Bored of your own face on Zoom? I know I am. It’s a digital inversion of the Narcissus myth. However, there is an easy way to fall back in love with your own pixelated portrait and refresh your look for 2021: up your glasses game.
Glasses have a major impact on your professional appearance — perhaps more than any other accessory. The wrong pair could make you resemble a member of Thatcher’s cabinet in the mid-1980s. When there are limited tools to convey dynamism on a conference call, good frames are essential.
Accordingly, fashionable opticians are seeing an increase in people looking for new frames — not least because more of us are complaining of eye strain from increased screen time. They are also noting a heightened interest in statement styles.
“Since stores reopened after the first lockdown we’ve seen an uptick in people wanting something different,” says Liz Moffatt, marketing and communications manager of eyewear brand Cubitts. “If you have a 9am Zoom, bold glasses will help you look put-together.” She says that while classic styles such as the Herbrand (a roundish shape known in the industry as “panto” that suits pretty much everyone) are consistently popular, customers are also being more daring.
Cubitts recently launched the Britannia, a heavy, visor-like sunglasses frame that comes in translucent red, sky blue and yellow as well as black and tortoiseshell. Moffatt says that customers (among them actor Cynthia Erivo) have been wearing the Britannia as glasses rather than sunglasses.
Tom Davies, who has several optical boutiques in London, recommends owning multiple pairs of specs, and not just in case you sit on one. He suggests at least a stylistically “safe” pair, and an “adventurous” style.
Davies also notes that some frames work better on screen; in his view, rimless glasses on video calls amount to “a crime”. On our video call he demonstrates the difference between a rimless pair, which do indeed look rather timid and underwhelming, and large, square black frames that give “definition and presence”. He adds: “I equate the Zoom experience to a moving portrait photo. No one looks good with their resting face staring into the screen.”
Go darker, go bolder, is his advice. “It’s your chance to communicate with people and create a presence. It’s the equivalent of the [statement] Zoom shirt.” So how to choose? “My biggest piece of advice is to take your time,” says Davies, “so you don’t end up hating the ones you buy for years.”
There are plenty of so-called rules about choosing frames based on face shape, but all sorts of factors come into play: how they sit on your nose and align with your eyebrows, but also your personality and taste. At Finlay opticians, which has branches in Soho and Notting Hill, co-founder and creative director Dane Butler says that “people often have preconceptions about what might suit them but we encourage them to be creative and find frames that draw out their character”.
In terms of style, round frames are still very popular, although totally circular frames can be hard to pull off without resembling Harry Potter. A roundish shape gives modern gravitas (as per Stanley Tucci) and will make the most impact in acetate or coloured wire. Moscot has a lovely range (I like the Keppe, £245); Jimmy Fairly’s The Royale (£149) and The Karma (£99) are confidently oversized; and for something very timeless, EB Meyrowitz’s Forli (£595, ebmeyrowitz.co.uk) is very pleasing in its balanced proportions.
Updated Seventies frames in the form of square, butterfly and hexagonal shapes and drop arms that sit low down on the side of the frame look fresh again. While many glasses brands are now unisex, some of these throwback styles are overtly feminine. Gucci’s D Frame aviators (£355, mrporter.com) in tortoiseshell have that Robert Redford ruggedness without the slightly sinister vibe that aviators can exude.
Brighter colours are also growing in popularity, but if you don’t fancy a festive ruby or holly green, there are easier ways to wear it. Finlay’s Butler says translucent colour can be more flattering — or try traditional tortoiseshell flecked with a brighter shade. Other brands offering, well, eye-catching styles include Kaleos, Linda Farrow, and Wires Glasses, which offers 3D-printed lens rims made from a bio-nylon material derived from castor beans.
“Lockdown has disrupted the eyewear industry in a good way,” says Butler. “With so much time on Zoom, even more people see eyewear as a fundamental part of their identity. We have played it safe for too long.”
Follow on Instagram to find out about our latest stories first
Listen to our podcast, Culture Call, where FT editors and special guests discuss life and art in the time of coronavirus. Subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen