find something like I was thinking of.

I can’t say whether they’re any more durable... I have a tendency to wear all my glasses until they break, regardless of source.

That said, my brother buys Warby Parker and seems quite happy with them. I will only note there’s some risk for (user) error with online lenses when it comes to measuring your pupillary distance. My brother messed his up, but has a mild enough prescription that it didn’t make a huge difference, apparently. Some optometrists will give you this measurement for a fee.
posted by ceramicspaniel at 6:20 PM on May 22 [3 favorites]

Some years ago I went to a Good Frames store and tried on some buffalo horn frames that were like they were made for me, like me and the buffalo were siblings and he was born for the purpose of providing me a kidney horn for glasses. Perfectly proportional, they hung on my nose in just the right spot (which never happens), and didn't press into my behind-the-ears. They were a greenish color that went perfectly with my eyes. I fell instantly in love, but they were $900. This meant I had to sleep on it because while I had the money, I have a crippling case of anticipatory buyer's remorse. For some reason I eventually decided not to get them (probably for being slightly beside my style at the time) in favor of something else (impulse), but I still think about them whenever I think of new glasses because I have never come across any frames that just perfectly fell onto my face like that.
posted by rhizome at 6:44 PM on May 22 [9 favorites]

I switched from "glasses shop glasses" to zennis several years ago and never looked back, I am totally unable to tell any difference in everyday experience. Plus when my discontinued faves got a broken nosepiece they sent me a replacement and a repair kit for free, that was cool. Disclaimer: my prescription is medium-strong, but very simple, so that probably colors my experience.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 6:47 PM on May 22 [2 favorites]

I’m currently wearing a 4 year old pair of mykita frames with lenses from the optician down the road and... i also have a drawer full of $20 glasses, because every couple of years I TRY, but they never look as good and the lenses/my vision aren’t as good, either. I’ve just resigned myself to spending something like $700 on my glasses but just buying them much less frequently. The cheap ones seem to work for some people but not me.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 6:49 PM on May 22

My beloved buys fancy ass expensive handcrafted designer glasses from I wanna say Belgium. He gets lots of compliments because they are absolutely gorgeous pieces of art. They also don't last that long because they are delicate pieces of art and he treats them like normal glasses eg. occasionally knocks them off the bedside table.

Me, I wear $40 plastic frames from Dresden and treat them like shit and they last forever.
posted by stray at 6:51 PM on May 22 [6 favorites]

I tend to wear moderately expensive frames. (I don't actually remember the brand of my current pair, but before this pair my last couple were Face a Face or Gold and Wood, to give you a sense of price point.)

I don't have specific brands in mind, but when I am at the optometrist I try on everything I like the look of first and check the prices once I'm down to two or three pairs I love that fit me well. It's a self indulgence I like to treat myself to every couple of years; my glasses sit on my face every day and I'm going to look at them every time I glance in the mirror or take a selfie. I like a bright color or interesting shape, so they tend to be a thing people remember about me. So I find it worth getting the pair I love that will make me happy every time I look in the mirror.

All of that said, while my glasses do wear well and never break like they did when I was younger, I don't know if that's because I get spendy ones now or if the tech is just better than it used to be.

So really it's just an aesthetic and budgeting choice for me. See also: fat woman fashion. I can't get cute clothes in my aesthetic and size without a great deal of trouble, and I rarely feel great about how my body looks. But I can feel great about how my face looks. I'm willing to spend a chunk of money every couple of years to make that happen.

I don't think of it as a cachet thing - I don't recognize anyone else's glasses brand and I would be startled if anyone recognized mine - but I suppose for some people at some price point it must be.
posted by Stacey at 6:54 PM on May 22 [5 favorites]

I have some that were moderately priced from my optician. They definitely feel a bit better but the frames alone were $300. I also had some $150 vogue from LensCrafters (not the best company but a well know brand) and the first ones were cracked when they put lenses in and the second had a loose lens.

While my expensive ones feel good - I’ve found cheaper than feel just as good. (Derek cardigan from coastal which are closer to $100 + lenses)

Now I do zenni, zeelool, eye buy direct, coastal, etc. I’ve spent a fair about through coastal and bon-look in the past.

I don’t have a complex Rx but have complex eyes and a small head and face. So I’ve done a lot of cheap glasses in part to learn which ones actually work for me to see through effectively or stay on my head right. For example, I tend to get larger lenses because it helps my peripheral vision. But that is at odds with my small features. I can get quite a few things to try for cheap - then if I want something better I can splurge because I know the right frame shape and size. Though I also enjoy trying to new things and I’d rather have more options than fewer.

Though I have a deep desire to get true vintage frames someday and treat them as my fancy pair.
posted by Crystalinne at 6:55 PM on May 22

The quality difference is noticeable for me. My Zennis are spares and nothing more.
posted by McNulty at 7:01 PM on May 22 [5 favorites]

My frames from Prodesign Denmark (not too fancy) broke at the nose. The replacements I bought because I couldn't afford all new glasses broke in exactly the same way.

My frames from Oliver Peoples (maybe slightly fancier, or maybe just more expensive but not actually fancier, bought in a hurry because the previous glasses broke) are holding up just fine, but I also had learned my lesson with the previous frames and made sure to buy titanium and not acetate. They also seem pretty heavy compared to …

My frames from Anne et Valentin (pretty fancy, bought at a fancy place), which I apparently got in 2014, which I still wear literally every other day now. The only reason I don't wear them every day (still) is that I also have frames from Theo (bought at the same fancy place in 2016) and I alternate the two. My eyes are pretty bad and I need progressive lenses, so lens fit is pretty important. I got the best fit I've ever had at the fancy place. The last prescription change I threw my independent eye doctor a bone and had him do my new lenses, and I don't actually like them very much. For my next lenses I'm going back to the fancy place.

The sunglasses I put prescription lenses in are literally Ray-Ban Clubmasters I got my junior year of high school in 1988 (when Ray-Ban was still Bausch & Lomb), and those are still holding up.

I'm a bald man, if it matters. Cool glasses are kind of a necessary personal brand. My Theo frames are kind of subtle compared to the Anne et Valentin frames, and I'm always amused to see what sort of person compliments each pair (Theo: more comments; Anne et Valentin: fewer comments, but from more stylish people). FWIW my eye doctor is jealous of my Anne et Valentin frames. He says he'd love to sell them but his clientele wouldn't buy them. Salt is about as fancy as he gets.
posted by fedward at 7:01 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]

She also takes advantage of the optical fitting them.

This is the key for me. My most comfortable glasses have been fit by opticians*. But I do I have a couple of zenni glasses. They seem less sturdy, but not drastically so. And they fit ok, well enough I can usually wear them all day, but I rotate in my fancy pair that are a few years old and a bit beat up but fit very well (and contacts when I have them). I was going to get another nice pair when my insurance kicked in and then everything shut down.

But fancy isn't a guarantee. My worst pair of glasses were also from a fancy place that did not fit me well: to be fair, I think that was more the eye doctor doing a poor job (even after a few follow visits where they brushed me off) that the physical fit job by the optician.

So if you do go spendy, try to get a personal recommendation if possible. And don't be afraid to follow up if something isn't working.

*Not all of these have been especially fancy. The best glasses have come from places that are private practices with a few different provider/owners and have been around for years.
posted by ghost phoneme at 7:02 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]

Relatively speaking, my fancy boutique frames >> Warby Parker >>>> Zenni (and maybe even Clearly), although I must say that Zenni's quality has gotten a lot better these days. I find that Warby Parker hits a sweet spot in terms of frame and lens quality; they're good and stylish enough that it's hard to justify spending $800 at an indie boutique.

In terms of Zenni, I've had bad experiences with the coating not holding up all that well. I would never rely on a single pair as my daily glasses the way I would with my boutique frames or even my Warby Parker frames. Ascetically I really like some of my Zenni frames, but the craftsmanship isn't quite there.

- I have a medium-strong, not-really-complicated single vision Rx
- I got my Warby Parkers from one of their retail locations, so adjustments were a lot easier to deal with; if you're going the fully online route YMMV
- My optometrist measured my PD, so I wasn't winging it when it came to buying frames online
- I'm someone who usually wears "universal fit" frames when available; if you have a different sort of nose you'll probably find it a lot easier to get cheap glasses that sit on your face correctly
- That said, I've had glasses from an independent shop that were circa-2013-Zenni bad in terms of quality but a lot more expensive, and they were probably the absolute worst frames I've ever owned
posted by blerghamot at 7:02 PM on May 22

Zenni is my back up. I don’t trust them after wearing out my first pair and shoddy later pairs. Cute fun things for cosplay? Sure. But my coke bottle lenses go to local stores who may send them out but get better quality and back their goods.
posted by tilde at 7:05 PM on May 22

I'm embracing my old age and going for larger lenses, too. I'm way, way too young for them, but I'm seriously considering the Swifty Lazar/D.M.C. frames (previously).
posted by rhizome at 7:17 PM on May 22

Put a pair of Warby Parker’s next to a pair of SALTs. The craftsmanship/quality of the SALTs is obviously better.

Yeah, I've had the same pair of SALT frames for over four years now of daily wear? And I'm not particularly gentle with them, either. They've probably got at least another year in them, but there's like a hairline crack in the earpiece from where I bent it too hard while adjusting the fit and my insurance will cover new frames this year. So I'll probably get a new pair of SALTs and use my current ones as backup.

Admittedly, if my insurance didn't cover most of the frame cost, I'd probably be going with Warby Parkers or like $39 Glasses instead. But you really do get what you pay for sometimes.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:19 PM on May 22

For me it's all about weight. I pay a lot for my frames because I get headaches if my glasses weigh more than, like, a paper clip. Spendy frames give me more options. I do have zennis as spares but I don't think I could wear them every day.
posted by potrzebie at 7:22 PM on May 22 [2 favorites]

I have a variety of Zenni frames, and a proper glasses shop frame that cost $300 (before lenses) and a $100 pair (including lenses) from a glasses shop start-up place that does physically make the frames on the premises and you go in and buy them, but they only stock one style (just in lots of colours and sizes) to reduce costs. I can tell by looking and touching them that the Zenni frames are the lowest quality, the $100 pair the next best, and the fancy ones the highest quality. For one thing, it's the materials. The Zenni ones are mostly plastic. There's two metal pairs but they are flimsy and the nose pieces don't seem totally firmly attached. The place where the lens meets the frame is not quite as secure-feeling. The $100 pair is extremely well made and solid feeling, but it is plastic. The $300 pair is metal, and the metal is solid and has nice detail, and everything feels less likely to break and more securely put together.

On the other hand, all of these have lasted me about five years now, including the Zenni ones, and I alternate among them all often. The most comfortable to wear is the $100 pair. The Zenni ones vary between extremely uncomfortable and pretty good. The $300 pair is pretty comfortable but it gives me a rash if I wear it multiple days in a row.

These experiences mean I'm definitely going to continue to buy cheap glasses. But for someone for whom cost is totally irrelevant, a couple of pairs of higher end frames would be better.
posted by lollusc at 7:34 PM on May 22

She also takes advantage of the optical fitting them.

This is the key for me. My most comfortable glasses have been fit by opticians*.

I should add that I have previously taken a pair of Zenni glasses into an opticians and asked them to adjust them to fit me better, and that was absolutely fine. They charged like $10 (and then waived the cost in the end when I ended up buying glasses cleaner and wipes from them at the same time).
posted by lollusc at 7:40 PM on May 22 [3 favorites]

Once I got past about 45 my prescription got so complicated that it became really, really important for me to work with someone who did a good job fitting my glasses to my face and my prescription to my glasses. As a result I ended up paying several hundred dollars for a pair of glasses that make me look like a million bucks and that I can see with perfectly--near, far, and in between.

I presume that means they're expensive frames but compared to the nightmare experience with the pair from Lenscrafters immediately preceding, I do. not. care. Worth every penny.
posted by Sublimity at 7:41 PM on May 22 [9 favorites]

The last time I shopped for glasses I tried on a pair of ridiculously spendy german frames (MYKITA maybe?) and wow, did they feel amazing! Very light and flexible and somehow kind of soft, honestly like they weren't even there, and they sat just right in an indescribably next-level way. It was the glasses try-on version of wearing badly fitting shoes my whole life and finally trying on something that supported my arches and fit well. They were also elegant as all get-out.

I've tried on spendy frames before and not felt a difference, but these made me realize the potential - how simple and easy and just delightful it would be to wear glasses like those each day. Alas, it was not to be - I didn't have a few hundred extra dollars bouncing about at the time. But hey, you do! I'd recommend at least making a visit and doing some try-ons, just to see if you find any that feel surprisingly really great (once it is covidly safe to do so of course).
posted by marlys at 7:49 PM on May 22 [4 favorites]

I miss my SALTs. They were the best-looking pair of frames I ever had.

I switched to progressives recently and maybe it was just luck, but the lenses I splashed out on have given me few problems. The frames from the same shop, not so convinced they were worth it. I'd revisit SALTs but they're narrow enough that I'm not sure that progressives will fit them well.
posted by praemunire at 7:55 PM on May 22

I only wear my glasses occasionally (usually do contacts, but do wear my glasses at night). I grew up getting cheapo frames that were never comfortable, didn’t look good, and didn’t hold up. Now, i have great vision insurance but prioritize style and comfort over “brand name”. The cheapo ones are never comfortable to me. The pair i have now are titanium because wearing glasses all day gives me a headache (due to the weight) so the titanium just feel so much better for all-day wear, and it’s worth it to me.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:11 PM on May 22

Back in the before-times I'd been meaning to get a Costco subscription to get a pair of glasses and sunglasses.

Shortly before that I'd stumbled into an internet forum where dispensing opticians were bitching at each other about the difficulty of competing with Costco for price and quality.

That probably isn't an option for your right now, but eventually it may be.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:24 PM on May 22 [2 favorites]

For me it's mostly a style thing and partially a comfort thing.

The Luxottica monopoly means that frames everywhere are doing variations of a few shapes for five years at a time, and ugh, I find that so dull. My style is dramatic vintage weirdo, and I want something that really stands out. Also, in the hope that someday I'll be able to go out in public again, I want frames that won't jar as modern against my vintage collection. And I have a broad face, so actual vintage optical frames rarely suit me.

I can't wear heavy styles or styles with integral nose pads anymore because of the pressure sensitivity myalgic encephalomyelitis has caused me to have, so that rules out almost all the cheap & cheerful acetate frames. I've also had dermatologic reactions to some silicones, so I have to be able to change adjustable nose pads out if that proves an issue.

I sometimes see shapes in mainstream sunglasses that I like, but they're inevitably watered down for optical, because it's thought that people don't want to wear something that outré all the time. Well, some of us have bad taste and do.

My last two pairs I've bought the frames online and had our local optician send them to the lab they use. It's more expensive that way, but I know I'll have someone local to call on if something doesn't seem right.

My last pair (2013) were LaFont's Gilda; my current pair are Kaleos Collection's Uhura. I discovered Kaleos this year from a list of independent eyeglass makers on reddit, and the instant I landed there I knew I was going to find a winner. They have the geometric 1960s feel I like so well.
posted by jocelmeow at 8:38 PM on May 22 [5 favorites]

I don't know about frames. But I've definitely noticed (more than once) that Warby Parker lenses don't last long. They tend to get noticeably scratched up within about a year, whereas other plastic lenses I've used fare nicely for a lot longer with the same amount of abuse.
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:39 PM on May 22

PS: For durable and inexpensive frames, I've had good luck with The Optometrist Attic, assuming you are ok with last-century styling.
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:42 PM on May 22

Eyeglasses, like nice bedding and well-made boots, are one of those things that I'll splurge on -- my frames from Lunor have a quality and fit that are very noticeable to me.

I usually just use my previous glasses as backups, but if your prescription changes a lot that might not work for you.
posted by theory at 8:53 PM on May 22

I'm a klutz & I'm wearing them on my face every day I want something that's going to last & while the discount online places are where I get my back up emergency glasses.

I am super prone to optical migraines from light movement & it turns out badly fitted bifocals & found the pair of cheap glasses I was wearing everyday was not fitted correctly & was exacerbating the problem.
posted by wwax at 9:45 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]

I'm a big fan of Zenni. But their frames, at least the ones I've bought, don't quite compare in fit and finish with expensive frames. However the difference has made no practical or aesthetic matter to me. Oddly, I've probably gotten more compliments from a $6.95 Zenni frame than any other in my life (I'm 53 and have been wearing glasses since 5th grade). Durability of cheapies has been good enough. The only glasses I've had fall apart/break/degrade due to bad design/manufacture/materials were all pre-zenni/internet glasses era.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:27 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]

I need to come across as semi tidy/'professional' so need something nicer than generic. So have a Seraphin frame, .jp, they're bluish/tortoiseshell-y, and they really seem to make some people sit up!. Frankly I don't give a @$_k about couture, don't even own a suit or tie, but the glasses help me project ... something.

Also I got these glasses when my last one broke, so, emergency, stubling around town going to opticians SpecSavers (the name is a lie) just shrugged (literallllly, completely anti-helpful) when I asked about emergency repairs, but the fancy-ass shop were super helpful, spent ages rummaging in a big box of glasses bits to make me up something that at least worked. So I went back there for my new pair.
posted by unearthed at 11:38 PM on May 22 [2 favorites]

I don't know where it exists, but I LOVE They are a Japanese eyeglass brand which is all over Asia-- think the Uniqlo of eyeglasses. The quality is great, the price is affordable. I won't do anything affiliated with Luxotica (sadly for Oliver Peoples, which I used to love). Lenscrafter and Luxotica are ripping you off.
posted by frumiousb at 4:52 AM on May 23 [2 favorites]

My prescription severely limits my style and lenses options from places like Zenni or Warby Parker. I have one wonky eye and I am no longer able to wear contact lenses. So the boutiques, while the most expensive option, are the better option for ensuring that my glasses fit correctly and are comfortable.

My current frames are from Etnia Barcelona and they are the nicest glasses I have ever owned.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 4:53 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]

A lot of e price difference is profit and some of it is quality. Manufacturing most lenses is standardized and not difficult. Some fancy frames are better made and better materials but they are fashion, and fashion changes a lot. Even pretty cheap glasses are pretty decent. Ate you a person who loses or damages your glasses? Decide how much you want to support their bottom line and use coupons.
posted by theora55 at 4:57 AM on May 23

I'm embracing my old age and going for larger lenses, too. I'm way, way too young for them, but I'm seriously considering the Swifty Lazar/D.M.C. frames (previously).

I believe Run DMC wore Cazals, which are made in Italy by a smaller manufacturer. I'd put them more in the category with Shurons in that I'd genuinely expect a higher level of polish and attention to detail because of that. Meanwhile, even ray bans are made by Luxottica.

I've never owned either though I dream about it sometimes. My favorite-ever glasses were from zeelool--some Cazal rip-offs. All the pieces were plastic, including the metal accents. The nose piece came off eventually but I superglued it back into place. I've had cheap prescriptions that seemed "off" but also prescriptions that were off from the optometrist. Right now I have a pair of cheap metal aviators from zenni that I wear 24/7. I'll probably buy some more cazal-fakes soon from voogueme or zeelool (no one else has glasses big or weird enough for me) but I wouldn't pay more for a luxottica brand and I can't imagine being able to afford real fancies unless I stumbled over a pile of money. It would be cool to be able to pick, say, the type of ear pieces you have like with shurons. But I've had people ask me if I was wearing real cazals. I don't think people can really tell the difference.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:34 AM on May 23 [2 favorites]

One thing I've found makes a huge difference is how much time the optician spends with me. I tried Costco once and got some pretty lousy glasses; when I took them to a trendy store they optician said something like "Oh, I see what they did here" and made me new lenses, which were great. But now I'm loyal to my not-a-chain, dedicated, decades of experience optician where they will spend however long it takes to make my prescription just right for me.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:35 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]

The store in the link looks a lot like the fancy glasses shop I go to. I love, love my store, the optometrist/owner, the staff, and the glasses I buy (and wear for three years). Glasses are something I wear all day, every day, and necessarily a big part of any style I might have. People complement me on my glasses! This is not an experience I ever expected when I was in elementary school and mom was buying them from the discount rack.

Young Jawn also gets glasses from there, and they carried an amazing pair of nearly indestructible kids frames that we had warranty-repaired at least once, perhaps twice.
posted by JawnBigboote at 2:48 PM on May 23

Lafont, that is all.

OK. That's not all. I prefer to buy my glasses from non-Luxxotica brands, just because they give me Bad Touch with their global eyewear domination. There are tons of funky little brands in Europe and Japan, where people take their glasses seriously. Lafont has these little jewel box shops in Paris, and their frames are like jewelry. As a woman of a certain age, I've given up on contacts, and decided to bedeck my face in bright, jewel-like eyeglasses. Lafont hits the mark for me.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 3:02 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]

The optics are the key here. Thing about WP and Zenni, and to an extent the big box stores (looking at you Costco,) is the shitty lenses with a shit job of getting them positioned over your eyes in the right way. This is not a huge deal if your Rx is under say a -/+5.00 and has no astigmatism. The higher the combo of your astigmatism and spherical power is, the more important the lens placement is. PD just doesn't cut it for probably half of the people out there. This also doesn't take into account the mistakes I've seen come into my office. Whether it was the patient entering it in online or the exploited worker making the glasses we will never know, but I've seen some absolute fuckups come from the "market disruptors." That said, if you've got a low spherical power and a real pd measurement, it's probably fine in the sense that you'll be able to see well enough.

I'd you're buying progressives, I'd just shell out the money no matter how simple your rx is. Those images of edge distortion patterns of digital vs old-school PALs (like Costco's) aren't purely marketing. It is a noticable difference for most people.

Best bang for your buck? Find a frame you like from a decent brand online and take it to a small optometrist. Have them put a decent lens in it. Also, it's worth asking your local places what the cash price is. We knock 20% off just for not filing to a vision plan.
posted by piedmont at 7:21 AM on May 24 [5 favorites]

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