Until recently, I was the kind of person who made optometrists shudder in horror. I wore contacts full-time, skipping both the one- or two-day break from them eye doctors recommend, and the advised hour of glasses before bed. Sometimes I’d forget I was even wearing them, fall asleep, and have to peel off the lenses — now moistureless and suctioned to my eyes — the next morning. Anyone I travelled with would question my fear of not having enough lenses with me, watching me pull handfuls of spare dailies from every available pocket. “You can always wear your glasses, right?” Wrong — because I didn’t have any functioning ones. It had been so long since I’d got a new pair of glasses; the ones I’d bought at age 21 from the tiny optician near my parents’ house had such an ancient prescription they were unwearable.
Then in 2019, when I wanted to get laser-eye surgery, I was told I’d need to wear glasses for at least two weeks before the procedure. A major issue, because part of the reason — aside from pure laziness — that I’d put off buying a new set of frames for so long was because nice pairs are expensive. I didn’t want to spend money on something I didn’t like, even for two weeks — and even if I did suck it up and get something to “make do,” there was always the chance I’d be stuck with them for longer if the laser surgery didn’t stick (it happens sometimes).
So I did an online search for “cheap glasses” and a website popped up: Goggles4U. It sounded sketchy, but I’ve never let that keep me from a bargain. I clicked through and it looked surprisingly legit, though the prices defied logic. They have the exact same range of styles you’ll find in most major opticians, at a fraction of the price — there’s currently 2,427 options in their women’s section, starting from £4.95 and coming in any kind of look you want, from winged specs à la Marilyn Monroe in How to Marry a Millionaire to Molly Ringwald-esque round frames.
A few filters later and I’d found the exact pair I wanted: tortoiseshell ’80s frames. I didn’t realise at the time, but they’re also a dead ringer for Cubitts’s Grafton frames. To the point I think they may actually be a knockoff — the Grafton had come out just a few months before. The only major difference is the price. The real thing costs £125; I got mine for £27. I didn’t have to send across a prescription to buy them either — something all other glasses websites I’d been on required — which was good, because I didn’t have one. I just input the numbers on my contact lens boxes, and when my specs arrived, they were totally fine. There is an option to send across your eye test results, though, for anyone who is less casual about their ocular health than me. They arrived in a case with a lens cloth. I can read and see far away objects without squinting, and most importantly, they make me look like I could appear as the hot-but-relatable daughter in an ’80s sitcom family, which is all I really ask for in eyewear. If that wasn’t enough, I ended up putting off my laser-eye surgery appointment for a few months and then the pandemic hit. I was not expecting longevity from £27 glasses off a site called Goggles4U, but I’ve been wearing them for over a year, and my contact lens use is now occasional (my optometrist will be thrilled to hear).
Emma’s style of choice [Editor’s note: This style is currently out of stock.]
A retro winged pair.
A Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink option.
Some other Strategist-recommended glasses
Cutler and Gross came recommended by designer Anya Hindmarch, who told us her black frames were one of the things she couldn’t live without. “They’re beautifully made. I sit on them, drop them, trump on them, and they’re absolutely no worse off,” she said. “They’re beautiful, quality frames. I think I have worn them all of my life, actually. Not only are they handmade, but they’re quite individual. I think when it comes to face furniture, everyone sees it every day, so it’s good if it makes you feel special.”
Actress Kathryn Hahn, meanwhile, told our sister site that her preferred frame is the Ray-Ban aviator. “They look like your stereotypical old-man glasses,” she notes. “I need readers all the time now or I can’t see — it happens to the best of us.” She says she has pairs within reach at all times — in her bag, by her bed, in the kitchen, even by the toilet. “I like not having to bring a pair from room to room.”
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