It stands to reason that architects are often associated with their eyeglasses (think Philip Johnson's owlish black spectacles and Daniel Libeskind's aerodynamic wraparounds). They, of all people, know how simple geometry can alter the face's appearance.
Eyeglasses are more necessity than accessory, but the edict that form follow function leaves ample room for interpretation. Ten years ago, for example, wire-rims were the rage; now, heavier, retro-inspired plastic frames dominate the market.
Well-framed men have options. Some take the designer route. The big luxury houses—Prada, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, to name a few—offer spectacles in addition to their sunglasses. The products are excellent, but the choices seem a bit familiar. Others seek vintage eyewear, a business that is booming online and on both coasts. Two good sources are RetroSpecs & Co. in Los Angeles, which specializes in pre-World War II gold-filled frames, and ArtSee, a gallerylike space in Manhattan's Meatpacking District, with styles ranging from multicolored eighties Alain Mikli frames to handsome buffalo-horn 21st-century frames. The pieces are one of a kind, but finding those just-right vintage frames requires work and time.
So consider a trip to one of the boutiques that the six brands here call home. These companies just do glasses, and each takes a unique approach to the craft.
OLIVER PEOPLES Cool Classics
Launched in Los Angeles in the eighties, Oliver Peoples made its name as the power frame and was closely associated enough with the decade of excess to be included in Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho. Producers, agents, and other master-of-the-universe types continue to frequent the spare Sunset Boulevard flagship in search of the perfect pair of tortoiseshell frames to complement their power suits.
Highlighting traditional looks wrought from well-chosen metals and plastics in subtle colors, this style-conscious but not too conspicuous brand offers a variety of designs with the simple elegance of an Armani suit or a Cartier Tank watch. Take, for example, the classic horn-rimmed "O'Malley" (bottom) that has become something of a signature.
STANDOUT LOOK The "Drake", a basic, impeccably proportioned tortoiseshell
PRICES From $210 to $385; 310-657-2553
MORGENTHAL FREDERICS Fine Lines
Designer Richard Morgenthal brings a painter's eye to the collection bearing his name. At the company's almost austere Madison Avenue flagship in New York, the excellent service includes consultations with clients to help them coordinate the eyewear with their wardrobes. Those who opt for the line's more daring styles—two-tone acetates in green and brown, wire-rims with unadorned, seemingly floating lenses, quirky yellow circulars—are advised to keep their clothes simple so the glasses make the statement.
The collection's breadth means that a multitude of shapes are always available: slim wire-rimmed spectacles, perforated titanium frames with lavender highlights, traditional frames with tinted lenses. The store also stocks round frames (center) at a time when fashion tends toward the rectangular.
STANDOUT LOOK The "Anton" wire-rims in metallic blue
PRICES From $250 to $500; 212-838-3090
ALAIN MIKLI High Design
It takes a bold (often European) man to pull off certain sartorial gambles: brief-style bathing suits, ascots, and Alain Mikli's exuberant eyeglasses. Mikli fearlessly adds color (fire-engine red punctuating black frames, center) and works with unusual shapes (long rectangles, exaggerated trapezoids). The results are not workaday looks, but a pair of Miklis are ideal for special occasions, a sure way to stand out in a crowd.
Mikli, ever the good-design devotee, enlisted his old friend Philippe Starck to create a limited number of styles. From "Biolight" (a pair with rimless lenses) to "Biohalf" (a sexed-up version of fusty half-glasses), the pieces marry Mikli's wit with Starck's fluidity and polish. The Starck-designed black frames at the top make a great starter pair for those who appreciate high fashion but are reluctant to really take the plunge.
STANDOUT LOOK Any style in Mikli's vibrant reds or purples
PRICES From $450 to $650; 212-472-6085
CUTLER AND GROSS Retro Chic
Ah, those eccentric Englishmen, like alfie-era Michael Caine and Peter Sellars in his less madcap moments, who get their suits made on Savile Row and call eyeglasses specs. They're exactly the type of man, sophisticated and witty, that you might imagine shopping at Cutler and Gross, London's Knightsbridge-based optical boutique.
Comprising mostly hardy acetate frames that look best in simple black, Cutler and Gross's selection is bold but utterly wearable. And the Savile Row analogy is an apt one; though the frames aren't custom-made, the styles are assertive, commanding attention. The shop does offer bespoke service to ensure that the glasses fit precisely. Wear a pair of black Cutler and Gross specs with confidence and people will think of you as that guy with the great glasses.
STANDOUT LOOK Superthick oversize frames in classic black
PRICES From $285 to $900; 44-20/7581-2250
ROBERT MARC A Touch of Color
Robert Marc approaches each collection the way many couturiers approach theirs—reflecting, in his designs, on a specific theme or recent far-flung travel. Lofty notions matter less than the actual look, though. Customers won't care much that the current color palette echoes, say, the sky over Pantelleria because the glasses look so good.
Marc utilizes plastic the way others use metal, stretching it to streamlined thinness. His hallmark touch is not always visible: The inside of a frame is a different color from the outside's—a subtle complementary shade that adds depth to the overall look. Like a pocket square, Marc's designs provide an unobtrusive accent, a dash of color that is playful but still dignified, attention-getting but not overpowering.
STANDOUT LOOK The new Robert Marc Horn styles, crafted of lightweight buffalo horn
PRICES From $295 to $895; 212-319-2000
BLINDE Back to the Future
Richard Walker likes to say that the glasses he creates for Blinde, the company he founded in 1997, are sculpted, not simply designed. Eschewing all straight lines, Walker's creations are executed by hand with curves directed as much toward comfort as aesthetics (makes sense to those who wear glasses 16 hours a day). Amazingly lightweight dark plastics and metals—and a stunning bright chrome-colored titanium—dominate a line of sleek, almost futuristic shapes. It's no coincidence that Walker's big break came after furnishing eyewear for The Matrix. An avid snowboarder, skateboarder, and surfer, he built his first Manhattan flagship (opening this November) as a fully functioning indoor skate park-luxury boutique, with display cases set amid the undulating floors.
STANDOUT LOOK The chrome-finished "Lifter", with Lucite temple bars
PRICES From $235 to $300; 212-925-7208