Tungate, Publications

Life through lenses

A writer explains his love of specs.

I started wearing glasses when I was 20 years old and still painfully self-conscious. Fortunately, many of my role models wore glasses: Michael Caine, Woody Allen, Morrissey of The Smiths – they were the quirky-but-cool faces of spectacle wearing.

Even Indiana Jones could be glimpsed in a pair of round tortoiseshell frames while teaching archaeology classes and squinting at runic symbols. Glasses, then, were not inimical to a life of adventure. Just the thing, in fact, for a journalist – which is what I had recently become.

My first pair of specs were not unlike Indiana’s. They were resolutely retro, with wire ends that hooked over my ears. I believe they were made by a company called Anglo American. They went very well with the second-hand tweed jacket, chinos and trench coat I’d adopted as my reporter’s “uniform”.

Since then, I’ve always chosen classic frames, although in recent years they’ve been more rectangular than round: more Woody than Indiana, let’s say. The glasses I’m wearing today are made of genuine horn and bear the brand name of JLC, my optician on the rue du Bac here in Paris.

After more than 20 years of glasses wearing, I suppose you could say I’m an enthusiast. My glasses are part of my personality, as my wife would confirm. Actually, I’m no longer sure where character ends and image begins. Am I bookish and diffident because I wear glasses?

Apart from projecting an image, glasses are practical. Their frames hide the dark rings under your eyes. When you need them in the morning, you simply pick them up from the bedside table. If they get blurry, you can polish them on your tie – or scarf, or T-shirt. You can take them off to make a point by gesturing with the temple arm. You can take them off to rub your eyes. Or you can take them off if you want the world to look like an Impressionist painting.

In short, there’s little chance that I’ll take advantage of the affordability of laser eye surgery. I don’t know what the future will bring, but I know I’ll be looking at it through glasses.

© 2018 Mark Tungate
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