The Cost of Looking Good

It’s widely believed that change is the essence of life, but as we experience life, we learn that irony is ever-present, inescapable. For example, people who must wear prescription eyewear don’t want to, yet there are those who happily wear non-prescription glasses for the effect. Then there are sunglasses…an entire industry based on our desire to be cool.

Eyewear is fashion, and as fashion it is subject to trends and fads. For those of us who can’t see without our prescription eyewear, it’s a necessity; our glasses are as much a fashion accessory as a set of crutches. In a gorgeously produced coffee-table volume, Cult Eyewear: The World’s Enduring Classics by Neil Handley, eyewear as fashion is examined and explained (somewhat). Rayban is there, as well as Sophia Loren, a woman who helped elevate prescription eyeglasses to a more glamorous status.

What makes eyeglasses glamorous? Recently, one of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills bought a pair of sunglasses for $25,000. Encrusted with four carats of diamonds and made from gold, they might be considered glamorous if their wearer didn’t have to mention the cost every time she showed them off. While people in the real world are going to Wal-Mart and spending $40 for a pair of prescription glasses (sans diamonds), this “housewife” spent as much as some people pay for houses (yes, I live in an area where houses still go that cheaply…of course, they need work, something Beverly Hills housewives can’t appreciate).

Most of the specs in Cult Eyewear: The World’s Enduring Classics fall in a price range somewhere between $40 and $25,000. Readers will learn about “lifestyle dispensing” in a brief history of designer eyewear, and will then enjoy a dazzling display of frames from top designers (Christian Dior, Mary Quant) and celebrities (Elton John, David Beckham), and discover the huge variety of eyewear producers.

Elegance, practicality, novelty, and daring are represented by some of the styles; many of the frames are works of art and some are outlandish, depending on one’s taste and point of view. Cult Eyewear: The World’s Enduring Classics presents a colorful selection of classic and modern styles, a selection we would love to find at our local optician’s storefront. It would make a grand gift for that friend who seems addicted to sunglasses, and includes an eyewear glossary as well as a guide to some of the places one can view cult eyewear collections.

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