Causing a spectacle

Once viewed as nerdy, glasses become an eye-catching fashion statement


Thad Allender /

Spectrum Optical employee Kami Tracy holds up her plastic Cosmopolitan frames and is magnified through the lenses. Plastic and rimless frames are among the most popular eyeglass styles in Lawrence this fall. Tracy owns two pairs of glasses -- these and another pair with metal frames -- so she can change her glasses depending on her outfit.

Remember "four-eyes"?

Well, there's no longer such a stigma toward those with astigmatism.

Feather-light titanium, clunky hipster plastic, barely-there drill mounts, vintage cat-eyes and Hollywood-style tints all mean that eyeglass wearers can stare their bullying nemeses square in the face, bat their eyelashes and deliver the news:

Glasses are officially cool.

"It's more like a fashion accessory, not just a medical need," says Jason Lewis, optical manager at The Spectacle, 935 Iowa. "It's also something that has some style with it. Especially here in Lawrence, it being a college town, the younger people are wanting something more fashionable."

It doesn't hurt that celebs like Jennifer Lopez, Brad Pitt, Britney Spears, Tina Fey and Eddie Murphy sport eyewear like it's jewelry. And who wants to accent their peepers with brown plastic when their rings and necklace are platinum? You don't have to when glasses come in everything from pink plastic to sterling silver.

"We're starting to sell a lot more multiple pairs now because it IS like wearing an accessory," says Jan Curtis, owner of Spectrum Optical, 4 E. Seventh St. "They'll see one in a metal and one in a plastic, and they'll like them both. It's just a fashion thing."

Of course, Lawrence is no Vegas, so you won't find many diamond-studded frames made with naturally harvested water buffalo horn or wrap-style glasses with diamonds and sterling silver at the temple. What's hot in Lawrence this fall, opticians say, are rimless frames that seem to disappear when worn and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, bold, retro plastics. Narrow rectangulars, wraps and cat-eyes are popular -- the smaller, the better. And just about every frame these days is unisex.

Fashion tints are also in. Lenses in shades of green, pink, blue and yellow make a strong fashion statement, indoors or out.

"Tints are huge right now," says Amy Stansbury, office manager at The EyeDoctors, 2600 Iowa. "We have students that get a pair of the fade tint, darker on top, lighter on bottom, and then they get mirror coat. They end up having glasses like a movie star, like J. Lo, Britney Spears. They wear it even in school because it's not dark enough to be a sunglass so they can get by with it. It does add a little bit extra. You're not fitting into the norm."

"They say: 'I'm awesome. I just can't help it.'"
  • H. Alexander, Central Junior High Ninth-grader, Lawrence
  • "They say I can't see -- at least not printed words, anyway."
  • Laura Johnson, housewife, Lawrence
  • "I've had cataracts. I don't need contacts. Wearing glasses is just fine for me."
  • Lee Douglass, maintenance man, Eudora

Focus on style

That's what it's all about for Kami Tracy, a Kansas University student who works part time at Spectrum Optical.

"I want my glasses to show my personality," she says. "Yes, I wear glasses, but I'm happy to wear glasses because it can be fun, and it makes a fashion statement. I really want it to show that I'm not afraid to make a new fashion, try a new trend."

Tracy has two pairs of glasses -- one plastic, the other with metal Calvin Klein frames.

"I wear what I want depending on what outfit I'm wearing that particular day," she says. "The plastics have more of a fun, trendy sort of feel. The Calvin Kleins give you a more professional look."

Most people spend $100 to $200 on frames, though shops that carry high-end lines like Oliver Peoples and Matsuda have frames as high as $500 or more.

"They're super expensive, but it's kind of like luxury eyewear, the Ferrari of eyewear," Lewis says. "Maybe it's more like a Rolls Royce, more classical styling. Cartier even makes frames."

Though it's not an everyday occurrence, people who don't even need prescription glasses look to Lawrence opticals for an accessory fix.


Thad Allender /

An array of metal frames await perusal at Spectrum Optical, 4 E. Seventh St. With help from Hollywood, eyeglasses have become a fashion accessory rather than a magnet for playground insults.

"We have seen patients, some of them who have very, very, very small prescriptions, and they are still investing in a pair of glasses. We're not talking about an inexpensive pair. We're talking about a pair of Pradas," Stansbury says.

Tracy's been wearing glasses since she was 7 years old.

"When you're a kid, it's a big deal to get glasses," she says. "But wearing glasses has really become a fashion statement. You can pick out something that does make you look really cool."


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