DIY-ish Eyewear

For those of us cursed with shitty vision, glasses are arguably our most important accessory.  It’s one of the first things people see when they look at a person, after they notice grills and full-face beards but way before they notice a skinny tie or an offputting cupcake tattoo.  Most of us are chained to the same pair of frames every day for years.  Mainly because a nice pair of frames from an eyewear boutique can cost upward of $600 when factoring in scratch-less, glare-free prescription lenses and the boutique’s overhead costs.  Having worked full time without benefits for the last couple of years (for the government, ahem), I’m not one who can justify spending on eyewear what I spend on rent.

Thanks to a tip from my fashion-forward friend Ashly, however, I’m able to enjoy prescription eyeglasses at a quarter of the price.   No, I’m not referring to Clearly Contacts frames.  Having glasses shipped to me for the sake of trying them on doesn’t sit well with me.  The move is to thrift your frames and replace the lenses professionally.  It’s not a groundbreaking idea (I think my sister did this in her 20s) but it’s smart.  It requires persistence, luck and patience to rummage through baskets of second-hand and often broken eyewear.   It’s a many-step process but worth it in the end since chances are no one else will have your frames.  Once you find a pair that is in good condition and suits you (the ones that remind you of your mom circa 1979 are keepers), take them to any optometrist to have the original lenses replaced with your prescription.  There is some risk that they won’t be able to find lenses that fit vintage frames but I haven’t run into that problem yet.

I got my first pair, designed by Renato Balestra, at True Value Vintage in Vancouver for $18.  I had the lenses knocked out and replaced with prescription tinted lenses for $125 at Eye To Eye Opticians.  I like to pretend that the fade in the tint makes them appropriate for indoor use.



(Photo by Simon at Pere Lachaise cemetary)

I bought my next two pairs at the Brooklyn Flea Market for a combined $25.  The tint-free, basic lenses were just $100 at  Eye To Eye Opticians.


(Photo by Ricky)

I have yet to order lenses for the second flea-market pair.  They’ve been standing in as a home accessory in my apartment in the meantime.


Coincidentally, I just qualified for extended health benefits at work so I’m going to experience what it’s like to buy a new pair, at a well-lit store with organized inventory and where I’m provided with assistance by professionals.  I’ll report back to you about the experience soon.

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One Comment on “DIY-ish Eyewear”

  1. Olgs says:

    I’ve also got to give a shout out to where I got my specs above:

    http://www.warbyparker.com

    99$ including shipping for prescription lenses and frames and they are constantly updating their collection of frames and do collabs with designers and what now.

    Not to mention – for each pair purchased, they donate a pair to those in need!

    They’re not as cool as flea market finds but they do the trick 🙂


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