Good riddance to geek chic.
Yes, we could be witnessing the demise of hipster eyewear. You know the kind. They’re black, brown or sometimes tortoise shell. They’re chunky, oversize and made of acetate. They’re part of an L train look that in the past five years has been worn by everyone from Hollywood’s A-list to the local CVS pharmacist.
But now, like giving up your favourite dive bar that has been invaded by tourists, it’s time to move on. Kendall Jenner, Tracee Ellis Ross, the blogger Chiara Ferragni and the model Bella Hadid already have. They are just a few tastemakers breathing new life into a classic style of eyeglasses: the aviator.
“Trendsetters now want metal frames again,” said Jordan Silver, an owner of the hip eyewear outfitter Silver Lining Opticians in New York. “They want gold. They want silver. They want flash. Because the chunky, oversize look is everywhere, it’s kind of out.”
Garrett Leight, the Los Angeles eyewear designer, attributes the resurgence of optical aviators to fashion’s current longing for everything Gucci.
“When Alessandro Michele sent an oversize aviator onto the spring 2017 runway, everyone went crazy for it,” Leight said. “He definitely played a role in this style becoming a trend again.
“One of my style icons is Gloria Steinem, and she’s worn that look forever,” he said.
Neiman Marcus is seeing a 1970s renaissance from footwear to eyewear, with customers shopping for aviators by Tom Ford, Chloé and, of course, Gucci.
“It’s what everyone wants to wear,” said Ken Downing, the fashion director. “There’s a grooviness to it. It harkens back to Bowie and Mick Jagger. And even though it’s oversize, it’s not a heavy frame. It sits well on the face, and it’s flattering.”
Even at Warby Parker, the eyewear company many credit with having put the chunky hipster frame on the map, a round metal style called the Abbott recently became the first metal frame to break the top 10 best-seller list since the company’s 2010 debut. Neil Blumenthal, a founder, attributes the trend to a cultural phenomenon happening not on the runway but in the living room.
“I think part of the aviator returning is a result of old shows from the 1980s and 1990s that we get to watch on Netflix,” he said. “It’s fun to look back at ‘Friends’ episodes and ‘Beverly Hills 90210.’ The eyewear of that time is definitely influencing our designers.”
Blumenthal acknowledges that chunky acetate frames are still driving sales at the company’s nearly 50 stores, but change is looming.
“The aviator is such a classic silhouette, and it is actually very wearable,” he said. “The rounder someone’s face is, the better angular frames look. Likewise, if someone’s face is more angular, round frames look better. Aviators tend to have both soft and hard angles in that teardrop shape.”
It was a simple pair of Ray-Ban aviators that inspired the career of Christian Roth, an eyewear designer in Miami. Growing up in the 1970s in Hanover, Germany, Roth fantasised about owning a pair of Outdoorsman frames that were virtually impossible to find. His father somehow sourced the glasses and presented them to his son in what was truly a turning point. An eyewear designer now for almost 35 years, he is well known for his aviators. Over the past year, he has begun reworking his styles with updates like a bridgeless nose and an eyebrow bar. He also added yellow and beige tinted lenses.
“To have a little tint on your lens makes it look completely fresh,” Roth said.
Warby Parker is offering its aviators in navy blue metal in addition to standard metallic. Leight is adding clips to his Linnie aviator frames for fall. Silver’s line of aviators features lenses in light-sensitive brown glass. But for the all the tweaks in the world, there is nothing like a classic.
“I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel or make some style that’s never been seen before,” Silver said. “I want people to feel great and confident. And gold aviator eyeglasses are one of the sexiest shapes you could possibly wear.”
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