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Eyeglasses

Coke Bottle Charm

Remember when glasses actually became cool? When coke bottles gracefully converted to frameless lightweights, and four eyes morphed into the brainy ovals of the fashion model turned executive? Certainly, while glasses have given sophomoric parodies of the socially maladjusted (think "Revenge of the Nerds") their retribution, I still consider them the perfect fashion accessory for formerly affronted youngsters. I fondly remember my own transition from telescopic foci to tortoiseshell chic (in the incarnation of stylish Modo frames). There are no two ways about it- the perennial stereotype of "glasses-equals-smart" is definitely seared into my brain. But so is the old axiom: "smart-equals-sexy".

City Optix has set off a fashion frisson in San Francisco for years. With two locations- one on Haight Street and one on Chestnut Street- the store offers both optometry services and up-to-the-minute styles. It's the perfect place to go and trick yourself out in an unparalleled collection of modern and conservative eyewear. Prescription eyeglasses and shades are carried by the likes of Dita, Wink, Oakley, and LA Eyewear. If you're struck by a fancy for blue cat's eye frames or American optical aviators, this is your best bet. My personal favorite discovery is Rodenstock's yummy titanium/plastic frame ($115) with Japanese temples and a skull bridge in goldtone matte/blonde.

Eyewear Generation in downtown San Francisco is full of courteous staff who know exactly the frame for your face. Designers run the gamut from Dolce & Gabbana to Fendi to Ray Ban, but the most exquisite frames tend to come from more understated purveyors. Vantaggio's sweet ovals ($55) in frosted amber or deep purple are equipped with plastic front and metal temples. There's also a wonderful selection of retro glasses (butterfly lenses, paddle temples, mod squares) and ultra-thin titanium and aluminum frames.

As an importunate squinter, I've always regarded sunglasses as the most crucial optical accessory of all. House of Flys in the Haight district is home to chic Black Flys sunglasses. All Black Flys lenses are distortion-free and, ostensibly, ball-dropped for impact resistance. The lenses offer superior protection from ultraviolet radiation and also reduce infrared and blue light without any color distortion. The limited Damsel Fly ($119.96) is a glossy hot pink form-fitting frame with polycarbonate lenses and precision milled hinges, while Metal Shy ($109.95) is a sexy, contour-fitting wraparound fit for a superhero. House of Flys' back wall is studded with the latest designs for men and women, along with an array of apparel, stickers, and clothing by other hip designers.

A hidden gem in the Union Square shopping precinct, The Optical Underground (formerly The Optical Outlet) offers an urban layout of high-end designer eyewear at wholesale prices. The store was founded by eyecare professional Lloyd Silverstein in 1990, and comprises a huge selection of overstocked, discontinued, and sample eyewear from colossal names. With a dazzling private collection of designer-inspired styles at a much reduced cost (oftentimes by 50% or more), the pickings are rife with specialty products. The Sola Percepta and Panamic progressives (multi-focal lenses) offer a wider field of vision than other lenses and range from $199 to $300. Both The Optical Underground's single vision and progressive lenses are among the thinnest available in the world and offer anti-reflective coating too. You can't go wrong with styles here but a top pick is the NuLady Deluxe ($85), a bejeweled pair of owlish library lenses in beige and blue that would make Velma proud.

The insidious effect of schoolyard teasing and popular culture on we bespectacled ones is primeval. Dorothy Parker once wrote: "Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses." But I beg to differ. If the eyes are the windows to the soul, glasses make one's eyes the first thing you see when you look at them. And with such a copious arrangement of geometries meant to flatter the angles and planes of one's face, going back to four eyes never looked so good.

UPDATE: House of Flys is now closed.