23 March 2010


I've wanted to post something about buying glasses since seeing a snippet in the March GQ about Warby Parker.  They've got a pretty cool concept: they ship you five sets of frames of your choosing, you try them on to see how they work with your face, and then send them all back.  Then they send you your favorite pair with your Rx lenses in them.  For $95 that's a pretty good deal.  The obvious problem with ordering glasses online is that you can't try them on, and Warby has nicely side-stepped that.

I have a better one solution though: Zenni Optical.  Their frames start at $8.  You could order 10 or 12 pairs for the price of one from Warby and throw out all the ones that don't fit.

I've ordered five pairs so far.  The first was too small for me.  I seriously underestimated how much larger a pair of aviators needed to be than my everyday glasses.  The next four pairs are wonderful.  I've got two regular pairs and two sunglasses.  Any frame can be outfitted with tinted lenses for an extra $4.95.

Having extra pairs of glasses to choose from depending on my mood is something I've looked forward to doing when I had money to burn.  With specs this cheap I'm getting on that train now.

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I feel a little odd posting this since it isn't really my bag to talk about cool retail deals I've found.  But when it comes to making recommendations on tv, movies, etc. I use the rule that I'll put my rec on the blog when I've fruitfully recommended something to more than two friends on separate occasions, so maybe I should be doing the same for other products and services.  All the people I've told about Zenni have been impressed, including, yesterday, my adviser.  (Always a good feeling to be able to share good information with him, even if finding a good place to buy glasses is slightly easier to do than understanding the dynamics of echo state networks, and other info that flows from him to me.)

Secondly, I'm floored by how much cheaper these are, at no apparent loss of quality, than similar specs made locally.  AFAIK Zenni grinds their lenses and assembles the glasses in Taiwan, and reveling in the glories of international trade and a how rich specialization and trade make us is more in my wheelhouse, so I think this fits on SB7.

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PS Have you ever drafted something to post and never got around to polishing it up, only to be beat to the punch by someone else?  Well that happened here.  Via Put This On, here's a very similar post to mine from Tommy at Thighs Bigger Than Your Head.  I feel a little bad about publishing my post since his is probably superior, but Tommy happened to pick out one of the frames I bought as one of his favorites, so they're both going up.   (The $12.95 Wayfarer look-alikes.)  I also like Tommy's characterization of Zenni as the thrift store of online glasses shopping:
I liken Zenni to a thrift store because you can find really cool stuff there for extremely cheap but you need to root through a lot of garbage first. Zenni has many many frames and most are pretty insane (wacky patterns, colors, and unconventional frame shapes). Most are not for me but hey, if you find something quirky that works for you, excellent. The website is also pretty terribly designed but that's part of the fun!


  1. I got turned onto Zenni by, I think, physicist / legal professor David Friedman.

    I've used them, and gotten the $9 glasses.

    Major win.

    Are they JUST AS fancy as $300-$500 pairs from a botique? No.


    Hells yes.

    I took that extra $300 and went off and bought an anvil.

    ...now I just need to find some other great bargain online so that I can buy a gas forge!

  2. Why am I not surprised you'd buy an anvil?