People usually look at your face before they look at your outfit so your glasses (or specs) have the power to make an instantly fabulous impression. Establishing eye contact is an important social behaviour, which gives you another reason to think of your specs as the most important accessory of your style. Your eyewear should be current and flattering. This brings me to the golden guideline:
If you wear specs regularly, they should be the BEST pair for your eyes and face that you can afford. Make your specs part of your signature style.
As a fashion stylist who has chosen to wear specs instead of contact lenses, I’m very passionate about eyewear and how to choose a fabulous pair. Like clothing and footwear, specs have to fit properly, feel comfortable, and look attractive. It’s all about patience, a bit of experimentation, and fitting on a wide assortment of frames across a range of price points to get a feel for what you like.
I’ve spent many, many hours seeking out killer specs for myself, friends, family members, and clients. Over the years I’ve developed a set of guidelines that will help you find the perfect pair.
Find a set of reputable stores
Do the homework of finding brick-and-mortar stores that have skilled sales assistants and sell a wide assortment of eyewear from all over the world. You’re after retailers that sell classic, modern retro, sporty, trendy and completely over-the-top frames so that you’ll maximize your chances of finding a killer pair. By all means investigate a range of price points because they vary greatly.
If you’re an experienced specs shopper, purchasing specs online is another way to go, and a cost-effective one. That said, I’m an experienced specs shopper and have yet to purchase a pair online. I’m hard to fit because I have a small face and big eyes. I need frames that are narrow enough for my small head, but big enough for my round eyes. Unfortunately, online stores don’t carry the “outsize” dimensions that I tend to find at pricier eyewear stores.
Try on many styles
Do not go into the process with a preconceived notion of what you think might work unless you know for sure from previous experiences. Try as many different shapes, styles and colours as possible. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the cherries stand out. Be adventurous.
For example, I find nose pads uncomfortable, so no thank you. I can’t wear frames that overwhelm my face because I’m a dainty person. I prefer to not wear solid black frames because I find them harsh for my style. For the rest, I’m game to try it all.
Bring a style savvy friend
One irony about specs shopping is that you have to remove your glasses to try on a new pair, and the blurry visage in the mirror makes it hard to make an accurate assessment (wearing contacts during the process helps.) Sales assistants are not created equal so it’s imperative to bring along an extra set of stylish eyes. The second opinion can be very valuable.
My second set of stylish eyes is hubby Greg. I will absolutely not commit to a new pair of specs unless Greg loves them too.
Take photos of the winners
You’ll want to compare specs across a few retailers, and get a second opinion at home. Snap photos of the styles you like best while you’re in the store for easy reference later. If you’re brave you can post them online for input. This often happens on the YouLookFab forum where members have successfully found sublime specs with help of our engaged and style savvy community.
Beware of analysis paralysis
It’s great to get lots of input across a range of frames, but that can make the decision harder. After you have a shortlist, think back to your FIRST gut instinct when you saw the frames. Sometimes we know the winner in the first few seconds of seeing them.
Frames MUST LIFT
I cannot stress this point enough. Specs look best when they lift the cheek and eye area UPWARD at the bottom outside corners of the frames. If this isn’t the case, your specs make it seem like your facial features are “drooping”. Be wary of frames that sag downwards.
Your eyes should be centered within the frames
They don’t need to be absolutely dead centre, but thereabouts is good.
Match the scale with your facial proportions
Bold, oversized frames are dramatic, avant-garde and fabulous, but that doesn’t guarantee that they will work for you. A small person with dainty facial features and a small face is overwhelmed in thick, chunky frames. But that person can achieve a similar effect if they choose a more refined version of a chunky style.
That said, there are all sorts of very creative and fashion-y people making a statement with hectically oversized eyewear (like Iris Apfel). It’s an acquired taste, very theatrical, and we’ll leave it at that.
Follow the line of your brows
Choose a frame shape that mirrors the arch of your eyebrows because it makes for an instantly attractive look and good fit.
Don’t be afraid of extra width
Many people wear specs that are too narrow for their face. Their eyes may be centered and the style “lifts upwards”, but the narrow width of the frames constricts the face. You want a shape that “opens up” the face, so add a little width to the top outside corners of the frames. It makes a world of difference, often balancing out a pear-shaped face.
Watch the Depth
The problem with trendy and fashion forward eyewear at the moment is that the frames are deep causing the eye to look off-centre, and the cheeks to droop unless you have a wide face and large facial features. Beware of specs with too much vertical depth.
Think in three dimensions
You see your frames from the front, but everyone else sees them from all angles. They also catch glimpses of the inside of the frames. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to temple and inside colour detailing. Often, if the colour on the inside of the frames and the temples is different, the overall look is softer and more interesting.
For example, my new specs are dark brown but they are orange on the inside, which softens the harsh contrast against my pale skin and dainty features. I can’t see the orange when I look in the mirror, but you can from other angles.
Complement your skin tone and eye colour
The operative word here is “complement”, not “match”. People with bright blue eyes don’t need to wear bright blue specs. But wearing brown specs with blue detailing might be ideal. Do not confine your choice to neutral tones either. Eyewear does not have to match what you’re wearing, but rather go with everything because it complements your face, not your clothes. I have bright green specs and dark brown specs, and it’s the brown specs that make my eyes look greener.
Create the right amount of contrast
If the contrast between the colour of your skin tone and the frames is too strong, you’ll look severe and like your frames are wearing you. If it’s not strong enough you’ll look blah. This is not a hard and fast rule, but generally, choose a colour that is a little different to the colour of your hair and eyes. There are brown-eyed people with brown hair who get away with wearing solid brown specs, but this is not the norm. A contrasting brown tortoise shell is a more interesting option.
Make sure that your lens prescription is recent. Specs can be adjusted for comfort so don’t worry if they’re a little uncomfortable in stores. If you regularly wear specs, build a collection over time so that you can interchange them regularly depending on your mood and outfit.
I’ve had my apple green specs for three and half years. They were one of the best purchases of my life because the colour and pearlized finish is extremely unique and special. Acidic apple green is my favourite colour and pearls are part of my style soul. I couldn’t have found a more perfect pair of specs. But they’re showing signs of wear so I want to baby them a little so that I’ll have them for longer. So it was time for another pair of specs.
It was slim pickings because, as I mentioned up top, I’m hard to fit. But after a long search I chose a Modern Retro dark brown pair with orange inner detailing that Greg thought looked sensational. I needed a little more convincing because although the shape is flattering and I love a retro vibe, I found them a touch dark. It took me a while to get used to wearing high-contrast specs again, but after a couple of days, I felt fabulous in them. They make me just as happy as my playful green ones. A fun and effective way to change up my look.