Blame it on Sarah Palin.
When the vice-presidential candidate from Alaska made her debut on the national scene last year, her sleek, rimless, slightly rectangular eyeglasses by Japanese designer Kazuo Kawasaki became a hot accessory. Many women—and some men—traded in their old frames for Palin’s “sexy librarian” style.
Frameless eyeglasses have been bestsellers at optical shops for several years, says Joost Voorthuis, owner of Georgetown Optician, which carries eyeglass and sunglass frames by nearly 50 designers at its three area locations.
“That style of frame is not fussy and is very elegant,” Voorthuis says. “So it’s no surprise that it’s popular for so many people. Men and women here tend to want their intellect to speak for them, not necessarily what they’re wearing.”
While many professionals in Washington wear conservative, classic metal or plastic frames in solid colors such as black or brown or in tortoiseshell, others are now more willing to try eyewear that makes a statement.
“Most people have been told by their opticians to choose a frame based on their face shape, which I think is often the wrong approach,” Voorthuis says. “Instead, I suggest that they try to find something that fits their personality.”
Some eyeglass boutiques and optical shops are doing a brisk business in frames that have bright, look-at-me colors—such as orange, yellow, red, and blue—or that feature zebra print, polka dots, or other bold patterns. Temples that have intricate detailing such as cutout designs are also popular. And designers have responded to demand for specs that have a retro look—and that wouldn’t look out of place on the early-1960s set of TV’s Mad Men.
“There are no set rules,” Voorthuis says. “If you are a soccer mom who lives in McLean, maybe you want something really colorful, modern, and fun. Or if you’re a K Street lawyer, you probably want a pair that shows you’re in charge but not stuffy. Whether you have a heart-shaped or square-shaped face has little to do with your decision.”