Good glasses or sun shades will be laborious to seek out. Having to squint within the meantime doesn’t assist. However nor does the truth that there are seemingly as many indistinguishable eyewear manufacturers in the marketplace as there are gentle receptors in your retinas (seven million, FYI).
Including to the confusion, many are owned or made by a handful of corporations: of the listing under, Ray-Ban, Oakley, Persol and Oliver Peoples are all owned by Italian conglomerate Luxottica, whereas Tom Ford is produced in partnership with the smaller Marcolin. Eyewear can be infamous as a class the place mark-ups are eye-watering (as a lot as 250 per cent on frames and 800 per cent on lenses, in line with a Guardian article about “Big Lens”.)
Gauging high quality is troublesome too: tightening just a few screws will be sufficient for a model to assert that frames are “made” – and even “handmade” – in a rustic.
Whether or not you get what you pay for when it comes to supplies and building is one query, however typically you’re paying for design or pedigree, which a minimum of is price greater than a random non-eyewear designer label in your frames’ arms. So with that caveat, these 12 manufacturers have traditionally had a rep for good optics, or are quick constructing one.
Ace & Tate
A play on widespread body materials acetate, Ace & Tate, based in 2013, is oft dubbed the European reply to Warby Parker, which disrupted the American eyewear market with its direct-to-consumer mannequin a decade in the past.
Like its US counterpart, Ace & Tate is ready to slash costs by reducing out middlemen and manufacturing chain profligacy: its Amsterdam-designed kinds, that are handmade in Italy or China, by some means value lower than £100 in some instances – with prescription lenses. It additionally offers a free try-at-home service in case you can’t look in on its London, Bristol, Manchester and Glasgow shops. Ace.
“Anti-Glare” doesn’t fairly have the identical ring. So after launching its teardrop-shaped shades, designed to guard the areas not coated by US Air Pressure pilots’ helmets and masks, to most people in 1937, Bausch & Lomb properly redubbed them “Ray-Ban” the next 12 months.
It’s extra well-known as a sun shades model however a lot of its well-known kinds – together with the Wayfarer, Clubmaster and Aviator – are additionally obtainable as opticals, worn by everybody from Malcolm X to Seth Rogen. At the moment, Ray-Bans are as evocative because the Prime Gun soundtrack, and as ageless as Tom Cruise within the sequel.
A direct-to-consumer model, sure, however one which feels reassuringly costly sufficient to be stocked on the discerning likes of Mr Porter and Liberty. Cubitts founder Tom Broughton made his first pair of frames at his kitchen desk in London’s King’s Cross in 2013; the shop there and in close by Coal Drops Yard are two of its eight outposts throughout the capital, which supply eye assessments for £25 in case you purchase frames, plus sun shades (prescription and in any other case), transitions lenses, made-to-measure and bespoke.
NB speccing your specs is genuinely costly: from £725, with a £200 premium for actual buffalo horn.
Precisely a century in the past, the Kirks have been making garments and buttons in London’s Clerkenwell once they had the imaginative and prescient to diversify. It wasn’t till the nineties although that the corporate, at one level in its 100-year historical past the biggest spectacle body maker within the capital, found a trunk filled with fifties and sixties kinds in its archive that knowledgeable its Originals vary.
A success on the colourful membership scene, the reissues adorned tastemaking magazines akin to The Face and Enviornment, and music makers akin to Oasis, Sir Mick Jagger, Paul Weller and Morrissey. The model’s showroom has since relocated to Blackfriars.
Whereas Ray-Ban was only a glint in American pilots’ narrowed eyes, Italian optician and photographer Guiseppe Ratti in 1917 invented “Protectors” which took off with air forces worldwide in addition to race drivers and, er, poets. (Persol is a contraction of “per il sole”, which means “for the sun”).
Over a century later, the folding 714 sun shades that type kingmaker Steve McQueen wore in 1968 movie The Thomas Crown Affair stays by far essentially the most well-known of the model’s fashions, however the model’s opticals additionally bear the identical classic styling and trademark freccia or arrow on the hinges and arms, “inspired by the swords of ancient warriors”. Not their arrows?
Finlay & Co
One other within the Warby Parker mould, this upstart British start-up has a “rebellious spirit”, which is probably why Liam Gallagher wore its Hamilton sun shades at Glasto. Noel can be a fan of Finlay & Co’s frames, that are sported by workers at a number of websites of see-and-be-seen member’s membership Soho Home, as is David Gandy.
The individualistic frames are “handmade by eyewear artisans located in the foothills of the Italian alps”, which is delightfully evocative if nothing else. Along with eye assessments, you’ll discover a number of impartial manufacturers in its Soho, London retailer, together with Salt (see under).
Solely in America may a model based in 1987 market itself as “heritage”. However Oliver Peoples did draw closely from classic US frames for its preliminary understated collections, in sharp distinction to brash, brilliant late-eighties eyewear.
The Sundown Boulevard establishment is a fixture in Hollywood, worn by Patrick Bateman in American Psycho and Tyler Durden in Combat Membership. (The limited-edition re-release of the latter mannequin wasn’t within the anti-consumerist spirit, however hey.) Oliver Peoples has additionally created homages to Gregory Peck’s specs in To Kill a Mockingbird and Cary Grant’s gegs in North by Northwest.
Few style designers have Tom Ford’s capacity to enter and personal product classes, and boss them. Like Tom Ford colognes and wonder, his eyewear is a number of the most wanted on the planet.
So good an commercial was the multitalented Mr Ford’s directorial debut, 2009 movie A Single Man, that he was pressured to launch a method based mostly on Finest Actor BAFTA winner Colin Firth’s specifically made frames: the TF 5178. The giveaway silver T on the temples can be seen on Daniel Craig’s “secret” agent James Bond in Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and Spectre.
Began in 1975 within the storage of Californian bike salesman Jim Jannard, Oakley made grips for motocross earlier than branching out into goggles, which he trimmed down and added coat hangers to as a way to cease the setting solar side-blinding him whereas driving parallel to the ocean. Excessive-tech wraparounds performed nicely with athletes, together with Michael Jordan, and Tom Cruise, who wore a self-destructing pair in 2000’s Mission: Inconceivable 2.
Oakley exploded in recognition earlier than its ubiquity detonated its cool issue; at all times purposeful, it’s trendy as soon as extra because of nineties nostalgia, dad type and Palace. And it’s not simply the divisive sports activities sun shades: the opticals are arguably much more wearable.
An OG in two senses, Oliver Goldsmith was established in 1926, simply earlier than eyewear grew to become status-symbol equipment: it was the primary eyewear model to collaborate with style homes for the catwalk, seem in Vogue and discover favour with celebrities akin to Peter Sellers, John Lennon and Michael Caine.
The latter type eye-con regularly wore OG off display screen and on, notably as spy Harry Palmer in 1965’s The Ipcress File (“Do you always wear your glasses?” “Yes. Except in bed.”) Unusually for the oligopoly that’s opticals, the enterprise stays within the household: Oliver’s great-grandaughter Claire oversees it at the moment.
One other relative newcomer to the market, Viu does design-led frames that you could attempt on at dwelling or at one in all its rising variety of flagship shops throughout Europe. Priding itself on a clear manufacturing course of, its glasses are designed in Switzerland and made in both Italy or Japan.
Designs are innovative in additional methods than one. In addition to fashion-forward frames, some are made utilizing 3D printing know-how to minimise waste.
One other native of California, Salt has solely been going since 2006 however is however seasoned: founder Aaron Behle beforehand labored for Oakley and surfwear label Reef, whereas head designer David Rose was at Oliver Peoples and on the Quiksilver surf group.
That background is mirrored within the type and performance of its wares: the sturdy frames are made in Japan by third-generation producers whereas the model’s sun shades function helpful anti-glare polarised lenses. The “memory metal” in its collab with outdoor model Aether even bends again by itself.