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I still get asked about my first pair of glasses, tortoise shell Preston frames from Warby Parker, at least once a week. When I picked them out, I had turned to the direct-to-consumer pioneer because all the pairs I liked at my optometrist’s office were in the $600 to $800 range, which my insurance didn’t come close to covering. I didn’t want to settle for something I didn’t love if I had to wear them every day.
Five years later, the Prestons are still my go-to, and Warby is still a great option. I’ve got three pairs from the brand (four, if you count the prescription sunglasses) that I love, usually picked up in late December as a Christmas present to myself when I realize I’ve still got money to burn in my FSA. But sometimes it feels likes everyone else in Brooklyn has three or four pairs, too — I can’t walk into a room or a subway car without meeting a glasses twin.
Which is why this year, instead of taking my use-it-or-lose-it dollars straight to Warby, I’m checking out a few other cool optical brands first. Some are new in the past few years, and some have been around for awhile on the down low. And if you’ve got some extra funds that need to be spent, all are worth checking out before you pull the trigger.
Launched at the Brooklyn Flea around the same time that Warby took off in 2010, Classic Specs makes really likable, timeless frames for men and women that, at $89, are also blessedly affordable.
A relative newcomer, David Kind was founded by former Oliver Peoples employees and presents itself as a sort of Warby Parker with an upgrade: It’s improved the home try-on scenario and fitting with a personal stylist and an app that measures your eye distance, and offer a slightly more luxury product (with prices to match — most are just under $300).
Another classics-driven brand, Raen makes frames that feel modern and traditional at the same time. Every pair is made by hand from start to finish; if you’re not into the dozen or so RX options — say, if something catches your eye in the sunwear line (which is carried by stores like Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters) — you can easily swap in RX lenses.
If you’re looking for something super unique, look no further. RVS offers frames handmade by Italian and Japanese artisans in very cool and modern shapes and colors. You can make purchases through the website, but it’s carried in a ton of optical boutiques worldwide, too.
Founded in 2006, this California-based brand makes laid-back frames in a wide range of colors and shapes inspired by nature. Similar to Warby, the style is classic with an update, with really eye-catching colors and patterns like tropical flower tortoise shell or clear melon acetate. But unlike Warby, the craftsmanship is next level.
If the fun colors and low prices are what drew you to Warby (like me), Tortoise & Blonde will definitely appeal. This family-run company offers dozens of frames for men and women, with some starting at $40 and all capping out around $200.