Prescription eyeglasses were traditionally associated with nerdy schoolchildren, bullied on the playground. The only accessories the thick, ugly frames seemed to compliment were algebra books and pocket protectors. This stigma, and eyewear's lack of diversity and pleasing aesthetics, turned patients away from this type of vision correction, popularizing contact lenses and LASIK eye surgery.
Eyewear manufacturers quickly realized they needed to step up to the plate or they'd be out of the game. They needed to produce appealing frames that made "four-eyes" a hip nickname. Their goal was accomplished.
Top designers committed themselves to making glasses as important an accessory to everyday style as handbags, peep-toe pumps and stackable bangles.
Designers Chanel, Gucci and Vera Wang and several traditional manufacturers have launched collections that merge fashion and function. Those with less than perfect vision can now see clearly while expressing their style.
Glasses are now considered accessories as much as they are vision correction.
"You buy your other accessories because they make you both look and feel good," said Sandy Seal, optician at Decatur Optical on Danville Road Southwest. "Your glasses should do the same. Many people wear a dressy or conservative pair to work and a casual, more trendy pair during the weekend."
Popular selections include rectangular, oval and rimless styles.
Plastic, colored frames with thick, rectangular rims are popular among young men and women. This "retro meets preppy-chic" look makes an instant style statement and is slimming to round faces.
"I chose this style because they are lightweight, comfortable and versatile," said Carla Swinney of Decatur. "I wanted something that went with everything."
Oval frames are the widely favored, universal shape that appeal to most face types. Men and women alike enjoy semi-rimless styles with visible rims at the top of the lenses and no rim at the bottom. Larger, plastic frames in multiple colors allow younger generations the freedom of self-expression, while maintaining a softer look than what rectangular styles grant.
If you're apprehensive about brightly colored frames, black or dark brown accentuates brunette hair and beige or tortoiseshell-toned rims look best on blondes and redheads.
Rimless frames are a popular choice for those who prefer not to make a bold statement with their eyeglasses. Surprising is how unnoticeable they really are.
"You don't look like you're wearing glasses at all," said Seal. "When you wear these, you still see your eyes and entire face; they're practically invisible."
While their delicate look causes concern for some that think they are fragile, Silhouette, a brand specializing in rimless frames, ensures they are as sturdy as any other type of glasses.
20/20 view of spring style
As glossy magazine covers celebrate the coolest hot-weather trends, spring 2006 is sure to promise the same in eyewear.
"We're seeing a lot more color in frames," said Seal. "And even though sunglasses seem to get larger, eyeglasses have gotten slightly smaller."
Several trends that made spring's "it list" aren't new, but improved.
Clear, non-glare lenses hope to receive rave reviews. Unlike traditional lenses, they don't produce a glare, even in photographs taken with a flash.
Transition lenses, that darken outdoors, lighten indoors and promise to work as effectively as sunglasses, have been fine-tuned and are expected to grow in popularity.
As designers and manufacturers continue to actively produce stylish eyewear, choices that fit anyone's personality become increasingly attainable, officially classifying prescription glasses as accessories.
Proving the popularity of having four eyes, now it's even common to see those with perfect eyesight donning fashionable frames with clear, non-prescription lenses. Stylish new trends shouldn't be kept from anyone, even those with 20/20 vision.
If there were only a way to make braces attractive those early teen years might not be so rough.