What makes a good pair of glasses?

Let’s face it, glasses are an unfortunate necessity for those who require them. I like to get that one out of the way straight away. But let’s start at the start.


I understand that for a number of us, this is not in question but to begin with let’s ask…do I really need glasses? I see patients on a regular basis who are wearing glasses that I do not feel are required. My basis of requirement is do we have a problem that needs fixed? A problem that needs fixed is, for most of us, that our unaided vision or visual comfort is unsatisfactory.


Alternatively, my take on it is that if you can see and don’t get any eye related symptoms, then the answer is no. This includes people who have a significant prescription for glasses but don’t have a problem. At this point I would very much want to stress that, the one and only exception to this, is in early life when the visual system is still developing. I see people regularly and on careful questioning as to whether they notice any difference with their glasses on, say no. In my opinion, that means they don’t need glasses. Hurray for them! You can imagine how happy they are when I have done a surprisingly comprehensive workup of their visual system and tell them they don’t need glasses.


So we will start with the prescription. You would think that a prescription for glasses is an exact thing – it is not. And not by a long shot either. My prescriptions are triple checked in both eyes (even in lazy eyes) using three different techniques and then balanced with both eyes uncovered and seeing. This means that the complex system of muscles within the eye, as well as the complex system of muscles controlling the position of the eye, are working most efficiently.   


On top of this, you would not believe the bewildering array of different lens types…and none of them are perfect for everyone. You need an optometrist who is working hard to find the very cheapest lens that will do what you need it to. Frequently, this is a very basis uncoated, single vision plastic lens and thankfully, these are cheap!



Unfortunately, unsurprisingly you get what you pay for. Therefore, trust is the key. At the end of your eye examination you should have absolutely no doubt that the person you are entrusting your lifelong vision to, wants to make you are really good pair of glasses for as little money as you can get away with. I describe this as the antithesis to retail, where the objective is to squeeze every penny out of your average spend.            


From this point we take the prescription and think very carefully what the ideal shape and size of lens would be. Clearly, from looking a the people who get my bus, the person who helped them choose their frame completely forgot about what the lenses would both look and perform like in the completed pair of glasses. Don’t forget, the completed pair of glasses is the object that you are going to be putting on you face for hopefully, the next couple of years.         


In frames, you get what you pay for. My frames range from £49.00 complete with standard single vision lenses and these frames are good. Of course, you are not going to get a top-notch trendy frame, branded, with fantastic quality materials, perfectly designed to maximise expected lifespan and give the very best vision and visual comfort. What you will get is a robust, good quality basic pair of glasses that won’t have you snaffling them off your face when you want to look good.


My frames top out at £200 and for £200 for the frame alone…you would be hoping to get something a bit special. For £120 I would be expecting a branded, very aesthetically pleasing, great quality frame, made beautifully and fitted expertly. For that sort of dough I would be expecting a really good replacement policy with availability of spare parts and really good adjustability. Everyone will at some stage mangle a pair of glasses. My best one so far is a pair that were set on top of a tractor wheel and I suppose, unsurprisingly got run over by a tractor. They are currently working well!           


The next thing is that they have to roughly speaking fit you before your lenses are put in. On a very regular basis I see people who have a pair of glasses that no adjusting will make right. The frame is wrong to begin with. What usually happens is that someone falls in love with a frame and it is not available in different sizes. You soon fall out of love with a frame that isn’t comfortable of you can’t see out of! Equally, it takes a trained eye to know what shape the frame is going to end up once we put the lenses in.


Finally, they have to look good. There are a number of simple rules that I follow. Be prepared to change your mind as to what suits you. I have looked at a lot of spectacle frames on faces (in fact I can’t stop) and I feel that the only way to tell if a frame works is to try it on. Try lots of them on (and I mean like 50!). Invariably, what both you and the person helping you likes, changes from the start of the process – the comparison of sizes, shapes and colours educates the eye. Embrace the process…if you have to wear glasses, you might as well like them.


From the fifty, try to isolate 5 to 10 that you like and then revisit them. Try them on again in turn and look in a full length mirror. You will be able to rule out all but about 3 and from there you are laughing. You have not just 1 but 3 frames you would be happy to live with for a number of years.    


Next, be prepared to wait for them. Yes, we can make glasses same day but I can’t guarantee they will be good. I am very exacting about the glazing of your frame. It is not unusual for me to return even a relatively simple glazing job to the laboratory because I feel it could be better. And my lab is very good.


Finally, let us fit them for you. I counted recently the number of checks that I make whilst fitting a frame and I reaches 93. That’s 93 different things I personally look at before you go out the door. This includes all the usual suspects like the fit on your nose and behind your ears. And please, if you are an older gent, do have a scrub behind your ears before coming in to collect your glasses – I will be getting right in there!


We make mistakes like everyone else. The difference is that we go to great lengths to try to make sure that that doesn’t happen. And when it does, we work hard to keep you informed and get you what you have ordered as soon as we possibly can. Often we can get a very satisfactory temporary solution for you to tide you over. As such a high proportion of glasses need returned, we build this in to your expected wait time. We try to under-promise and over-deliver. That’s why I often tell you your glasses will be 2-3 weeks. Frequently, they will be ready in 2-3 days but equally, I often return them more than once, because I genuinely want them to be really really good. So do you.   


Finally, do you know how to look after your glasses? What’s the best way to clean them? There are a bunch of things you can be doing to make sure your glasses continue to both look and work well. We don’t expect you to do them but if you pick up 1 or 2, your glasses will last longer, work better and therefore be better value for money.  


I reckon that if I do all this, I should be able to put my money where my mouth is and give you a good guarantee. We guarantee your glasses against manufacturing faults for 2 years (one of the most common ones I see tends to arise after about 12-18 months at which time the patient naturally assumes that it was their fault). I joke that I guarantee them against faults, not getting run over by a tractor!



Thanks for reading,