For more explanation of this month’s theme, “millennials in thirty things,” check out this post.
I got glasses in seventh grade. I tried on lots of different frames and squinted at myself in the pink-lit rectangular mirrors, and finally chose a pair with thin metal rims. A week later, after we picked them up, I read out all the street signs on the drive home. Soon afterwards I got braces, and I was really cute for a couple of years.
It took me a while to realize that glasses could be a fashion statement. (Granted, it took me awhile to understand the concept that wearing an all-purple outfit wasn’t a fashion statement.) At first, I didn’t think too hard about what my glasses looked like; soon, though, I wanted them to become invisible—and then I got contacts. But during junior year of high school, when my prescription changed, I selected a pair of dark purple frames with three tiny rhinestones on the corner of each eye. People started complimenting my glasses. It was weird. It was flattering.
Today, as I walk the streets of New York, thick-framed eyewear is ubiquitous to the point of being non-remarkable. My grandmother would have disparagingly told me, “Those glasses hide your face,” but that seems to be exactly the point. Rather than accentuating a lovely pair of blue eyes, these glasses themselves are the focal point. You are as cool as your glasses. Or as intellectual, or as bold, or as hipster (if yours were actually made in the ‘70s).
My sister has a pair like this. She only recently stopped being an art student and has transitioned to freelance illustrator and graphic designer. She layers clothing and jewelry extremely well, has worked as a barista and cake-server, and owns a cat named Ron Swanson.
My coworker has a pair. Well, many of my coworkers do, in all the colors. This particular coworker lives in the Village and walks to the office. She works at a farmer’s market on Sundays and brings giant glass jars of salad for lunch; she carries a Kate Spade purse, wears dresses nearly every day, and just bleached her hair white.
My old roommate has a new pair of translucent plastic frames. She is a paralegal by day and a singer-songwriter the rest of the time, and she is tall and independent and speaks sentences like they are musical phrases.
The twenty-something librarians; the Apple store associates; the hostess at the wine bar and nintey percent of Starbucks employees; the NYU students; and that girl on the F train with the tattoo-covered legs and dresses from Modcloth. They all have the glasses.
My fiance just got a pair as well. We went to the Warby Parker store in SoHo and took turns wedging every pair onto our faces, even the jade green ones and the red cat-eyes. The salesperson—excuse me, Customer Service Associate—asked him if he would be needing an eye exam or if these were just for fun. Many of their customers, she said, have no prescription in their eye-catching frames at all.
Steven found a pair that looked great on him, although I may be biased in saying that, and he got his eye exam and now he has joined the cool-glasses-wearing ranks. He is a graphic designer and communications manager at a nonprofit organization.
I am getting ready for a new pair of glasses. One of the lenses of my current pair has a fracture or something, and I’ve had them for four years anyways. It’s time for a change. But not a single pair of Warby Parkers looks good on my face. Not one. Even the thinner frames, when I put them on, just manage to look clunky. The people who wear these glasses best somehow still manage to shine through them, or the frames blend in with their overall persona. You do see the glasses first, often, but they are just part of a bigger statement.
I’m a book editor and writer—I should be a prime candidate for hipster glasses. But I just don’t have the face for them.