Can Transitions Lenses Ever Be Cool?
Expert fashion critic Tim Gunn weighs in.
BY Miles Raymer | Jul 31, 2017 | Accessories
It's hard to think of a sartorial signifier of terminal geeky uncoolness that hasn't been adopted by the fashion-forward and turned into a trend: high-water pants, turtlenecks, dad jeans, dad hats, dad sneakers, Birkenstocks, Birkenstocks with socks. Glasses have come so far into style that it's hard to remember that wearing them was once enough to get you called a nerd. Even still, Transitions lenses–the photoreactive technology that darkens your eyeglass lenses in sunlight–still carry the stigma of being strictly for the elderly and deeply unhip. But could they be the next piece of geekwear to make the leap into style?
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"That's a really good question," says fashion hero Tim Gunn, who not only wears Transitions but has also signed on as a brand ambassador. As a long time glasses wearer, Gunn is deeply familiar with the hassle of dealing with glasses in sunny weather. Swapping out regular glasses for prescriptions sunglasses is a pain in the ass. Wearing contacts is an option but takes indoor eyewear out of your style arsenal. Squinting and bearing it feels like surrender.
"I think so many of us have that mindset," Gunn says. "Owing to my macular degeneration, my ophthalmologist told me years ago, you must wear sunglasses outdoors. I was a good boy for a while but it becomes a pain, or you lose them."
Transitions seem like the no-duh solution to this problem, but they've never been able to shake what Gunn calls their "fuddy duddy" reputation. There's also the fact that the technology hasn't exactly been perfect–they're not dark enough in sunlight and too slow to turn clear indoors. The company says they've fixed those problems, so they gave me a pair to put to the test.
I will admit that, low-key, I've wanted Transitions lenses forever. I prefer wearing glasses to contacts, I can't stand even the mildest amount of hassle, and I can barely be trusted with a pair of ten-dollar sunglasses, never mind an expensive pair of prescription ones. But with their fuddy duddy stigma–bolstered by an ex who once brutally shot down my idea to get them anyway–I've never owned a pair until now.
It turns out, they're a real game changer.
The key–which may seem obvious but, judging by what I see a lot of guys wearing may not be obvious enough–is to start with a style of frames that works equally well as sunglasses and regular glasses. I went with this pair of Persols, which I've actually owned in cheap knockoff sunglasses form before.
They've quickly become my go-to glasses because it turns out that having glasses that magically turn into sunglasses is amazing. Whatever Transitions has changed about their technology, it works. They don't get "Lou Reed blackout shades" dark, but the tint's serious enough to stand up to a bright spring day. Indoors they quickly go clear, without the hint of shade that gives away older Transitions lenses.
The change is so quick and smooth that half the time I can't even tell when it happens. Gunn agrees. "I don't even notice the darkening, to be perfectly honest," he says. "That movement from indoors to outdoors and back again is so seamless."
I'll admit that I was a little self-conscious wearing them out at first, but the convenience factor is so huge that I quickly stopped caring. If I catch myself worrying someone might catch my Transitions transitioning and thinking I'm a dork, I just think about what Tim Gunn told me about dressing confidently. "I'm more of a mind that it's my experience and not that of someone around me," he says. "I'd like to think I'm always cool!"
Source: Esquire US