Welcome to Worth the Price, a recurring series exploring some of menswear’s most covetable and expensive products. This week: prescription sunglass lenses.
Chances are you’re probably wearing glasses reading this. In June 2019, the Vision Council of America reported that about 60 percent of American adults use some sort of vision correction. I am one of those 195.3 million people.
I’ve worn eyeglasses since I was in the second grade to correct my astigmatism — distorted vision — and myopia — nearsightedness. My current eyewear lineup includes frames from Oliver Peoples, Garrett Leight and Moscot. I used each of those brand’s lens replacement services because I believed I couldn’t trust anyone else with the frames. But the fact that the lenses cost nearly as much as the frames killed me every time. Lensabl, an online lens replacement service, is one company making it more affordable and convenient to get prescription lenses without ever leaving home.
“Ten years ago, the idea of purchasing eyewear online was foreign to everyone,” Lensabl CEO Andy Bilinsky told me. “Today, it is the only way some customers shop. Eyewear is very personal, whether it is fit of frames on your face, or your personal prescription measurements, which is why the shift from purchasing them in-person to doing so online has been slow and gradual.”
I wanted to figure out whether I’d been overspending on lenses in the past and if it were possible to get a quality product from an online service, so I went through the process of getting prescription lenses with Lensabl.
Why You Should
You need prescription lenses. This one’s a given, but if you have blurry vision and prescription lenses are a necessity then you a service like Lensabl is for you.
It’s more affordable than traditional providers. Prescription lenses can cost upwards of $1,000, and that’s on top of the price of the frames. But if you’re just trying to get a pair of sunglasses that you won’t be wearing all the time, then it’s unreasonable to drop a rack on lenses. When you use buy frames from a high-end designer and choose to use their lens replacement service, you’re also paying for a premium for those lenses.
You like options. You don’t need to have blurry vision to want to wear glasses. Eyewear is one way to flex your style, and lens replacement services also offer non-prescription lenses. Maybe you love a pair of sunglasses, but not the colored lenses in them — a lens replacement service can fix that with anything from polarized lenses to gradients. Tinted lenses are also making a resurgence — think peak Jack Nicholson — and there’s a whole rainbow that can be put into a pair of glasses.
It’s convenient. If you have an internet connection, you’re basically halfway to getting a pair of custom lenses. Choose everything you want to add to your lenses without a salesperson trying to upsell you on additions you don’t want or need. Very few bricks-and-mortar will do lens replacement on the premises, and will ship out orders to an off-site lab; skip the middleman and ship out glasses on your own and get them sent back directly to you.
Why You Shouldn’t
You miss out on in-person services. Wait, but we just said skipping the salesperson was a pro. That’s true, but so is the inverse. I tend to have minor adjustments made to the frame so they sit properly on my face like bending the arms in a certain way or adjusting the nose pieces. That’s when it’s beneficial to have someone on-hand to make those adjustments. While this has less to do with the actual lens replacement, it’s something you miss out on when committing to an online service,
You don’t care for eyewear. The main lure for lens replacement may be to fill a prescription, but the option to get colored lenses is a draw for those who are looking for a fashion accessory. If you don’t fall into either of those camps, then lens replacement is probably not for you.
You’re not super particular. The amount of customization that comes with lenses — colors, coatings, lens thickness — might be too intricate for the casual eyewear user. If you don’t need prescription, or you’re easy to please with off-the-rack eyewear, then you don’t need a lens replacement service.
What to Consider If You Do
Frame eligibility. The upside is that most frames are eligible for lens replacement. So if you just found a great pair of vintage eyewear, you can pop in an equally great pair of lenses. Most common frame styles can have their lenses replaced, like rimless and semi-rimless, wooden frames and even safety goggles, but confirm that your frames are eligible before you start an order.
Lens thickness. Lens thickness is usually a top priority for those with high-index prescriptions. The higher the prescription, generally the heavier the lenses will be. Not only will thinner lenses lessen the load your face has to carry, but they also fit better into frames so the lenses don’t protrude.
Lens coatings. Lens coatings enhance lens performance. At Lensabl, 100-percent UV protection, scratch resistance and anti-reflection coatings are standard on all lenses. Lens coatings can provide repel water, dust and smudges, enhance scratch resistance and add blue light protection.
Why I Love Mine
Using Lensabl to get replacement lenses is straightforward — you start by choosing what kind of lenses you want whether it be prescription, non-prescription or reading lenses, and optical jargon is decoded by helpful pop-up boxes. For my glasses, which are a pair of Eyevan 7285 756 sunglasses, I chose prescription sunglass lenses for distance.
I opted to get purple-tinted lenses after seeing Succession actor Brian Cox wearing a pair on the red carpet of the Golden Globes. Coincidentally, Lensabl tweeted out an image of the actor wearing those glasses with a recommendation for achieving the same look. When opting for color tints, customers choose between three tint levels — 80 percent, 50 percent and 30 percent — and Lensabl’s Twitter recommended the middle option for a similar look to Cox’s.
I went with a lighter tint option than what the brand had recommended because the mock-up on the website looked darker than what I wanted. I opted for 1.67 lens thickness, standard coating and 30 percent tint. After submitting my order, the brand had me send two pictures of myself to calculate my pupillary distance and ocular center height for correct lens placement. I received my completed frames two weeks after I sent them out, and was originally disappointed with how light the tint came out. In response, a member of Lensabl’s customer care team wrote in an email that the level-one tint results in a “nearly opaque lens with a tinge of tint.” The opaqueness was true, but the “tinge of tint” was hardly noticeable to me.
After waiving the initial $50 do-over fee, I opted for the 50 percent tint, which Lensabl’s Twitter had originally recommended (I guess it’s true that one should trust the experts). After another two-week period, I got my frames back and they were much closer to what I had envisioned. They were a tad darker than the Brian Cox inspiration but much more saturated than the original pair I had received. Lensabl’s technicians nailed the prescription, pupillary height and ocular center height. While I had trouble achieving the perfect color for my lenses, I was satisfied with Lensabl’s open line of communication. However, that bump in the process shows that an online lens replacement service simplifies the process but doesn’t perfect it.
“Over the next 10 years, I think we are going to see technology continue to make the online purchasing of vision care products easier and more seamless,” Biliknsky said. “Everything from better virtual try-on, to telehealth online eye exams, to vision insurance now being offered digitally.”
Lensabl was one of the first brands to offer online lens replacement service, and its dedication to its customers and the quality of its products are apparent. Corresponding with Lensbal’s support team over Twitter and email made the process more personable than I had originally expected from an online service. In the end, I got to upgrade my eyewear game, and Lensabl granted me the gift of sight with them.