How to choose the right glasses

The other day I realised I needed a new pair of glasses. Not because I have become more short-sighted but because, all of a sudden, I hate my large, oval, dark brown, Chanel frames.

If I hadn’t succumbed to the temptation of looking in the window of David Clulow optician’s, I might never have arrived at this conclusion. But just a 30-second glance at the designer frames on display and I knew: glasses are getting smaller again.

A year ago, when I bought them at great expense, my oversized frames felt cool. They felt fashionable.

I did worry that the combination of severe short-sightedness and large frames accentuated that awful multiple ring effect you get with a high prescription, but I solved the problem by attempting, whenever possible, to look people front on. My mother clearly didn’t rate them – they reminded her of her own similar mistakes in the 1970s, when big frames were first in – but, as with all my glasses since the age of eight, I persuaded myself they looked good.

Still, when I noticed that the new season’s frames had shrunk (see Chanel, Paul Smith, Oliver Peoples), and had more of a 1960s, Mad Men, upswept shape (Prada, Ray-Ban) I knew it was time for a frank reassessment: with a heavy heart, I decided to revisit my glasses museum.

All glasses-wearers have a glasses museum somewhere – at the back of a cupboard, shoved in a drawer, or scattered around the house. Mine extends back to the days of the large wire frames worn by the Brat Pack, and runs the full gamut of styles from John Lennon to sexy secretary, German architect to 1950s schoolgirl. Looking at this collection, I calculated that over the past 20 years I have spent thousands on glasses, and I’m pretty sure that none of them actually suited me. So I decided that when it came to choosing a new pair, I would aim for a style that is above the whims of fashion; something akin those tortoiseshell specs worn by Arthur Miller.

I went back to David Clulow, where I had bought the oversized Chanel specs and explained my predicament: I wanted something that wouldn’t look passé in a year, or even six months, but would still be stylish and would flatter my “high-myope” status.

Phoebe Cobb at David Clulow said: “Avoid any type of frame that you might find in say, Urban Outfitters, the sort worn with clear non-prescription lenses. Don’t go for extreme, or silly. And when it comes to material, go for a flecked tortoiseshell rather than a single tone, as it has a more vintage look.”

In terms of brands, Persol, Ray-Ban, Oliver Peoples, Chanel and Paul Smith do the most timeless classic frames, Cobb said. She also pointed out that with my prescription, I really should avoid larger frames if I wanted to avoid the multiple ring effect. And I should go for an acetate frame rather than wire, to hide the edge of the lenses. Finally, in terms of my pale, freckly colouring, I should definitely avoid media-chic matt black.

After a dizzying hour, I decided on a pair of gently upswept dark tortoiseshell medium-sized frames by Oliver Peoples (£199). “Forget cool,” said Cobb, “these make you look pretty, which is more important.”

A day later, I tried the same frames on in another branch – something one is advised to do. “Those won’t go out of fashion,” the assistant said, with a smile. This was exactly what I had been hoping for. That said, I somehow doubt I will avoid the lure of the optician’s window forever more.
You’ve been framed
Richard Peck, managing director of David Clulow, gives his top tips on the right frames for your face shape and skin colour:

Round face: avoid circular frames or narrow styles and look for angular shapes such as rectangular frames.
Oval face: the most versatile face shape. It’s what you think works best.
Square face: frames with curved edges rather than straight lines work well to soften the overall look.
Heart-shaped face: frames that have a defined shape at the bottom and at the top will draw attention to the middle of your face.
Long face: look for frames that have a bit more depth – if they are too shallow they can elongate your face further.
Pale skin: black or silver frames can make you look washed-out. Try tortoiseshell or a gold tone frame.
Dark skin: glasses are now available in the full colour spectrum – pinks and purples are flattering.
Hair: check how the frames look with your hair both loose and tied up – it can make a real difference. For those who are bald or receding, look for a deeper frame to bring the focus back to your eyes.