Quite a spectacle: your vintage glasses guide

19th May 2022
Rae Ritchie

The right glasses can elevate an outfit from sensational to show stopping. And it’s this kind of era-appropriate detail that the event’s Best Dressed judges are looking for when scouting for nominees at Revival.

It’s now easier than ever to source vintage and vintage-inspired frames for both prescription and tinted lenses. Whether you’re looking for the perfect pair to finish off your look for the weekend, or even to wear year-round, these spec experts will certainly see to it.


Good for motorsports brands: Hamilton Remes

Over the decades, many car manufacturers have put their name to a glasses range, and what could be more appropriate for Revival than donning a pair by Porsche or Jaguar? Or how about some from Persol, the luxury Italian brand created by Guiseppe Ratti in 1917 specifically for pilots and racing drivers?

Vintage and rare eyewear specialist Hamilton Remes has a great selection of unworn sunglasses by motorsport brands to peruse.


Good if you want a backstory: I Need Spex

For both its originals and its reproductions, Revival exhibitor I Need Spex provides wonderful descriptions that share the history of that style or even the specific pair.

Impress those Revival Best Dressed judges with examples including NHS frames from the early '60s and unworn vintage ones “found in the storeroom of a retired optician” while knowing that your purchase is doing some good in the world, too. The technical director of I Need Spex regularly travels to remote villages in sub-Saharan Africa to undertake sight tests and provide glasses. The company will even take your old pairs, restore and re-lens them, then pass them along to people who need them during these trips. 


Good for lens options: Vintage Sunglasses London

If you have specific lens requirements, look no further than Vintage Sunglasses London. Founded in 2011 by a vintage sunglasses’ collector and enthusiast, its optical services offer prescription lenses as well as custom tinted lenses in an impressive eight shades. The brand’s speciality is deadstock, scouring the globe for pairs of vintage sunglasses and frames that for some reason weren’t sold at the time of manufacture.

Making use of deadstock is not only a really sustainable option, it’s also a great way to get an authentic vintage style without the wear and tear from decades of use.


Good for browsing: the Vintage Sunglasses Shop

When you’re not sure about the style of glasses you want or, paradoxically, you know exactly the kind of look you’re after to go with your Revival outfit, check out the Vintage Sunglasses Shop.

You can browse frames by brand, style, decade or colour and the site even has a celebrity inspiration section to guide your choice, so if you want to channel the classic ‘60s vibe of Peter Fonda in Easy Rider or Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair, you’re sorted. (You’ll need the Ray Ban Olympian I Deluxe or the Persol 714 Ratti Folding respectively).

If getting genuine vintage glasses rather than reproduction styles is a concern, the Vintage Sunglasses Shop also has a guide to distinguishing between the two and encourages paying attention to authenticity. “Find a seller/shop who guarantees the origin,” says managing director Chris Prokop. “The shop should provide a proper right to return.”


Good for the first-time visitor: Retro Spectacle

Attending Revival for the first time this year? Then Retro Spectacle is a good place to start. Many of its frames are great value, particularly if you’re not sure how much wear you’ll get out of them when the weekend is over. Those in its Retro Value range, for example, start at £29.00 and include aviator, cat eye, oval, oversized, rectangular, round and square designs.

“When purchasing vintage eyewear, one of the biggest considerations to make is the size,” caution the Retro Spectacle team. As people tended to be much smaller in the past, “Some vintage frames can come up smaller, depending on the style and date of manufacture.”


Good for personal service: The Old Glasses Shop

Whether you’re new to vintage or an old hand but have never bought specs before, the team behind The Old Glasses Shop are available to advise. They’ve been in business since 2004 and still pride themselves on exceptional levels of service, answering every phone call and email personally.

Managing Director Graham Green offers this advice: “Buying pre-owned frames can be rewarding and more eco-friendly. However, there are a few pitfalls to watch for.

“Older acrylic and plastic frames can become brittle over time, and this makes fitting them with new lenses risky.

“Metal frames tend to have different issues. Older metals and alloys were often less hypoallergenic than their modern equivalent, meaning they can irritate your skin. The original coatings and surface layers – particularly on the arms – may have eroded away, giving the same risk of irritation. There are modern sprays you can buy to re-coat the metal and help counteract this.”


Good for colour co-ordination: Retropeepers

Searching for glasses to match the suit or dress you’re wearing to Revival?

With reproduction frames from Retropeepers, you can choose the colour you want as well as the style. “The bug eyes of the ‘60s and ‘70s are having a mainstream fashion revival, and ‘50s cat eyes such as our Bettys are always popular,” says head of design Caroline Bailey. “However, nothing says high couture like a rounded pair of ‘40s frames such as our Millers.”

And if you already have your vintage frames… Visual Eyes

For those who’ve amassed a collection of old frames or treasure a pair passed down from a grandparent, speak to Visual Eyes about giving them another lease of life with new prescription lenses. Visit its experts face to face in London or at fairs and events including Revival.

For more on perfecting your Revival style, check out our guide to vintage accessories.

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