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Hip Reading Glasses: See and Be Seen!

Take a second look at reading glasses. They've become a fun fashion statement.

By Mary Bemis

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Avant-Garde reading glasses

Avant-Garde, from Make a statement in these handmade art-house frames that are spring-hinged for a perfect fit. $40

Metal Hinge Bamboo reading glasses

Metal Hinge Bamboo, from These bright lime-green bamboo beauties are a fresh change from the ordinary — plus they have the benefit of being made from a sustainable material. $62.95

Black Lace reading glasses

Black Lace, from A little bit of femininity in a pair of easy-on-the eye readers. $23.95

Classic reading glasses

Classic, from Slip these on and channel your inner Clark Kent. The eco-friendly style is made from reclaimed plastic. $23.95

Fancy Cat Eye reading glasses

Fancy Cat Eye, from An update on the classic cat-eye style, this contemporary design has a feminine, kittenish flair. $54.95

The Guru reading glasses

The Guru, from With their Diane Keaton vibe, these funky round frames in brown and cream flatter almost any face shape. $21

Katie’s Close-up reading glasses

Katie’s Close-up from Katie Couric had a hand in designing this style. A portion of the proceeds is donated to Scholarship America. $75

Modern Rectangle reading glasses

Modern Rectangle, from The soft shades of amber are a winner in this classic rectangular shape. $23.95

Star Cat Eye reading glasses

Star Cat Eye, from Bogart would have done a double take at the woman wearing these. Slip 'em on and put your hair in a bun to complete the look. $23.95

Tokyo Tortoise reading glasses

Miss Behavin’ from Simple and sexy in a vintage way, the Tokyo Tortoise is not for the faint of heart. $75


Once the dowdy domain of the uncool, reading glasses (aka readymades) underwent a fashion makeover a decade ago. Having been introduced in designer clothing stores and trendy boutiques, they're now sold everywhere, from Whole Foods Market to Target to Costco, and on numerous websites, like and With such ubiquity, some of the coolest of the cool can be found for a mere $19.95, though expect to pay up to $75. At those non-prescription prices, you can afford to make several fashion statements. By picking up a few pairs you can dress for whatever mood you're in, be it sophisticated, bookish, sassy or sexy. Or color coordinate them with your outfits.

Before you toss off your prescription glasses for less expensive readymades, know what you're getting, and if you should even be wearing them. Because you may not get to consult an optometrist when you buy a pair — certainly not if you order them online —we asked the doctor for you.  

Are Designer Reading Glasses for Everyone?
"Wearing inexpensive glasses won't harm your eyes, but not everyone can wear them," says Dr. Thomas Steinemann, professor of ophthalmology at Metro Health Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland. "Some people need prescription lenses to help them see clearly." Before buying reading glasses, Steineman recommends you have an eye exam to make sure reading glasses will work for you.

But if you are simply losing the ability to focus up close, then a basic magnifier will do the trick. A little experimenting with different degrees of magnification ("diopter strength") will lead you to the right choice. Be sure to try magnifiers while reading both a book and a computer screen (you'll probably notice a difference). 


Steinemann offers this tip to people who just need drugstore/fashion readers and are glued to the computer most of the day: Choose a pair of specs for computing that’s roughly half the strength you’d use for close reading. For example, if you’d normally wear a +3.00, opt for a +1.50 for computer use.

And while you’re deciding between artist, femme fatale and professor, remember that frames need to fit your face comfortably and not slide down on your nose or leave marks. 

That's not the fashion statement anyone wants to make, no matter how hip or affordable.

Mary Bemis Read More
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