Opinion: Are heads getting smaller or are glasses getting bigger?

Columnist Juan Negroni’s new glasses.

Columnist Juan Negroni’s new glasses.

Juan Negroni /Contributed photo

We are amid a giant eyeglass frame craze. Or so it seems to me as I watch TV or look at ads in the printed media. Frames have gotten bigger. They now cover larger portions of our faces than ever before.

I might have overlooked this trend had it not been for my cataract removal this past March. I knew that after the surgery, my vision would change. And I would need new lenses.

But the big question was whether I should buy a new frame. I still had one unused Oliver Peoples frame from the four pairs I bought in 2013. Marketing bigwigs had touted them as “having an art deco flair from the 1920s, 1930s period with the intellectual spirit of the 1960s.”

Words such as “art deco” and “intellectual spirit” rang well with me. It reminded me of a classroom scene in the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark” with students swooning over their professor, a handsome Harrison Ford. I was captivated by his distinctive oval eyeglass frames and imagined myself with them on me as I once had with a swashbuckling Indiana Jones type hat atop my head. (Any man who claims he lacks a streak of vanity is lying or short on self-awareness.)

I also remembered sharing with my spouse my experiences of young women volunteering how much they loved my semi-oval small frames. To which she listened with reserved interest. Moreover, once at a hotel in Holland, a front desk clerk pointed to my frames and declared “Oliver Peoples!” This young man knew his eyewear. My wife shrugged with an “not again” dismissive gesture.

Then again, I almost lost a consulting assignment because of my Oliver Peoples frames. A would-be client told me afterward that he initially thought I looked too “professorial” for his employee group. But he hired me and has brought me back since then. Yet, I’ve wondered if I lost other gigs because of my spectacles.

Back in 2013 I loved those Oliver Peoples frames so much that in an online sale I paid more than $800 for four pairs. That was just for the frames, no lenses included. Today that same Riley R model online goes for $362

After the cataract surgery in March, I knew I needed more than one frame. And $362 for just one “lensless” frame was a bit too steep. Also, the Riley R model, an outstanding frame, was according to opticians too small for my large head. My Oliver Peoples days were over.

The search for the replacement frame began. I had four plus weeks after the surgery before getting the new prescription. I also knew I would be buying more than one frame. They had to be reasonably priced, devoid of being mundane at one end of the spectrum. Or outlandish at the other end. I wanted one also with a touch of quirkiness like my pre-surgery ones had.

On news channels I looked closely at hosts and guests wearing eyeglasses. Their frames came in all colors and shapes. And in ads celebrities and influencers were featured with their oversized frames. Eyeglasses had grown bigger as fashion items. Was this a once neglected accessory now having a moment of its own?

My first visit was to an optical store in a posh Connecticut town. The staff was friendly and accommodating. But their frames ranged from $1,000 to $4,000. Not exactly in my price range. It was hard for me to conceive of anyone paying that much for a single set of frames.

Next, I went to well-known vision store. Aside from prices being in the hundreds there was an obvious trend. Here, as in other optical outlets I visited, frames were much larger than I remembered. And to my surprise, in a few cases by putting them on a credit card I could take two or three different frames home to test run them with family members.

Finally, I went to a local retailer, part of a chain with 574 stores in the United States. In the past, their optical department made the lenses for my Oliver Peoples frames. Over a recent four-week period I got from them four large frames with lenses for less than $500. It included two regular pairs, plus sun and computer glasses. Yes, the frames were larger. But they still had that touch of quirkiness I was seeking.

Later, at lunch a colleague told me how happy he was with his new glasses. He said, “And I paid only $800 for everything, frames and lenses.” I didn’t have the heart to share with him my strike-it-rich eyewear adventure.

Since then, I have wondered if we would have had the rise of big eyeglass frames in a COVID-less world? Moreover, did Zoom and other such platforms lead marketers to think people would be conscious of how they looked on screen? Hence larger and more attractive frames?

Is this transition the result of marketing bigwigs playing us once again? One season it’s boxy pants ... for all genders. A few seasons later it’s narrower tailored-fit slacks.

With four frames for less than $500, lenses included, I’ll stick to mine even if the marketing bigwigs bring back spectacles from Harrison Ford’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark” classroom scene.

Juan A. Negroni, a former international management executive and Weston resident, is a consultant, bilingual speaker/facilitator, and writer. Email him at juannegroni12@gmail.com.