If you’re wearing eyeglasses or sunglasses right now, do you know where they were made? Unless you made specific efforts to ensure otherwise, chances are the answer is “China”. And it’s not just the $5.99 Oakley ripoffs sold at every gas station; the vast majority of high-end glasses are also made in China, largely by the EssilorLuxxotica conglomerate. Even when they’re labeled “Made In Italy”, it often just means “assembled in Italy”, which is why Ray-Ban Wayfarers are “Made In China” when you buy bare frames for prescription lenses and “Made In Italy” when you buy a complete set of sunglasses using the same frames.
Finding non-Chinese glasses is an exhausting task. For more than a decade I wore about a dozen versions of the same basic frame, all made by ProDesign in Japan. That frame shape is out of production so now I have Silhouettes (Austria), Safilo (Italy), and Dillon Optics (Italy with USA lenses) depending on the day and the task. I also have a very good set of ROKA cycling glasses which to my sorrow are Chinese. If ROKAs were made in the USA I’d have ten pairs of them.
If you want a completely USA-made set of glasses, you have very few choices. Shuron makes a variety of vintage-looking frames here at a very competitive price, and… uh, I think that’s it. Until recently. Now there’s Genusee.
Genusee has one design, which isn’t terribly attractive on most people, your ugly author included. It’s available in several shades; I chose a deep translucent green. After years of wearing glasses with a wrap-around shape, the Genusee flat profile feels distinctly odd to wear, and I can see quite a bit of the frame surrounding the relatively small lenses. Genusee claims they are made from recycled plastic bottles, a claim I have no reason to doubt. They are built to survive the apocalypse with heavy-duty hinges and thick materials.
Optical quality is extremely good; my prescription was rendered accurately and I can read fine print at a distance, the same way I can with my Silhouettes and Dillons.
Here’s the best part. These glasses are dirt cheap. $99 for sunglasses, $120 for basic single-vision prescription glasses with or without tint. I paid $189 for my pair including “Transitions” prescription lenses. That’s the out-the-door retail price. Compare that to $560 for my Silhouettes with transition lenses, or $252 for Ray-Bans with polarized prescription lenses via FramesDirect.
Aesthetically these are a “miss” for me, although I’ve never looked more like a 48-year-old professional writer, in the non-necessarily-complimentary sense, than I do while wearing them. If I still lived in New York I’d probably feel more at home with this particular shape. Regardless, it’s great to see a company making affordable prescription glasses in Flint, Michigan. God willing, they’ll eventually make handsome ones!