Saturday, September 27, 2008

2008 Understatement of the Year

I watched about twenty minutes of the presidential debate last night. While discussing the proposed Wall Street bailout package, Barack Obama said that $700 billion is a lot of money. Clearly this is the supreme understatement of the year. For the purposes of this blog, however, I direct your attention to another statement.

I read an interesting ad for a pince-nez on eBay. The text is as follows:

"The Pince Nez spectacles were quite the prominent optical style in the 1890’s to the 1930’s when they fell from favor. They were quite the in-thing 40 plus years ago when these vintage spectacles enjoyed a renaissance in the 1960s and 1970s. The word is that they are coming back in style again."[emphasis added]

Yes, they are coming back in style! I know that I am biased since the purpose of this blog is to promote pince-nez. Nevertheless, I receive many emails and occasionally photos from readers who wear pince-nez on a daily basis. This morning I received an inquiry from a reader who has a strong desire to wear this eyewear. Yes, there is a small yet dedicated and growing group of people who will keep pince-nez alive.

Isn't the focus on eyewear a bit silly?

Absolutely not. Look at the intense focus on fashion and appearance. It is a tremendous industry and rightfully so. Of all the elements of one's wardrobe, I strongly believe that eyewear is most important. I write another blog, LeDandy (of Northern California) which discusses men's fashion.* Early last year, I wrote that if I could splurge on only one fashion item it would be eyewear.

Think about it. People notice your face more than anything else. Beautiful eyewear enhances one's appearance while ugly or inappropriate eyewear will detract from one's looks. Yet the average person spends about a half hour selecting frames at a high volume eyewear store like LensCrafters. He/she will wear these glasses daily for years. It doesn't make sense. Even if you go with conventional eyeglasses, spend some quality time selecting your frames. Visit several stores and try on dozens of pairs if necessary.

Pince-nez isn't for everyone. Physically, you must have some prominence to the nose bridge. The good news is that many people meet this requirement. Mentally, you must have a strong, independent spirit. It is a different look and you will be noticed. I believe, for myself, that the demands are well worth the final result. It is a classic, timeless look which enhances one's appearance through minimalism.

Then again, there are the mainstream designer alternatives which do not believe in the minimalist approach. In fact, often their focus seems to be on the advertising their brand name instead of assisting the wearer! Eyewear shopping is a real challenge.

*Shameless self promotion!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Gentleman Farmer

Not quite. But LeDandy does have a bountiful garden in his backyard. Here I am in hoop springs while holding a massive zucchini measuring eighteen inches. Jon Dean is the gardener in the family and we have a nice variety of vegetables and fruit. It is a great feeling to go outside and pull apples and oranges off the trees. If only we had a money tree!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

eBay Descriptions

I'm fairly well set with my pince-nez collection but every few days I peruse the eBay listings for interesting items. You never know when you'll stumble across a unique item or great buy. Now that I've acquired some expertise with pince-nez, I pay careful attention to the seller's descriptions of the eyewear. I am not looking down on these people. A year ago, my knowledge was very limited in this esoteric field. I didn't know an Oxford from a hoop spring.

Many sellers aren't even aware of the term pince-nez. This isn't a surprise to me as many antique dealers are not familiar with this eyewear. Here in Fremont, California we have a row of antique dealers in the Niles District. At several stores I asked the owners if they had any pince-nez in stock. Not one dealer knew what I meant! It is no surprise that you'll often find pince-nez not properly labeled as such on eBay.

Earlier this week I ran across an eBay listing which perpetuates a myth harmful to the purpose of this blog. In relevant part it reads "Usually there was a chain that served to hook around the ear and prevent the spectacles from crashing to the floor when they inevitably fell off."* I take offense by the word inevitably. There is nothing inevitable about pince-nez falling off one's face, provided they are a proper fit. Let me assure you that you do not need to wear an ear loop (chain) if you want to wear pince-nez.

I've seen many descriptions wherein the seller describes the pince-nez as sized for a child or lady. These are usually incorrect. These sellers do not realize that pince-nez are considerably smaller in size than spectacles.

Also, I've noticed many sellers copying text from Wikipedia and some other well-known eyewear sites. Since the information on pince-nez is very limited, it is easy to attribute the source.

Even if you are just browsing, it is a lot of fun to look at eBay listings.
*Technically speaking, pince-nez are eyeglasses and not spectacles.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lenses: Lets Get Small

pince-nez lens size comparisonI know that I'm showing my age by reference to this old Steve Martin album / comedy routine. I even forgot the essence of the joke. Nevertheless, it is a great title for today's post.

I am very grateful to my pince-nez friend who has given me tremendous guidance on my path to wearing this great eyewear. I've learned many valuable lessons and today I'll touch on one not previously mentioned. Lenses for pince-nez should be smaller in size than lenses made for contemporary eyewear. I've had lenses made at two optical stores and both advised making larger lenses for my pince-nez. Though the stores were well-intentioned, I'm glad that I listened to my friend and stuck with the dimensions of the classical pince-nez lenses.

I can think of two reasons for the smaller than typical lenses. First, a pince-nez sits closer to the face. You do not need, nor want, a larger lens. I'm currently wearing lenses with the same dimensions as the pince-nez lens pictured here. My peripheral vision is fine with them. Second, large lenses are more difficult to wear on a pince-nez mounting. The balance, by nature, is more delicate with a larger lens as any shift would be more likely and noticeable.

The lenses I wear are one and a half inches wide and one and three-sixteenths inches tall.

Remember to get the high index lenses or something similar so your lenses will be as thin as possible.

pince-nez lens size dimension

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Myth: Asians Cannot Wear Pince-Nez

fingerpiece pince-nez Asian
Edward from Singapore dispels this myth in stunning fashion. Here he is at a wedding wearing a fingerpiece pince-nez and bow tie. A classic look which will never go out of style. You'll notice that Edward is wearing nose pads which he received through the Renaissance's Outreach Program.

One must have some prominence of the nose bridge in order to wear pince-nez. Unfortunately many Asians, as well as people of other races, are unable to wear this unique style of eyewear due to this physical requirement. I'm glad that Edward wasn't discouraged as his fingerpiece looks great on him and definitely sets him apart in terms of style. One's suitability for pince-nez wear must be judged on an individual basis.

fingerpiece pince-nez Asian

Saturday, September 6, 2008

My Beloved Fingerpiece

pince nez fingerpiece LeDandy
As promised, here are pics of my new fingerpiece mounting. Originally, these lenses were made for a different mounting back in March, 2008. The optical store I used in the Castro (EyeGotcha) did a nice job with the lenses but did not provide proper follow-up service after the sale. My disappointment with the store is well documented in this blog.

All was not lost as I decided to mount the lenses in a different fingerpiece. Much to my delight, I found out the pince-nez lenses almost always have the same offset distance for the hole mount. I wrote about this lens swap in a July post.

This fingerpiece is very comfortable and a pleasure to wear. It has a pivot nose guard which allows for a precise fit without complicated adjustment.

It is a great pleasure to have two styles of pince-nez that I can wear all day. Yes, it did take some time to get them right but it was well worth the effort.

pince nez fingerpiece LeDandy

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Classic Fingerpiece: A Modern Example

A few weeks ago I received a reader's photo from Stephen in Louisiana. He is pictured here in his prescription fingerpiece. It looks like a photo straight from the pages of Esquire or Men's Vogue. Definitely a winning, modern and confident look. Our best wishes to him given the recent turmoil caused by Hurricane Gustav.

Stephen acquired his fingerpiece on eBay and had a friendly, local optician put in lenses for him. As with my experience, it took a few tries for the optician to satisfactorily complete Stephen's pince-nez. Patience is a necessity for these eyeglasses.

I sent out some nose pads to Stephen as part of the Renaissance's Reader Outreach Program. About five months ago I put up a post offering free nose pads to readers who send in their photos. It was a successful project and several readers provided photo. Thanks to a generous grant from myself (of about $15), the Renaissance is continuing its nose pad giveaway.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Lot of (Good) News

pince nez hoopspring hoop spring ledandy
It is great to be back. Lots of good news to share. As you can see, I have fulfilled my dream of wearing hoop springs. They make a wonderful fit for me. In fact, I now have two pince-nez that I wear. Not at the same time though. I also received my fingerpiece back from VintageIwear in Kentucky. They swapped lenses from my old fingerpiece to a different mounting. They did a good job at a very reasonable price of $20.

I am pleased to announce that I wearing pince-nez on a full-time basis these days.

Let me talk about the hoop springs today. I'll cover the fingerpiece in another post. It was quite a difficult search to find a decent optician to make lenses for a pince-nez. Actually, having someone make the lenses was no problem. Finding an optician who would also work with me after the sale was an entirely different matter. So I went about calling different stores and settled on Shop Frames Optical, an independent store here in Fremont. I spoke with Ray, the owner, over the phone and he was the only one who seemed interested in a special order such as pince-nez. [update: unfortunately I believe they are closed now]

A week after my order, my hoop springs were ready for pick up. I was excited about picking them up. Bad news. One lens tilted in an awkward direction. Back to the lab for a correction. My worries were misplaced as a few days later they came back in fine shape. I can virtually guarantee you that any pince-nez will not be right the first time. Expect an adjustment or two at least with any order. Like I said, it is important to find an optician who will work with you after the sale. Unless you are in the optical trade yourself, you need someone who is skilled with adjustments for eyewear.

The comfort is great. I wear them all day without any discomfort and they stay in place just fine. It is as secure as a fingerpiece.

So do I have a preference for hoop spring or fingerpiece? I do have a slight preference for hoop spring based purely on aesthetics. The hoop spring is "old school." However, the fingerpiece is a modern look and timeless in terms of its beauty. As my friend from the East Coast told me, a true pince-nez enthusiast should have both styles.

hoop spring hoopspring pince nez


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