I can see clearly now

Girl who wears glasses

The struggle is real when it comes to finding new specs, says our weekend editor Anna-Marie Crowhurst.

I got my first glasses at seven years old. I only had a mildly pathetic left eye, but the elderly optician, in his wisdom, decided I needed glasses. In the 1980s this meant pink, plastic NHS monstrosities. This wasn’t cool then. It was tragic. The kids at school who wore specs were still “boffs” and “durr-brains”. I remember the shame rising in my body as on the first day of having them, I got the pink plastic glasses out of their snappy Roland Rat case and slid them onto my face, feeling everyone was staring at me. I was already a “boff” and this was going to make everything a whole lot worse. Within a few weeks I had stopped wearing the glasses.

I didn’t wear specs again until my 20s when a steady stream of headaches had sent me to the optician, who confirmed that this time, I 100% needed bins. I was a bit clueless about frames – the fashion for glasses was really only just beginning then, and I didn’t have the money for designer jobs. I was going through a prim, tweedy phase, fashion-wise, so I settled on some actual granny glasses, the cheap, almond-shaped wire-rimmed kind found at every high street optician, which I accessorised with an old-fashioned chain just to be clear I was f*****g serious. I put them on at work, for screen stuff, to add extra emphasis in meetings, and whenever I was hungover. Over time I upgraded these to chunky tortoiseshell cats-eye numbers which made me feel like a sexy-yet-militant librarian. These were almost what I longed for in the optical stakes – except they were bought online and didn’t quite fit my face. You know, that minor detail that renders eyewear practically unwearable.

After a recent eye test, in which it was established that yes, fresh new goggles were required, I began my new-spex-quest in earnest. (Say it quick, it sounds cool: new-spex-quest! New-spex-quest! New-spex-quesssssst!) This time I would think of it as an investment and not be seduced by BOGOF offers or FLASH SALES. I knew what I wanted: glasses that fitted my face (ha), a light-coloured frame to suit my pale + peroxide complexion (fashion), chunky rims (fashion), something that made me look, well cooler than I really am (fashion).

I scoured websites and did countless rounds of home trials. I paid calls on opticians. I tried chains. I tried independents. No dice. There were hardly any frames teeny enough for my freakishly small nose yet simultaneously wide enough for my gargantuan head. Light colours were thin on the ground. Everything I found looked a bit dated, or outrageously hipsterish and bigger than the moon. Every single optician’s I visited IRL attacked me with hideous mum glasses that transformed me into a mild-mannered lady from the Home Counties (query: why have opticians become a place of hardselling? Does anyone want to be bullied during the sensitive activity of spectacle-browsing? Stop it please, opticians.)

But then I found my glasses nirvana. My new-spex quest had taken me four long months, a frustrating time during which my boyfriend periodically said things like “I can’t believe you haven’t got new glasses, can you even see, still?” “Just pick a pair,” “How hard can it be?” and “Really?” It was hard so SHUT UP, TOM. But I did it. I discovered a hip, new(-ish) opticians called Kite, who, to sum it up, basically just do really cool design-led glasses that all cost £150, but also are handmade in Italy and have proper lenses and that. After trying on literally every pair in the shop (for which I had to traverse the Badlands of Westfield Stratford: no mean feat but they did not hard-sell me and were lovely, so totally worth it), I bought these, which finally make me feel young again! *cries heartrendingly* Just joking, they make me feel bookish yet fashionable yet space-age yet mysterious. Which is all I want in life, really. And now I can see.

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