Eyewear On the Cheap

If you are one of those who requires corrective vision and forgoes contact lenses, you know that prescription vision is EXPENSIVE.  A visit to Lenscrafters with a pair of designer frames and prescriptions lenses can easily cost you $300-500.  I predict that if you've ever done the Lenscrafters dance, you have certainly thought to yourself, "This is a scam."  Thankfully, several options have sprung up online that are able to alleviate the economic burden of wearing some nice eyewear.

Preface: Before shopping online for eyeglasses, you'll need to get your prescription in each eye (which you probably already know via your optometrist) and your pupilary distance (which you probably don't know).  Your pupilary distance is, as it might sound, the distance (in millimeters) between the centers of your pupils.  Don't worry, your optometrist can accurately measure your PD or you can approximate it yourself via a mirror and a ruler.  Once you've got these numbers, you're about ready to do some shopping for glasses on the internet.

One of the most recent players to this cheap, independent eyewear game is Warby Parker.
I've only just started to take a look at Warby Parker and I've been extremely impressed. They are definitely the most polished of the online prescription eyewear vendors (also the most expensive).  Admittedly, Warby has some of the more attractive frames on the web.  One of the best parts of the Warby catalog is that you can choose any frame in either black, light or dark tortoiseshell colors.  There are other color schemes but most frames follow that pattern.  Some examples:

These are just a few of my favorites on the men's side.  I forgot to mention that every pair is $95.00 (with prescription) and free shipping to anywhere in the continental US.  Warby Parker also has a fitting program where you can get up to five sets of frames delivered to your home for free to see how they fit.  You just send them back in a prepaid envelope when you're done trying them on: pretty cool stuff.  Oh yeah, they sell a prescription monocle too.

Now I'm not saying you shouldn't consider giving Warby Parker's a try.  You really have nothing to lose anyway.  I'm actually seriously considering giving some of these pairs a whirl with that fantastic trial policy they've got.  At least to me, however, at the rate I loose and break glasses, I usually prefer the lowest cost option.  And trough my extensive research, I have arrived at the conclusion that this option is Zenni Optical.  Your most basic pair of frames with standard prescription lenses cost $8.00.  However, in this case, lowest cost doesn't have to mean low quality.  I have had several pairs, some for years, and they've held up reasonably well.

Alright, analogy time.  Likening your options for eyewear to clothing:
Moscot : Ralph Lauren Purple Label :: Warby Parker : Ralph Lauren Polo :: Zenni : Thrift store

 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!

On to the frames!


The prices listed are are for the base model, which includes only a standard mid-index lens include (I can't find it after their recent site redesign but I seem to remember that all the standard lenses had UV protection).  You can get pretty crazy with the add-ons at Zenni Optical:  Bifocals, Progressive bifocals, anti-reflective coating, different indexes (thinner lenses), even Transitions lenses if you're into that.

I think the best add on is tinting the lenses.  For an extra $4.95, you can tint your lenses in three degrees (10%, 50%, and 80%) and seven colors (gray, green, amber, blue, purple, pink and yellow).  This option effectively transforms any glasses into sunglasses.

Sunglasses example:
***EDIT-EDIT: This model in black has sold out is back in stock! They're also available in brown and a zainy brown/clear tortoise shell pattern in a smaller and larger frame size. Also, there is another model that is similar and still available in black as well as brown/clear:
Slap the $4.95 80% gray or green tinting on these mothers and boom, instant Wayfarer copy for the cost of a case of beer. You can't beat that with a stick.

As with most online shopping, you're going to have to carefully examine the sizing information (all frames have listed dimensions in millimeters for overall frame width, lens height and width, bridge width, and arm length) and make a best guess as to what will fit your face based upon your pupillary distance.  A good practice I've found is to measure a pair of glasses you already have and compare the measurements to ones listed on the Zenni site.

In closing, as always the choice is yours. As far as service goes, Warby has the advantage with fitting policy but Zenni has the advantage for choice (in terms of number of frames).  Warby Parker has some excellent offerings for a fraction of what you would pay for designer frames with lenses and Zenni has some real bargain basement eyewear that you probably wouldn't look half-bad in either.  At least with this knowledge you won't be forced into a Lenscrafters paying $500 out the door.


  1. I have to say, these frames look awful to me!

  2. Take a look at the sites. I'm sure you'll find something you like.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I really do need me a cheap pair of decent looking prescription sunglasses. A shame that build-your-own-Wayfarer model is no longer in stock. Also, Warby Parker is fantastic. I bought a pair of the tortoise shell Fitzgeralds and get endless compliments on them. They're the sort of thing you'd expect to pay 300 bucks for at your local eyewear boutique. Their customer service is also excellent. Nothing bad to say about the operation at all.

  5. And by "Fitzgerald" I mean "Roosevelt." These guys: http://www.warbyparker.com/roosevelt-eyeglass-brights?sc=9&category=-109

  6. Hey Dave, thanks for the heads-up. I updated some info in the post, check it out.

    I really like those Roosevelts!

  7. Randomly checked this today; they seem to have that faux Wayfarer model back in stock (#2284). I just ordered a pair, thanks for the tip!

  8. The entire collection of eyewear look pretty and stylish, I like specially #3379 in Black color. For more selections and best Contact lenses have a look at this Prescription Sunglasses

  9. Just recently ordered a pair from Zenni. They came in today. I'm 19 and female, so I was able to have a little more fun with the frames (they're red), but so far the glasses seem to be of decent quality and I can see, so hey!

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