The design of the spectacle

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When you have a pair of glasses you like, why can’t you keep them? The optical-industrial complex has a say in the matter. Frame styles change so swiftly that getting a new pair of glasses means finding a new you. Glasses are treated as fashions like clothing even though one’s unified face theory should be more impervious to change than what you get from a new pair of slacks or a new pair of shoes. You are what you wear, but even more so you are what glasses you wear, at least for those of us who don’t wear contacts.

This year, though still primarily horizontal, frame styles emphasize depth over width. The new technology of “progressive” lenses – bifocals that meld the distance and the reading halves of the lens – requires more leeway in the vertical than ever. But I don’t care about bifocals. I want smaller, flatter openings in my frames, mainly to avoid the Coke-bottle lenses that would otherwise be the fate of my nearsighted peepers.

Besides, I’ve come to like the look. So I’ve given up on new frames and want to have new lenses popped into my old frames. But no can do! So says the optician I patronize. Leave your glasses with us for a week while we sculpt the new lenses into the old frames – or get a whole new pair of frames for them to transplant your new lenses into while you wear your old frames.

Huh? Can’t they just measure my old frames’ openings and let me wear my old frames while they sculpt the new lenses to fit into those measurements? Don’t opticians work in micro-millimeters? Isn’t this child’s play for them? Almost as easy as Lasik surgery? Not so, say my guys. So I am looking around for an optician who will buck the system. And now I hear that Walmart will let me wear my old glasses until they are ready to swap in the new lenses.

What do other opticians say? It seems odd that mega-corporate Big Box chain opticians can help customers dodge the planned obsolescence fashion mandates of the optical-industrial complex better than the smaller operators. Tell me it ain’t so!

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About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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6 Responses to The design of the spectacle

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’ve had good luck on-line — once finding someone who still stocked my OLD frames, which I bought from them and brought to my optician to have the new lenses installed; another time having that same someone add my prescription to those frames at their shop. Both methods worked fine — though it takes some work, finding the right frames, then understanding how they’re measured.


    • I wish I knew what my old frames are called and what brand they are. I took a cab from my optometrist to the optician where I got my current frames and they had just gone out of business hours earlier. A pickup truck was loading old frame display cases and the optician’s business library onto his flatbed. My frames have no indication of what company or what make they are.


  2. Tony Brussat says:

    Costco made lenses to fit in a pair of frames I bought in Germany.

    Sent from my iPhone



  3. I hate that issue. My opticians told me they couldn’t replace the lens in my favorite frame, and sold me a similar pair for too much money. I’m also done with plastic lenses, even paying more for “scratch resistance”. I’m going for glass single distance (regressive?) instead of plastic progressive.
    A recent discussion on Next Door suggested going to Eyewear Outlet. Peter Sharkey, optician, at the flea market downstairs from Ann & Hope in Cumberland, inside the Ann & Hope outlet in Warwick, and in Seekonk in the plaza with Bob’s Store and Ocean State Job Lot.


    • Good luck getting glass lenses, Peter. Today I visited another optician, very good people, who told me they would not, as a matter of policy, order glass lenses. They told me that normally they would order lenses and I would show up in a week or so with my frames to have the lenses installed in 30 minutes. But because my frames are old and might break, they said they would not do it – they might be held responsible. Even when I told them I would bear any costs if the frames broke, they still would not. So it’s on to Walmart. Or Costco – as my brother recommends in a comment above (or below). Dang!


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