Can reading glasses be both useful and stylish? We tested to find out
The search for glasses that wouldn’t make me look like my grandmother
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The truth is, as we age, many of us need a little help reading the fine print, or even the not-so-fine print. Visit any pharmacy, grocery store, or many retail stores, and you’ll likely see a rack or two of reading glasses on display to cater to this need. While those off-the-rack glasses can be perfectly serviceable, they aren’t exactly anyone’s idea of a fashion statement. And while serious vision problems should be treated at your optometrist’s, if all you need is a little boost for reading, there are plenty of stylish options online.
As a woman of, ahem, a certain age, I found myself needing some readers, so I scoured the Internet for some that wouldn’t make me look like my grandmother. You’d think it’d be a snap to find and order the glasses, but not all websites are created equal. Here are my thoughts on the various styles I tried, from the clear winners to the ones that just weren't worth the cost.
My favorite readers and easy online ordering: Warby Parker
Warby Parker has mastered the process of ordering glasses online. You can choose to shop for five different types of glasses to try on at home for free (for five days) with free shipping and return postage, or get right down to picking out frames you think you’ll like. As you browse options, descriptions of what type of face the glasses are best for, such as slender, narrow, medium, wide and so on, assist in your choice. There is also a handy frame measurement guide to further help. After you choose the glasses, a menu pops up to select what type of prescription you have, then you’ll choose what type of magnification you want. Options for readers run from +.25 to +2.75 and no official prescription is needed. I chose the Morgan glasses in Baltic Blue, which cost $95. They came in a solid case with glass cleaner cloth and fit my rather narrow face perfectly.
I was more than happy with the fit, style and most importantly, usefulness. Of all the glasses I ordered, these were my favorites, but even if they weren’t, the return process is a breeze. There is a free 30-day return or exchange policy, as well as a one-year, free replacement policy for scratched lenses within the first year. Finally, I also like the fact that Warby Parker partners with non-profits to give a pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair they sell, which more than justifies the cost to me.
European elegance with added personality: Retroce
Offering Italian-made acetate glasses designed in-house, Retroce positions itself as purveyor of glasses for “modern and glamorous individuals.” Like Warby Parker, their glasses are identified by people’s names, but with added whimsy, the glasses are described for certain personalities. After browsing way too long, simply enjoying reading the listings, I chose “Skyler,” which is described as: “She sees all beautiful things in life. She is pure in heart and transparent in personality.” They cost $60, the middle range of Retroce readers, which range from $48 to $70. They came wrapped in bubble wrap with a cloth bag case; for a more secure case, it would have cost an additional $7 or $8. Despite being described as “oversized” the glasses fit my face well and I found them fun to wear. If you need help figuring out the magnification you need for reading glasses, Retroce has a page you can print out to test your vision. And if you are one of those people constantly losing your glasses, you can become an “Eyelost” member for $175 per year and Retroce will let you replace them with the style of your choice, up to five times annually, a pretty solid deal.
Solid and stylish with blue light blocking included: Caddis
This relatively new company, which started selling reading glasses in 2017, is no blushing wallflower. On its About page, it states: “Caddis is the anti anti-aging brand. That’s our stance. We want to have an open and frank conversation with you about how absolutely right on it is to be the age we are, right here and now.”
You have to like a company with a point of view, right? At least, I do. I ordered the cool-looking Nepetalactone cat’s-eye glasses, priced at $95, probably partly due to its description, as much as its design. It reads, “Inspired by roller derby queens who are not afraid to body check as they take a curve, meet Nepetalactone. Light in weight but not a lightweight.”
I got the frames in “seawater” color. Other choices were black and pearl. All come with a microfiber storage bag, but no case. The glasses fit me well and were solidly constructed. I also appreciated that they were blue light blocking. Other companies usually charge extra for this feature and it is usually coated on, but Caddis figured out how to infuse the lenses using a proprietary technology it developed. The company offers free shipping and returns and distributes 1 percent of its gross revenue to music education programs, another feature I like.
Whimsical glasses for a modern look: Look Optic
Another company specializing in readers only, Look Optic also takes on our youth-obsessed culture head-on, with their “Our Story” statement, which reads, “We believe age is nothing but a magnification number and just because your eyesight is changing, doesn’t mean you have to. You should never have to surrender your style for a moment of clarity - no matter how small the font or the size of your screen.”
Look Optic has a modest portfolio, offering just five styles of glasses, all of which start at $68. I opted for the Liam frames, which I ordered in bottle green (the frames come in eight other colors). They came with a felt case with an attached microfiber cloth. Described as the company’s most fashionable frame, the aviator-style glasses are a bit oversized for my face, but they are super whimsical and certainly not anything my grandmother would wear! The company has generous policies, with a 90-day trial period, a one-year guarantee, free shipping and returns. If you need help with choosing, there is a fit guide, as well as a printable eyechart to assess the magnification you need.
Fun reading glasses from an unlikely source: Anthropologie
Who even knew trendy Anthropologie sold reading glasses? Not me, not until I started doing research. The company offers two dozen types of reading glasses online. All of which are $48 (plus shipping) and they are all tailored, or at least billed as, made for women. They sell brands such as Verona, Scojo New York, and Eyebobs. I ordered the Elana glasses, available in four magnifications and in just one color, Moss. While I liked the shape of the glasses, sadly, they were too big for my face, slipping down when I was reading. Returns are a little tricky: all tags must be in place, as well as the original packaging, though I wasn’t impressed with the company’s. My glasses were shipped to me in a box in bubble wrap, without even a cleaning cloth or case.
The ones that didn't work for me
The least successful of my readers purchases, were, perhaps not surprisingly, the least expensive. A four-pack of glasses with different colored frames from Amazon, by Eyeguard, got high marks from past customers, and while they do get the job done, the thin half frame style is not exactly flattering, at least not for my face. At $15.99 for the set, though, the price tag is nice.
Get a four-pack of Eyeguard reading glasses at Amazon for $15.99
A similar style from the aptly named Readers, called Buttercup, decorated with flowers, is cute, but was also not a good match for my face. Costing just $15.95, plus shipping, makes them a good deal, however, and a 90-day return policy allows you to swap them out for others to try out. And there are dozens to choose from.
Get the Buttercup Floral Readers from Readers.com for $15.95
Finally, the pair of readers I bought from EyeBuyDirect simply did not fit my face, sliding down as I read. The $49 glasses, in a style called Intense, were listed as medium. The company has a two-week return policy and plenty of other styles to choose from, some as inexpensive as $9, though shipping is not free. That said, there are constant deals offered, just as two-for-one specials.
In the end, I discovered that despite needing to wear readers, I don’t have to sacrifice fun and style when I do so. There are plenty of cool companies online that blow those drugstore readers out of the water. With a little research, anyone can find a pair that helps you see perfectly and look even better.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.