According to studies, sitcoms and the cultural canon, wearing glasses is supposed to make you “different” somehow. With them, you seem more intelligent, more creative, and more deserving of the job. But glasses are an expression of a physical impairment, not of your weird genius. Is it weird that I’d just rather wear a piece of plastic on my face in order to see properly than stick one inside my eye? Of course, thanks to mid-00s hipsterdom, some people like to enhance their faces with glasses whether they need them or not. It’s like all you need to make an outfit feel alternative is a pair of thick black frames. Some guy named Dave even admitted that he wears glasses to seem like a sensitive, artistic soul in a Thought Catalog piece called “I Wear Fake Glasses.” Creative.
Like it or not (and I really don’t), glasses are fashion statement. Luckily, lasses with glasses have have their own set of fashion icons. The esteemed, eccentric Peggy Guggenheim might be remembered for her spectacular art collection, but I think her more important contribution to the world (of fashion, at least) is her impeccable taste in eyewear. If you ever needed reassurance that your current frames are boring, look no further. She wears bat wings, pie plates and rococo picture frames on her face without batting a lash. Somewhere behind that ‘we are not amused’ expression must lay a wicked sense of humour, because there’s no way she could have a cold heart with those bold peepers on. If only Peggy Guggenheim had lived to see web 2.0, I’m sure she would have her own tag on all the street style blogs. When I look at the butterfly baroque sunglasses that Miuccia designed for Prada Spring ’11, I see Peggy stamped all over them. And for Spring ’12, Prabal Gurung collaborated with Linda Farrow Projects to make glasses modelled outright after the icon who shares his initials.
The living person who comes closest to Guggenheim’s bizzarely bespectacled legacy is Iris Apfel, a sassy nonagenarian who used to do design consultation for the White House and is never photographed without her flying saucer circular frames. Sometimes they are black, other times red, even tortoiseshell–but they always take up approximately 45% of her facial area. Iris looks a bit like a toucan, which I think is a compliment: toucans are a colourful, majestic bird. They also really like Froot Loops, and with her wild print mixing and liberal use of colour, Apfel’s ensembles are Froot-Loopy in the extreme. All of the above, plus her jovial attitude, has made her a darling of the fashion world: check her Vogue Japan shoot and dedicated MAC cosmetics line.
There’s also Linda Rodin, another fixture on the New York fashion scene–and a total silver fox. Whether her glasses are tortoise-shell or rose-tinted, they always have oversize, retro swagger.
Peggy, Apfel, and Rodin are all ladies of a certain age. They have young imitators (like Julia Frakes, Raquel Sanchez Montes, and, in one image, the artist known as Lana Del Rey) but no one does it better than the 60+ babes. Fashion rules tend to dictate that only the young can pull off radical styles: how many times have I read that women aren’t supposed to try new trends or wear miniskirts past 30? But style doesn’t have to subdue with age, and I think getting older is all the more reason to try out all the wacky styles you eschewed in your youth because you were too concerned with fitting in. Aging gives you all the more reason to get crazy and wear purple (with red frames which don’t go).
Theo’s “Pine” style cannily mixes chartreuse with camouflage ($440 at Karir Eyewear, First Canadian Place, 416-363-4669 (and other locations), where only one of each style is ordered for a literally unique shopping experience).
The “MP-2” by Oliver Peoples would make any wearer the Apfel of our eye ($373 at Karir Eyewear).
Peggy, meet “Patsy,” the retrofuturistic sunglasses by Karen Walker (~$185 on ShopBop).
The Guggenheim store makes its own shades, of course ($250 USD).
The inimitable Thom Browne, in collab with Dita, is making some of the raddest eyewear around (at Spectacle, 752 Queen St. W).
Isabel Slone last wrote for Toronto Standard about how fashion blogging started to suck. Follow her on Twitter at @hipstermusings.