Seeing Clearly

 Photo by Rachael Tan

When junior Haemin “Amy” Lee went to South Korea over her summer break, she stepped into a new world of fashion and beauty trends. There, she bought a pair of glasses that captured her experiences in Korea and embodied her personality. Large and round, with a thin metal frame, these glasses may appear modest, but they hold significant personal value for Lee.

“My glasses are almost part of my personality,” Lee said. “Sometimes, they show my personality before actually talking to someone.”

For many CHS students like Lee, glasses provide self-expression in addition to visual aid. Lee said she wanted a pair of glasses that expressed her personality and was inspired by the fashion trends in Korea to try different styles.

“My glasses are really unique here, but in Asia, circular frames are kind of really trendy right now, but I thought they would look cool and they reminded me of Harry Potter, which is one of my favorite book series, so I got them.”

Mary Morgan, optician at Loman Eye Care, said glasses have been becoming more popular the past few years, especially with the popularity of certain styles. As an optician, she helps patients select suitable frames both practically and aesthetically. According to Morgan, teenage and female patients tend to value glasses that both improve vision and look aesthetically pleasing.

“For younger people, colors and styles play a part in self-expression. They love certain colors and their glasses to be that color. People do try to express whether they’re artsy or intelligent with certain glasses or styles,” she said.

“Most popular is what they call ‘geek-chic,’ and that is mainly Ray-Bans, usually that style is called Wayfarer and it’s really really popular for sunglasses and normal glasses. A lot of rounds are also really popular, and a lot of the retro looks are really in right now,” Morgan said. “Every vendor is a little different, but generally we’re looking for something that’s really trendy, like a lot of plastic frames tend to be very popular, that are bulky and chunky. Other styles might be completely rimless, so we would get one with no frame or in really fun shapes and colors.”

Photo by Rachel Tan

Lee said she agrees glasses help to express her personality. ““I like how glasses look, personally, I think they just add a bit to your personality. Sometimes they make you look more quirky or interesting and it’s also a conversation starter,” Lee said. “I kind of like looking a little bit unique; it’s a little different than what other people would wear.”

“A lot of people might think glasses are ugly, and in a lot of movies you see when characters wear glasses they’re unattractive and suddenly when they have their montage of a makeover, their glasses are immediately disposed of for contacts, but I think glasses are really pretty and accentuate your face shape as well,” Lee said.

Although Lee said she prefers glasses over contacts, there are different opinions for both sides. According to Morgan, many patients prefer contacts because they are more comfortable or convenient.

“As far as visual needs, people may choose glasses because they see out of them better, while sometimes contacts are more helpful. But I think the most important reason why people are wearing glasses over contacts nowadays is for self expression,” Morgan said.

Because of their aesthetic value, glasses may be appealing for those who do not necessarily need them to see clearly. Although math teacher Laura Diamente does not use prescription eyeglasses, she has over 25 pairs, wearing different frames each day to match her outfits. For her, cost played a large role in her glasses collection, in addition to self-expression. With such a wide variety of glasses, Diamente said her favorite pairs tend to be colorful and bold, while still being affordable.

“I love the variety out there. It allows me to give some personality to my outfit. This way I enjoy them, because it’s fun to match them with clothing,” Diamente said. “I definitely think, like clothing or art of any sort, whether you’re drawing it or wearing it, can express how you’re feeling.”

However, not as many adults tend to choose bold glasses, Morgan said. In general, there are differences between styles that are popular for adults and teenagers. According to Morgan, adults tend to prefer conservative styles, including rimless or semi-rimless metal frames that are less popular with younger people. Additionally, certain styles may be more comfortable; for example, adults may avoid thick plastic frames because they are too bulky. 

Photo by Rachel Tan

In addition to style, customers consider cost when choosing glasses. In order to accommodate their customers’ budgets, she will first find a frame that they like and then if needed, find a similar pair of glasses within the price range. Morgan said. “I find the look first, then I try to find something shaped similar in a nicer price range.”

Diamente said, “The nice thing about my glasses is that they’re not necessarily prescription, so I have a lot cheaper options, so I can get a lot of different pairs of glasses and not have to spend a fortune doing it. If they become something I have to use every day, I’m sure I’ll still go out and get some that are a bit more expressive. But as you get older, it becomes more of a functionality issue for people and financial as well.”

Despite this, Diamente and Morgan both said they agree that cost is secondary to self expression. Morgan said, “If someone falls in love with a frame, they’ll usually pay for it even if it is more expensive.”

For Lee, cost was not an issue. “I got mine really cheap; I feel like glasses shouldn’t be an expensive thing because it’s really for your health and your eyesight,” Lee said. Although she loves her glasses now, she was initially hesitant to wear her glasses.

“When I went to Asia, I saw everyone wearing these circle glasses and I’m like, ‘I’m never going to pull this off,’ because I have a really round face and these glasses are humongous, but I feel like if you just rock your style, you can pull it off,” Lee said.

Although there are general guideline for certain styles are more suitable for certain faces, Morgan said the best option for patients is always the frame they feel happiest in.

Morgan said, “Sometimes, if someone really likes a pair of glasses and they may not be the best choice that I can think of for a patient, but if they wear them and they feel confident and they are really happy when they try them on, then I’m not going to discourage a patient from going against that frame or choice because the most important thing to me, as an optician, is that the patient feels really good in their glasses and loves them.”

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Sabrina Mi