THE idea of suspending a convex glass lens in front of one’s eyes to magnify an image may have once seemed a rather left field idea, but glasses are an unconventional yet brilliantly obvious invention that has stood the test of time – and the six out of 10 people in the developed world who rely on them can vouch for that.
Glasses clockwise from top: Lummis glasses in Coco by Oliver Peoples, Donut glasses by l.a.Eyeworks, Sapphire glasses by Eolf Eyewear, Lummis glasses by Oliver Peoples, Gottieb glasses by l.a.Eyeworks
Optics as we know them today were originally invented in 13th century Italy as the country steamed towards the innumerable developments of the Renaissance period, with the first pair of spectacles appearing in the history books as far back as 1286. Though it is not entirely clear who the inventor was, the basic rudimentary concept has barely changed in the last 700 years: that a frame for eyeglasses should consist of two magnifying glasses riveted together by the handles gripping the bridge of the nose. Styles have certainly changed, however, and deciding upon the right eyewear to assist in one’s visionary impairment and complement one’s appearance is serious business for the stylistically inclined.
Given the plethora of styles and silhouettes of frames available today, determining the kind of colours and shapes that work in unison to flatter our overall appearance can be daunting. But when done right, glasses, or any kind of eyewear for that matter, can be the most captivating compliment to a man’s mien.
The first and most important task is to identify which frame shape will work with your face shape to give the most attractive results. To achieve this, Design Director Lise Tyler of Oliver Peoples, the brand behind (or in front of) some of Hollywood’s starriest eyes, states that it is actually best to choose a frame shape that is the opposite of your face shape. Referring to this as a common guideline, Tyler suggests that “people with a round face structure should seek glasses with a more angular and defined shape” as square angles add definition to the curves, whereas those with “a square face should look for an oval, rounded frame design because the circular designs help to soften the sharp lines of a square face structure”.
However, it seems that for those who possess an oval shaped arrangement the luck is on their side as “most any style will work, but be wary of frames that are too wide. Whatever you choose, eyewear should highlight your best features.”
Christian Wolf at Rolf Eyewear, a small family-run brand based in the Austrian Alps specialising in high-quality handcrafted eyewear composed of sustainably sourced wood, stone and buffalo horn, concurs. “When looking for frames with a more masculine feel, square and angular frames are often best, as well as frames that have a flatter line across the brow, as opposed to more cat-eye shapes that ‘wing up’ at the corners and are traditionally more feminine.”
The second decisive factor is the colour palette you have and what you are willing to work with. This is where the rules become less prescriptive and current trends range from harmonising the frame with your own skin tone to pushing the envelope completely and experimenting with contemporary colourways. Wolf surmises that they mostly see their customers “gravitating towards versatile, neutral palettes. That works well with ROLF, since all of our frames are made from unpainted, natural materials. Otherwise men might consider variations of tortoise, greys, browns, blues, blacks, or neutral metals”.
Glass clockwise from top: Lummis glass in Black by Oliver Peoples, Cornwall glasses by l.a.Eyeworks, Sandman glasses by l.a.Eyeworks, Roland glasses in pewter by Oliver Peoples, Admiral and Foursome glasses by Rolf Eyewear
On the other end of the spectrum, Gai Gherardi, co-founder of l.a.Eyeworks, the original iconoclastic eyewear specialists with a uniquely renowned approach to celebrity-endorsed branding, asserts, “Colour is a critical aspect of the l.a.Eyeworks design signature, and we have worked against the long-standing assumption that men can’t or don’t want to wear colour.”
Furthermore, co-founder and co-designer Barbara McReynolds adds, “We have always advocated the idea of a wardrobe of glasses. Men have no problem thinking about their shoes this way, so why not their eyewear? Have something to wear for a casual mood, a pair that’s more formal, a pair for the day you’re seeking solitude and a pair for the day you sign the big deal.”
Superlative quality is the next signifier of a well put together frame, but what exactly signals quality in a pair of glasses? For Tyler it is important to try frames on to see how they feel on your face. “Fit and comfort are markers of quality. The materials and details are also key, from the finishes on the metal to the plaques and pins being evidently genuine – do you see rivets that go through to the hinge, as opposed to being applied with glue, for instance?”
Wolf adds that it should also feel good in your hand, again pointing out that one should take note of the details. “How do they feel when they open and close? Are they stiff and creaky or do they move smoothly and silently? Is the frame designed with wearer comfort in mind? The edges should be smooth where they meet skin, with no sharp spots poking you.” McReynolds concludes that “you really do get what you pay for, and a fine optician will gladly tell you the story behind the frame you’re buying. They can educate you about the origin and process of the frame’s making, the quality of the material and fittings.” Gherardi summarises, “You will know you’ve found a great pair of glasses when they feel pleasurable to wear.”
Finally, how to get the on-trend look for 2016? According to Wolf, “by sticking with an unfussy, classic signature piece that conveys confidence and won’t take over your face,” crucially “you should be wearing the glasses, not the other way round.” Tyler suggests avoiding “logos and super trendy glasses. Lush, minimalist looks are more timeless and tasteful. When Oliver Peoples started,” she explains, “we defined a new category of ‘intellectual eyewear’ which were subtle, sophisticated styles with natural hues. These have always been ideal for executives who are solely looking for quality, function and a classic style.”
McReynolds agrees along with her co-designer, Gai, that glasses can be at once sophisticated and stylish without appearing too stuffy, suggesting, “Some men set out with the intention of finding frames that will ‘disappear’ on the face, like rimless or wire-rim designs. Frankly, these often end up looking unnecessarily conservative, and worse, have the unintended effect of prematurely ageing the wearer. Modern eyewear should have a presence that lives graphically with the wearer.”
by Livia Feltham