My twelve-year-old son likes wearing eye glasses. As a statement, this sounds ridiculous. What kid wants to wear glasses? And yet, when I took him to see his first optometrist in New York at age nine, he showed no signs of succumbing to the stigma. Instead, he spent a good 45 minutes trying on different frames, in full ownership of the experience.
I, too, was nine when I got my first pair of glasses, a hideous oval-shaped metal contraption that was too large for my face and made me look like an oversized owl. It was the kiss of death. I’m still surprised that somewhere along the way, I managed to snag a husband.
“The trends really started to change in mid- to late 90’s,” says Sonia Hovsepian, optician and manager of Larchmont Optometrics. “Frames got more stylish. Suddenly, it wasn’t just cool to have a geeky look. If you wore eyeglasses, you were fashion-forward.” Doctors and parents were also becoming much more alert to signs of vision trouble in children, so that problems that might have gone undetected were caught and corrected much earlier. The eyeglasses style evolution extended to kids’ frames.
Sonia, who’s been with Larchmont Optometrics since it first opened in 1993, says that kids now make up about 20% of their practice: “They come in wanting glasses and are really upset if they don’t need them. Some kids try to fake the eye exam so they can get glasses!” There is a range of brands and a variety of cool, colorful frames to choose from, all around $100. Ray-Bans are especially popular with children and are very affordable. Other brands that make children’s frames include Dolce & Gabbana, Flexon, and Paul Frank.
Sonia recommends doing an initial check of the child’s vision when they first start reading or, as she puts, when they are first able to recognize what they can or cannot see clearly. Other vision tips include making sure a child has an eye exam before starting school; watching for signs of vision trouble when a child is doing homework; and watching out for squinting. Kids tend not to notice spots or dirt on their glasses so it’s best to wash them once a day with soap and water.
My son’s current pair, a far, far cry from my own owl look, is sleek, silver-toned, and has a neat geometric shape. Whatever stigma worries I might have, glasses is not one of them.