Geeky glasses have become one not-so-myopic woman’s perennially cool form of ugly-beautiful eye accessory.
I love the look of spectacles in all shapes – the bigger the frames and the nerdier the overall effect, the better.
I am partial to the bespectacled look of real- and reel-life personalities such as former President of J Crew, Jenna Lyons, business woman and all-round, fashion icon Iris Apfel, Mahatma Gandhi, Christopher Reeves as Clark Kent, Harry Potter, John Lennon, and studious Velma in Scooby Doo.
The first time I put on my black acetate Wayfarer spectacles from Ray Ban in front of family members, it raised eyebrows and elicited perplexed looks all around. One very bemused relative hazarded to ask when I was going to whip out my handlebar moustache.
Then came the barrage of no-filter questions like, “aren’t they a bit big for your face?” and “why don’t you get a nicer pair”, “ones without frames?”.
“You look ugly” might as well have been written on their foreheads.
To people who don’t “get” wearing glasses as a look, I roll my eyes.
Yes, I subscribe to the ugly-beautiful appearance of nerdy glasses, among other men-repelling style accoutrements.
This penchant of mine kind of crept up on me (like long and short-sightedness can), and to this day it boggles my mind how this predilection came to be.
You see, right up to my 40s, I had perfect or near-perfect eyesight; sharp enough eyes that didn’t require prescription glasses for myopia, the shortsighted condition that affects approximately 65 per cent of school-going Singaporean children today.
My parents drummed into me from a young age that having perfect eyesight (quite the family trait) was a good thing and something to be preserved for as long as one could.
My brother and I were forbidden to sit less than five feet away from the television and to read while lying down and in the dark.
Squid stir-fried in its ink was not just a delicious family dish we ate with rice, but something we were told was good for the eyes. As were carrots and looking at greenery between mugging at our desks. My parents took no chances.
I had school friends and cousins who started wearing prescribed glasses as young as eight. Back then (in the 70s), they were the minority and for that they really stood out.
As I grew older, more and more of my friends and classmates wore spectacles, until at one point in my life as a teenager, those of us who didn’t wear glasses became the minority.
As a young working adult, thanks to daily-wear disposable contact lenses, I could no longer tell who was short-sighted or not, at the office. Most of the people whom I thought had perfect eye-sight like me were actually avid contact lens wearers, who swore by the miracle of perfect sight by merely flicking two flimsy silicon lenses onto their eyes. How else would they have been able to fully embrace eyeshadow, eyeliner and mascara?
I remember telling them – facetiously they must have thought – that I would rather wear glasses than stick foreign objects in my eyes. Thing is, I truly meant what I said, that glasses are cool, and better still is the fact that you don’t have to wear eye makeup under them, because spectacles dress up the eyes in their own way, which means a few more minutes of precious sleep in the morning – a great trade-off.
Of course they didn’t get it. What I got were withering looks that said I didn’t know what I was talking about.
These same former colleagues and friends would later have their eyes Lasik-ed, so they would eventually be able to do without even the hassle of putting on contact lenses.
So now it seems the whole world and their grandmother have perfect eye-sight, except me (but more on that in a bit). I’m overstating of course, but you know what I mean. And I would tell the same people who’ve gone for Lasik that I would still rather wear glasses if I have to, than go under the knife.
But the marvels of medical science. Life is certainly easier for the formerly myopic. I’m happy for them, and I don’t think being myopic is better than having perfect eyesight. I just like the look of a good solid pair of eye glasses as face gear, like a hat or a tiara is for the head.
I guess I could easily have worn glasses without prescription when I still had perfect eyesight, but I always thought doing that was pretentious, so I never resorted to it.
But my time finally came as I became of all things, mildly myopic, not presbyopic, in my early 40s, an age when many of my contemporaries, even those who went for Lasik, or who wore contacts, even those who never traded their eye glasses for anything more medically advanced, were slowly but surely turning long-sighted.
Forty-three to be exact, when I started not being able to read street signs till it was too late to make the turn when driving, and when I couldn’t make out the faces of the figures waving wildly at me along the office corridors. That I was mildly short-sighted was later confirmed at an annual health screening.
You can imagine that shopping for my first pair of spectacles was like going out to look for my first proper designer work bag. This first pair had to be perfect, I told myself, because I would wear them every day. And that also meant they had to go with everything in the wardrobe. And fairly timeless, as it might take a while for me to find another equally perfect but different-looking pair.
Because life has been kind and I’m really not that short-sighted, nor have I become long-sighted yet, at least not to the point where I need bifocals, I’ve ended up not wearing glasses very often – mostly only when I drive or when I have a PowerPoint presentation to sit through, or when I’m at the airport trying to find the right check-in counter. Generally, not often enough I would say.
But pretentiousness be damned, I have braved mild giddiness at formal dos just so I can pair my trusty over-sized black-rimmed Ray Ban Wayfarers with a slinky low-back dress, a sexy, strapless LBD, or a tulle skirt and white shirt combo. At least this way I can also drive with ease at night.
My second pair, perfectly round ones in tortoise-shell, albeit over-sized, has had me compared to the boy wizard of Hogwarts, especially when I pair it with a blazer or a Japanese happy coat.
I like wearing my glasses with or without makeup. When my eyes are smoky, it dramatises the bespectacled look, which means I may go without lipstick. Without eye makeup however, the lips must definitely pop, with intense colour.
Having said that, when I don’t want to wear a smidgen of war paint on my freshly masked and moisturised mien, but I have to eat a quick dinner at the Village, or make a swift supermarket run, I pop on my grandmotherly gold-rimmed aviator-style Gucci lookalikes and I’m good, never mind the effect of refraction when I’m looking at people up close. I bear with all of that cheerfully, as I do itchy eyes when I have liner on.
All things considered, my collection is pretty modest. Especially considering my obsession. My fourth pair is a classic sexy librarian-style oval-shaped pair in reddish brown acetate, pretty tame compared to the rest, which I wear strictly for driving.
My collection hasn’t quite exploded over the last eight years because it’s really not that easy to find spectacles that fit the bill for me – quirky, cool, yet comfortable. They can’t just look nerdy, they have to be geeky-cool, yet not too cool, a fine line indeed. And they must be so comfortable I forget I’m wearing them.
Of course there’s always a yearning to buy more, which I don’t really need. But like dresses, no two black ones are ever the same, so there.
What’s on my list currently are a pair of Moscot Originals NEBB, so I can own a piece of Jenna Lyon’s cool, a pair of Saint Laurents in SL M6 and M10, as inspired by the late, great designer himself, Gucci’s now-iconic Aviator Metal Glasses with webbing, because as they say, there ain’t nothing like the real thing; and, finally, Tom Ford’s Oversized Round Optical Frames to channel my inner Iris.