Fashion

Antique frames for the timeless gentleman

Meet the grandfathers of your Aviators and Wayfarers-shapely, elegant, and elaborate to the minutest of details-brought back to life because they never really deserved to die.
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Retro is always going to be in. Such is fashion’s great paradox: In many cases, we prefer clothes and accessories that have already gone out of style, left behind by the modern world for some reason or another. We call these things timeless because they never actually stopped looking good-we just forget, until we happen to look back and make them fashionable again.

RetroSpecs & Co. epitomizes this phenomenon. In 1992, a student named Jay Owens happened upon vintage spectacles from the 1940s that were literally golden (that is, they were filled with 12K gold). Owens restored them, wore them while pitching college baseball, and was astounded by their lightness and durability. Before long, friends and family asked him to find and restore the same kind of frames for them. Owens traveled to America, picking, appraising, and fixing up these gold-filled glasses. He brought his haul to optical stores and the rest is history.

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Today, the company continues to hunt for and restore antiques frames. Over 15 different machines and processes that just sound ridiculously rigorous (ultrasonic cleansing, high-gloss tumble polishing in oak barrels) allow RetroSpecs to pay homage to the impeccable quality of American Optical, Bausch & Lomb (the original owners of Ray-Ban), and Shuron Optical.

They also catalog the frames, archiving them as a museum would artifacts, with over 8,000 unique designs appraised and listed. These are the grandfathers of your Aviators and Wayfarers-shapely, elegant, and elaborate to the minutest of details-brought back to life because they never really deserved to die. Quite a few of their restorations are the same designs worn by icons like Malcolm X, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Lee, David Bowie, Sean Connery, and Yves Saint Laurent.


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In the 20 years that RetroSpecs has been around, the rest of the world has taken notice. They’ve since expanded to Seoul, and recently dropped by Manila for a trunk show. “If you want to understand more about design, you have to have an appreciation of the original pieces,” says Seon Hwang, CEO of RetroSpecs in Korea. “RetroSpecs is the history of our frames.” And who could resist a little piece of that?

This piece originally appeared in our July 2016 issue.

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Miguel Escobar
Assistant Features Editor for Esquire Philippines
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