Hint: It might have something to do with looking cool despite eye bags and crow’s feet
By Jacob Gallagher 2/12/2020
BRIAN COX, Harvey Keitel, Patricia Arquette, Elton John, Tony Shalhoub, Eddie Murphy. No, this is not the cast of an AARP-tilted reboot of “Ghostbusters” (though really, that wouldn’t surprise me at this point). Rather, these over-50 actors were among the celebrities who wore tinted eyeglasses throughout this winter’s Hollywood awards-season. Mr. Keitel and Mr. John both sported tinted lenses at January’s Golden Globes ceremony as well as at last Sunday’s Oscars (sepia for the actor, scarlet and lavender for the Rocketman). Other seasoned stars such as Bono, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have all been known to wear colored lenses.
Some say a colored lens obscures wrinkles and bags around the eyes.
So what’s the connection between VIPs of a certain age and tints? A colored prescription lens, some say, can obscure wrinkles and bags around the eyes. “I think it helps for older gentlemen who want to maybe hide some of their eyes that make them appear a little older,” suggested Oliver Omura, the 33-year-old founder of Specs Collective, an online glasses shop, who doesn’t think he could pull off colored lenses himself.
That’s not to say younger stars don’t experiment with dyed lenses. In a 2016 Instagram photo, Drake, who is currently 33, wore a fuchsia pair and, that same year, immortalized them in a matter-of-fact fashion, declaring in a song, “Got the rose pink-tinted lenses, it’s a Wednesday.” Actors Jonah Hill, 36, and Ansel Elgort, 25, have worn tinties in Merlot red and lilac blue, respectively. And those who pay attention have spotted stained lenses on 20-something models like the Hadid sisters and Slick Woods. For the young, however, it’s safe to say that tinting is more about optical panache than cloaking crow’s feet.
And despite these under-40 exceptions, the average adopter of tinted lenses probably has gray hair. “I definitely do see [colored lenses] as a trend, particularly with older people looking to kind of spruce up their game,” said Ashley Bezamat, the owner of Los Angeles eyewear company Dom Vetro.
The strength of a tint depends on how long the lens is left in the dyeing tank, and it’s easy to overdo it. “To me, Jack Nicholson’s really deep tint is like he’s hiding—he’s a little shady,” said Peter Wachowich, 56, an artist in Vancouver, British Columbia, who’s worn tinted glasses since 2005. As Mr. Wachowich has gotten older, worsening vision has impelled him to get lenses with a stronger prescription, so he’s turned to subtle tints. He’s currently sporting a puckish, pale coral-pink pair. “I find the right tint takes away the effect, somewhat, of the thickness of the lens,” he said.
Offering customers the option of getting prescription lenses tinted in bespoke shades is an add-on (running around $100 to $500) that can distinguish a boutique optician from the online startups that sling generic frames routinely fitted with clear lenses or sunglasses in limited rote shades. “It’s a service that [opticians] can offer that differentiates them,” said Mr. Bezamat.
Moscot, a family-owned chain of glasses shops, has been offering tinted lenses for decades and has a lens dyeing lab in the basement of its flagship downtown New York location. Beyond straightforward tints, it offers a gradient effect that transitions between two colors and even tints on sunglass clip-ons. “You can accessorize up the wazoo,” said chief design officer Zack Moscot.
Other optical brands are moving out of the clear by offering stock, non-custom lenses with tints. Online, Specs Collective sells an aviator-style frame from German brand Mykita outfitted with pale pink lenses and a frame by California’s Garrett Leight filled with emerald green glass. In the coming weeks, Fabulous Fanny’s, a glasses shop in New York City, is set to release a collection of glasses with blue, yellow and pink lenses inspired by specs of the 1980s—the last time colored lenses reigned.
But does wearing a colored lens enhance or impair your vision? It depends on whom you ask. “It’s strictly fashion,” said Bob Hillman, co-owner of Fabulous Fanny’s. Mr. Bezamat of Dom Vetro said “the color of the lens and the pigment of the lens impacts the quality of what you see and how you see.” He pointed to pilots who wear gray- or green-tinted glasses when they fly. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, these colors “enhance vividness and minimize scattered (blue and violet) light.”
But this curious trend is clearly more about image than vision. The glasses dealers I spoke with all felt that celebrities helped give this look liftoff. Mr. Omura of Specs Collective called out Robert Downey Jr. in particular: After the Marvel mainstay wore a pair of Matsuda glasses with bright, Iron Man-inspired red lenses, Specs Collective sold that style “like crazy,” with fans requesting similar custom cherry lenses. Whether they’re scarlet, sepia or sage green, tinted lenses say, “Look at me…just not too closely.”
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