If you’re still going to the big names in eyewear for your glasses and sunglasses — you know, Lens Crafters, Pearle Vision — then allow me to introduce you a different, and quite possibly better, option.
Us four-eyes know how expensive it is to replace a pair of glasses, and it’s not uncommon to blow over $500 on a single pair. We justify it, of course, because it’s our vision and it’s important — but man. That’s a serious hit.
Not to mention the fact that eyewear has become a style statement in fashion — from hipster “nerd” glasses to retro cat-eyes, in every color imaginable. In a perfect world, we could all afford four or five pairs of eyeglasses to swap out like jewelry, mixing and matching our outfits and moods. But at $500 a pop, that’s not always a reality.
Except that maybe it can be.
Online eyeglasses has been a growing trend, with independent designers and discount retailers selling stylish prescription glasses for less than $100. Most offer at-home try-ons (or at least virtual try-ons), 30-day full refunds, and even personal shoppers. And unlike a traditional brick-and-mortar shop, the styles are endless online.
It can feel overwhelming, but I did the research for you. Here are my top picks…
Perfect for: Women and men attracted to structured glasses with a retro vibe — especially the “nerd” or “hipster” chic style.
At home try-on?: Yes. Try five pairs for five days, and then ship back for free. They also have a virtual try-on, as well as a 30-day no-question return policy.
More perks: Warby Parker has a “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” program — so for every pair you buy, a pair is donated to someone in need. (And, for what it’s worth, Warby Parker is the original “stylish glasses under $100” trendsetters, with a top-notch reputation behind it.)
Shop Warby Parker
Perfect for: Stylish, fun-loving women craving options.
At home try-on?: No, but they offer a (high quality) virtual try-on and stylist — which is pretty darn spot-on. (No trips to the post office necessary.)
More perks: For pickier vision issues, BonLook sells bifocal, multifocal, and progressive lenses (at an up charge). They also have the cutest kids’ sunglasses you ever did see.
Perfect for: A mix of classic, retro, and modern.
At home try-on?: No, but they have a pretty stellar virtual try-on, considering they have a standard “upload your photo” try-on or a more advanced 3D try-on using your webcam.
More perks: Although they don’t sell bifocial lenses, they do offer progressives. And they have a 30-day refund policy.
Perfect for: Style-loving shoppers looking to swap out their glasses like a fashion accessory. (Eyefly is a partner with Bluefly —the place for online designer clothes.)
At home try-on?: Not yet (they’re working on it). But they do have a virtual try-on program, as well as a 30-day return/exchange policy.
More perks: Like Warby Parker, Eyefly will donate a pair of glasses for every pair they sell.
Perfect for: Picky shoppers.
At home try-on?: Yep! You can try up to six frames, which is more than any other online glasses program.
More perks: For every purchase, Classic Specs donates 6% to New Eyes for the Needy.
Price: $89 (including coatings, polycarbonate lenses, and shipping).
Shop Classic Specs
Perfect for: OPTIONS. Lots and lots of options. It’s also great for anyone looking for bargain-priced contact lenses. (Overall, it’s a good first stop in the online-glasses search.)
At home try-on?: No, but they’ll give you your first pair for free (as long as you don’t need extra-thin lenses — then it’s just a steep discount). So there’s that.
More perks: Listen up, do-gooders: Coastal.com does more than just donate glasses to thousands of people in need (although they do do that). They also supply Vitamin A tablets to kids under that age of 5 to ensure at-need areas have the vitamins they need for healthy eyes, as well as donate UV-protected sunglasses to areas of the world where the environment is especially harsh on eyes.
Price: $40+ (plus extra for specialized lenses)
Perfect for: Lens Crafters’ designers at a lower price. Rather than design and manufacture their own glasses at a lower price, Glasses.com sells all the big-wigs: Ray Ban, Kate Spade, Versace — you name it.
At home try-on?: Yes. Pick four frames and ship them back after 7 days (for free). And bonus! They just launched a virtual 3D fit with their new iPad app.
More perks: Whether you’re looking to stay on a budget (they have a “Complete Pair Package with frames + lenses for $90) or you’re just looking for your favorite designer frames for less, Glasses.com has a pretty impressive collection for women, men, and even kids.
Perfect for: Those with a midcentury/1960s style and a downtown New York aesthetic, willing to pay a little more.
At home try-on?: Nope
More perks: Keep an eye out for their killer designer collaborations — like their recent Zac Posen and House of Waris collections. In fact, the New York Times Magazine claims that the “House of Waris for Illesteva’s sunglasses ($250) might be the single most essential frame of the summer.”
Price: $220+ with only a five-day return/exchange policy.