Outfitting your face: My(opic) search for funky frames in Austin's optical scene
As a woman entering her tenth year as a full-time glasses-wearer, I am glad to live in a city like Austin where boys still make passes at girls who don glasses. A stroll through any of the hip, East Austin bars and restaurants certainly confirms this: amid the sea of skinny jeans, 70s bangs, leggings and Tom’s, more than a handful of pretty faces are adorned with fashion-forward, bold frames.
I’ve always hesitated to get a pair of frames that constituted a "look," but after three years in Austin and following an untimely fracture of my current all-time favorite frames, I decided maybe it was time to invest in some glasses with a little more moxie. I procured a shortlist of local frame shops from all of my fashionable hyper- and myopic friends and set out early one morning to see (although blurrily) what Austin’s opticians had to offer.
My first stop was Gene Rogers Optical (2700 W Anderson Ln.), which set the bar incredibly high for the rest of the shops I would visit. Although Gene Rogers ranks highly on Yelp, I still would not have expected to find such a wide variety of truly unique frames at such affordable prices in an unassuming little shop in a strip mall. The selection is vast, ranging from contemporary designers (Nicole Miller, Ray-Ban, Anne Klein) to vintage plastic and metal frames that look like the styles your parents were rocking in their courtship photos. While Gene Rogers doesn’t take insurance, most of the frames I picked up ranged from $100-$200, making the shop affordable even if you’re paying out of pocket.
The affordability of Gene Rogers stood in stark contrast to my second stop, Santa Fe Optical (1601 W. 38th), which calls itself an “eyewear boutique” with good reason. The optician who assisted me was incredibly knowledgeable, explaining that she’d chosen certain frames for me because my nose has a narrow bridge and I need frames with tall lenses in case they slide. This is a perennial problem for me, and I was glad for her expertise. However, the shop doesn’t take insurance, and I did not see a pair of frames for less than $350 (most were between $400-$600). But if you’ve got the scratch, they had some really great, colorful frames by designers you won’t see in less high-end shops.
My third and final stop of the day was Eclectic Eyewear (2510 Guadalupe), located on The Drag across from the UT campus. I was almost overwhelmed by the sheer volume of frames Eclectic boasts. The shop was busy, which meant no one greeted or assisted me, but the staff at the desk were very helpful when I asked them whether they take insurance. (They do.) Their selection wasn’t as categorically unique as either Gene Rogers or Santa Fe, but because of the volume of frames in their store, they still carried a couple of brands I haven’t seen other places. It took me a bit of digging, but I did find a pair of frames I liked for less than $200 (prices here ranged from $150-$300). If you have insurance and Eclectic is in your network, it ends up being the most affordable of the three.
If you want to make a bold statement with your frames, the Austin optical scene has you covered. I haven’t committed to a new pair yet, but I’ve got my eye on a pair of black Cinzias at Gene Rogers and some tortoise-shell O&Xs from Eclectic. I plan to spend the week figuring out how to justify buying both of them.