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I’ve been short-sighted since I was young, and as a result have always worn glasses. Even when I switched to contact lenses as a teenager, I continued to have glasses as an alternative, both for style and health. 

Once you start to become interested in craft, of course, glasses are one more thing to become obsessed about. You learn how buffalo horn warms to the skin in a way acetate can’t; you aspire to expensive and rare pieces of tortoiseshell. 

And you start to have glasses made for you. This is fairly easy to justify, as it’s rare that a ready-made frame will perfectly suit the proportions of your face. If you look through an entire collection, you will probably find one - but then you have to compromise on the style. 

The eleven frames pictured here roughly chart this process of mine over the past 14 years. They are numbered and labelled in the image above.

When I went to see Frank Bonnet at Maison Bonnet in London recently, I took this collection with me, in order to show him everything I’ve had made, and what I liked and didn’t like about them. 

I think he found it interesting. Certainly, it helped that it showed him the work of a range of bespoke makers - his peers.

But also, it was an easy way to demonstrate what style I liked. You’ll likely end up doing this anyway by trying on multiple frames in the shop: quicker to start with a narrow selection you already have. 

Here they are, in chronological order. Plus notes and with links to old articles where I have covered them in the past. 

Needless to say, I don’t endorse owning anywhere this number of frames. Optical eyewear at least should be limited to one or two, I think, given how much it defines your look. Luckily I’ve always had the drive (or excuse) of running Permanent Style to ignore this advice. 

 

1. Francois Pinton ready-to-wear acetate

These were the first glasses I bought when I was getting into tailoring, about 12 years ago. They were from the optician around the corner, and weren’t expensive. 

I loved the style, and still do. It’s a classic ‘panto’ shape in an imitation tortoiseshell which fits an elegant, classic look. The only downside is they weren’t made for me and were a little wide (I have a small pupillary distance, otherwise known as eyes that are close together - which apparently makes you look suspicious…)

Glasses pictured in Cifonelli coat shoot here

 

2. Francois Pinton honey-colour acetate

An attempt to buy the same style of glasses but in a more interesting colour. Will Boehlke used to stock them on his A Suitable Wardrobe shop. Unfortunately, the colour is too pale for me unless I’m rather tanned in the summer. 

I do think that colour can look good, but you need a bit of colour in the skin - and it’s easier if it’s a pale tortoiseshell pattern rather than plain. Bruce Boyer and several older Italian gentlemen wear that look well. 

Glasses pictured here

 

3. Cutler & Gross ready-to-wear sunglasses

[No old image - see numbered picture at the top of the post]

An attempt to get a similar panto look, but in a sunglass. I met the Cutler & Gross team, interviewing CEO Majid Mohammadi for their in-house magazine, and liked the aesthetic.

These frames are a similar shape to the other pantos, and the pale acetate works better in a sunglass on me than optical. The quality was also a step up on Francois Pinton. I’m not sure about the metal bridge though. In fact, thinking about it now, I should really get those honey-coloured Pintons made into a sunglass. 

Interview with Majid here

 

4. Tom Davies bespoke horn 

Tom Davies is a really interesting company, starting by setting up their own factory in China and then doing so in London as well. A bit disruptive and innovative on the technology side too. 

These bespoke frames didn’t work that well, and in retrospect I think it was because we started from scratch. As attractive as that ‘couture’ approach is, it rarely meets expectations the first time around in my experience - in anything, but particularly in eyewear where the margins for error are tiny. 

This was also right at the beginning of their service (in 2010), and I know it has changed substantially since then. I wouldn’t use my experience as a guide there. 

Post on that bespoke process here

 

5. EB Meyrowitz bespoke acetate

With my next pair of bespoke frames, I kept it a lot simpler. I based it on a pair of ready-to-wear glasses at Meyrowitz that I already liked, and then just had a new pair made to the specifications of my face. 

This was more successful. It didn’t work as an optical frame I don’t think (a bit chunky and showy) but was perfect once I changed the lenses to make them into sunglasses. Still my favourite style of sunglass I have (the ‘Starsky’). 

Shots of the original optical frames here

Sunglass version shown here

 

6. Maison Bourgeat bespoke horn 

I wasn’t looking to make any new frames, but when I covered the newly set-up Maison Bourgeat in Paris in 2016, Guillaume Clerc kindly offered to make me a pair. (Bourgeat is now under new management, and Guillaume has set up Ateliers Baudin.)

As it was a gift and I didn’t need anything in particular, I went for something unusual. The resulting horn was largely successful, although I find I wear them a lot less than more conservative frames. The bridge fitting was also never quite right. 

Original article on Maison Bourgeat here

Review of the finished frames here

 

7. Eyevan ready-to-wear glasses, via Ludovic Lunetier

As I said at the start, there will always be the occasional frame that fits the contours of your face well enough ready-to-wear. (It’s not hard to see those contours - just think about your eye socket and its shape in the face.)

This was one-such frame, bought from the lovely Ludovic at his bespoke and RTW shop in Brussels. They’ve since become one of the only two or three opticals I wear - I find they particularly suit more casual clothing. I hate to admit it, but it helps that they’re a little fashionable. 

Ludovic Lunetier here

Glasses shown in shoot here

 

8. Retrospecs vintage silver Ray-Bans, made to order

Retrospecs is based in California but supplies vintage frames to dozens of opticians around the world. I met them in Florence during a shoot, and loved this vintage pair of Ray-Bans. 

The advantage of Retrospecs being so big is that they often have different sizes of any frame, and can also swap around arms and nose pieces between pairs. So even though it’s vintage, you can effectively have it made to order. I tend to wear these more with casual things like jeans. 

(Retrospecs have also just joined the group for September's pop-up shop - in Week 2. Details soon.)

Shoot including those frames here

 

9. Retrospecs vintage silver rimless, made to order

[No old image - see numbered picture at top]

This second pair was less successful. These frames have some beautiful filigree work on the silver, and I love the vintage arms that curl around the ears. But the rimless look is not for me I don’t think - particularly not in silver, which is a little too cold. 

 

10. General Eyewear bespoke acetate 

When I got to know General Eyewear last year - just before they featured in our pop-up shop - I wanted to try their service to review them, but by this point knew exactly the way to do it. 

So no sketches, no starting from scratch. Instead, I picked a frame of theirs I already liked, and an acetate, and made it to my face. Going for an acetate that I had only seen as a slab was a risk, but it worked out very well. These are the frames I wear most today, alongside the Eyevan. 

Piece on those resulting glasses here

 

11. EB Meyrowitz bespoke acetate sunglasses

A new Meyrowitz commission, using the same process, based off the need to find a style that I really liked with tailoring. This also worked very well (after 14 years at least I’m getting better). 

One of the most valuable points about this commission for me was realising how much I valued, and was prepared to pay for, good advice with bespoke commissions - as Sheel gives at Meyrowitz. 

Article on that consultation process here

 

As well as the pairs pictured here, there are a few I have given away because I never wore them. These included a sunglass from The Bespoke Dudes (wrong size for my face really) and a bespoke pair from Cubitts. 

I should also probably give away numbers 3 and 4 - and soon 1, given the Bonnet pair are very similar). I’ll cover that Bonnet pair in a full review in a couple of weeks. 

Hopefully readers find going over this entire process interesting, and useful. It’s been a journey, but one with some clear lessons along the way. 

You can see all eyewear-related articles on the dedicated category page, Glasses and jewellery

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Hugh

What was wrong with Cubitts?

Peter O

The shape of nose bridge is a crucial problem. If you have a nose without a high bridge, the design of many eyeglass frames just
doesn’t fit. Simon has a high nose bridge, so that the eyeglass frame bridge can sit on it, right?

Peter O

PS: Based on the photographs of Simon’s face, actually the eyeglass frame does NOT sit on his nose bridge nevertheless his nose bridge is high so the eyeglass frame meets and frames around his nose
bridge start. Looks as if the sides of both eyeglass ovals rests on the sides of his nose.

Herve

I am very engaged by sunglasses, but have no need of bespoke ones.

Persol make one frame size and shape what is perfect to my visage (they make many size of same shape). And so I have about 8 different ones; black, yellow, amber, tortoise and colours of green, blue, grey glasses too.

Good courage Simon!

Anonymous

I do’nt really have much knowledge about glasses,optical or for the sun.I do hope though that I have gained some insight into quality.A few years ago I purchased a brace of Persol sunglasses,the 714 and the Capri.Both were bought online,from Hong Kong if I remember correctly.They were not super expensive but I was immediately impressed by their quality.The strange thing is that if I see Persols in a high street shop and examine them I end up feeling underwhelmed by their lightweight and perceived lack of quality.

Louis

Where’s the beautiful storage box from?

Robin

Most high street opticians are totally useless when dealing with people like myself who need to wear glasses all the time.
They don’t want to go to the trouble of seeing what sizes would fit your face or what other sizes come in a particular frame you like.
Smaller independents are better but can cost more.

Personally I prefer frames that don’t distract from your face or become a feature.
To that end I prefer rimless and am astonished that so few opticians bother to help you select the lens shape, correct arm length or bridge width.

Its an industry that seems to profit massively to a degree where it feels like it is exploitative of people with short sight.

Mark

I have worn glasses since I was a small kid. It took a lifetime to discover what I really like. I now only buy Lindberg as they are so light and most of their dispensing opticians tend to be better at helping one find the correct lens shape for face. I have about 6 pairs so I can rotate them when my prescription changes. On the sunglasses front I have discovered Maui Jim who will fit Maui prescription lenses – well worth the price.

Richard W

It’s worth bearing in mind that one wears one’s optical glasses all day, every day, for years, so this is the item where paying a little more for style is better value for money than anywhere else.

Gavin

Big fan of Eyevan glasses. They have nailed the intersection of retro-ly stylish and artisanal, without being outlandish.

Ben

Bespoke frames certainly gets one closer to the ideal but are generally not worth the price or the time of acquisition, imo. Once one knows one’s measurements, finding a good ready to wear piece is possible for the vast majority of consumers.

I’m interested in the fit pics for your Tom Davies. It seems that, owing to your short PD and the desire to have the frames actually stretch across your face, your eyes aren’t centered in any of the frames. The result almost makes you look cross-eyed. I’m not sure if this is the case with any of the other frames as there are no other frontal shots, but I’m curious if you ever considered shortening the bridge further, thinning out the rims as they approach your nose, lightening the colors similarly, or simply narrowing the frames so that your eyes are center, which seems to me the most important quality in well-fitted frames.

Chris

No thoughts on Lunor?

GW

FWIW, my 2 favorite pairs of sunglasses (out of 7 or 8) are Lunor. Great hinges and construction.

I would recommend getting them while in the EU though. In the US they have quite an up charge.

Harry

The custom Ray-bans are by far the best shape for your face.

ANM

Ironic, since it is one of the few (only?) frames Simon has that are square, and not round.

Anonymous

Thanks for sharing this. Most interesting. A bit of an eyewear fanatic myself.

You forgot to tag the spectacles case! Where’s that from? Nothing like a nice case for the collection!

I.T.

Beautiful works of art! Haha, I liked the paragraph in which you “don’t endorse” anyone to acquire that many eyeglasses 🙂 Indeed, our girlfriends or wives would leave us (and they’d be right to do so) if we’d start buying and commissioning as much stuff as you do, haha!

AW

Hi Simon, many thanks for the very interesting article. Do you find horn frames whilst beautiful rather lacking in user-friendliness? The fit is difficult to adjust as they do not respond well to heat treatment – meaning that the making of the frame has to be pretty spot on. More importantly, the horn material dries out over time and needs TLC in terms of keeping them suitably nourished, almost like leather. This makes them a rather high maintenance proposition especially when one has multiple pairs to deal with. What are your thoughts?

ANM

Simon, I would suggest that you look to adding more squarish frames. As another poster pointed out, the one pair that is “most” squarish, seems to stand out (in a good way).

Suggest, to everyone it is all too easy to have the optical shop suggest what naturally goes with your face and head shape, and explore alternatives. I believe it probably relates to the shop thinking that most customers only have one or two frames, so it is best to go with the shape that is most versatile..

Karsten

Hey Simon,

I was wondering if you ever tried wooden frames? I own one from an Austrian company called “Rolf” (https://www.rolf-spectacles.com). In the beginning I was afraid of being the frame a bit too showy but I decided to give it a try, because I need glasses only for reading. So wearing the frame was limited to my office environment. But after a couple of years now, and in comparison to other frame materials I consider a well done wooden frame as an unusual but good choice. Other than the usual materials, wooden frames change their appearance and age very nicely. Also, wood frames are lighter in average than other materials (referring to full frames, not frameless or titanium, etc.). Last but not least, wood is a sustainable material.
I just wanted you to be aware of this potential alternative.

Best,
Karsten

Carlos.

Hello. Interesting post.

I am tired of contact lenses. I am trying to shift to eyeglasses, my bridge is quite wide tho. I cannot find any frame that suits me, I am thinking about going bespoke.

Any tails of a company which can made them bespoke with online scanning of your face? Thanks in advance.

ANM

Generally speaking, men have 3 areas of ‘bling’ they can show off on.

1. Eyewear.
2. Watches.
3. Cuff links.

I think all of us should put a little more effort to be creative in those areas….and eyewear quite probably at the top of the list.

(How many men who would not dream of limiting themselves to a single watch or set of cuff links, do so with something that sits on their face…)

Harry

Hi Simon, what do you think of clip-on sunglasses? I currently have a pair of prescription sunnies, but hate having to switch between then and my normal pair. Especially annoying on holiday when frequently moving in and out of shops, museums etc. Cubitts bespoke clip-one were suggested to me just last week.

No mention of them in your piece so I wonder how you deal with the problem?

Thanks

Faheem Mahmood

This’s very interesting. I’m wondering what your views are on metal frames, as opposed to acetate (or horn). In your view, are metal frames more causal (best worn casually) than other types of material – especially if they’re not rimless?

Thanking you in advance for your kind advice.

Thomas

Thanks for this! Who would you recommend, purely from the perspective of getting the best help and advice with selecting a model (style, colour etc) that suits your face? In particular, how would you rank General Eyewear vs. Tom Davies in this respect? I am thinking optical frames for daily wear, not sunglasses.

Martin

Eyevan offer horn frames with nose pads. I have not tried them yet but imagine they could be better suited to narrow noses than most normal horn frames. Would you find the look acceptable?

Arthur

Hi Simon,
Excellent selection of eyewear. What lenses did you put on your Retrospecs? Any preferences for the different shades of grey, brown, G15 etc for sunglasses?

Langston Humphries

I’m terribly surprised that you didn’t try the Anglo-American Optical 406, since many of these are heavily influenced by them. If they’re good enough for Bruce Boyer, they deserve a try.

Anonymous

Hi Simon
Any general guidelines when choosing frame colour? Should a choice be made based on hair colour and complexion? Or should it be based on matching to the colour of one’s clothes? I’m thinking perhaps, if wearing brown shoes, brown frames would perhaps be better. Thoughts?

Anonymous

I have dark brown hair and eyes but a slightly dark complexion. Do you think black frames with dark green lenses work?

Anonymous

Simon do you have a bespoke glasses company you can recommend to make a very simple, thin gold rim frame? I like Maison Bonnet but they use acetate and it’s not quite their style, so I don’t think they’ll do it?

Liverpool

Funky designs love them, great article

Ali

I’m looking to get a new pair of glasses, I’m ideally looking for somewhere that can give advice on what would work best for my face shape/etc.

I’m thinking of General Eyewear, Cubitts or Cutler and Gross. Which one would you go for?

Old School

Truly surprised that you didn’t mention/try Anglo American 406 frames. They are the classics that everyone else has copied.

Flynn

Hello Simon. Could I please get your advice on the stowing of eyewear with tailoring?

I’ve only just started wearing reading glasses this year and while they’ve revolutionised life in front of a screen, I only really need them for that purpose. I’d bought a slim leather case to protect them whilst in my jacket’s inside pocket, but with my bespoke jackets it’s not particularly comfortable, or it creates a visible bulge when the jacket is buttoned. I have a bulkier hard case but carrying them around in my hand is just asking to lose them wandering from office to office.

Is this something you’ve encountered? Any advice or suggestions would be much appreciated. Thanks.

Phil

Hi Simon I was wondering if Cutler and Gross bespoke service are worth it if it costs around 1000 pounds in London. I know Maison Bonnet and EB Meyrowitz for a while. By comparison does this seem a bit obscure given CG is already a mass-produced brand? Thank you.

Joel

Hi Simon, you mentioned name “Panto” for a type of shaped frame. Please could you do a list of the different types of frames?

The reason I ask is when I Google different types of frames it generally comes up with oval, square, round etc but nothing with the names.

Thanks.