Made In The USA, Affordably: Genusee

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!

14 Replies to “Made In The USA, Affordably: Genusee”

  1. AvatarRyan

    Are Randolphs and/or AOs no longer produced (not made) here? I have a pair of each and they both feel similar in quality to the B&L era Ray-Bans my uncle has.

    I’ve always hated regular aviators because of the teardrop lenses and terrible temples. After getting a set off Randolphs with the more “squared” polarized glass lenses and bayonet temples, I don’t know if I could go back to a plastic frame for everyday wear.

    My pre-Luxottica Holbrooks are relegated to night driving use. Im hoping to get a pair of Randolphs with Kalichrome lenses and do away with Oakley entirely.

    Reply
    • Avatarnobody

      Randolphs and AOs are still US made (both in Massachusetts). I believe a few Oakleys still are as well.

      Other American eyewear makers include American Eyewear (Nashville), ArtCraft Optical (Rochester, NY), and Lowercase (NYC).

      This seems to be another case of a company that comes along and takes a genuinely interesting and practical approach to manufacturing in the U.S. and then makes one product that most people will find hideously ugly. To set themselves apart?? I understand there are aesthetic limitations when working with limited manufacturing ability, but why not also make something that looks a little more “boring” that a lot more people, who want affordable, US-made goods, will probably buy?

      Anyway, glad to know about Genusee. As a native Michigander, I hope for their success.

      Reply
    • Avatarstatic_k89

      I’ve also had both as teardrop. The Randolphs I had were a bit heavier-duty than the AOs, but I still like both better than the Ray-Ban aviators I used to own. The AOs are great for golf or similar activities.

      Reply
    • AvatarNick D

      American Optical is the best value going for USA made sunglasses. I can’t tell much difference between AO and Randolph, either. I’ve got 2 pairs – one bayonet and one with spring-loaded ear loops.

      They are my go-to gift for people and sell themselves when you compare against Luxotica Ray Bans or Oakley.

      For eyeglasses, I found a pair of London-made Tom Davies that I adore. It was between the Tom Davies and ic! berlin frames.

      Reply
  2. AvatarScottS

    Jack, if you are saying “prescription sunglasses” made in the USA, you are right, the options are very slim. If you want a very high quality pair of USA-made sunglasses look no farther than https://www.randolphusa.com/

    There are a few places that will fit prescription lenses to Randolph frames. The cost is going to be fairly high . . .

    Reply
  3. Avatarhank chinaski

    “Assembled in Italy”, in a Chinese ghetto (with daily direct flights to Wuhan, all the better to spread KungFlu to the aged native Italians).
    Say what you will about that design, but ‘problem glasses’ are the most popular style going, particularly among the urban bugmen. I’ll keep that brand, and the others mentioned in the comments above, in mind.

    Reply
  4. Avatarscotten

    Thanks for continuing this series of blog posts (even if these likely wouldn’t work for me anyway).

    Reply
  5. Avatarburgersandbeer

    I definitely want to try Randolph’s at some point.

    Although they aren’t manufactured in the US, Maui Jim is an independent US company with manufacturing in Italy/Japan. They are easier to find too; REI, SunglassHut, etc.

    It amuses me that Maui Jim has enough pull to remain independent while forcing Luxxotica to sell them via SunglassHut.

    Reply
  6. Avatarcaltemus

    “These glasses are dirt cheap”

    Not compared to somewhere unabashedly made in china. I got prescription wayfarer clear glasses, and sunglasses, both oleophobic coated, for 65 shipped. I like these in concept, and I’d probably buy a pair if they had a standard wayfarer shape.

    Reply
  7. AvatarRonnie Schreiber

    I have my father’s old half-wire horned rimmed glasses frames. They happed to fit me well and I’ve considered getting them filled with my prescription but every time I put them on I look like I’m back in 1964.

    Reply
  8. Avatarrambo furum

    The cheapest of the cheap is Criss Optical, which I think come from Oklahoma. They make military frames and allegedly penitentiary issue ones too (no wire in the temples, just flexible nylon).

    I’m glad that Genusee spent the extra buck or two to go with the multi-barrel hinges, which is a baseline requirement of mine. I don’t know if there is a delicate way to state that these are a horrible choice for people with flat, wide noses, despite the choice of models on the website. I’m really none too worried about the environmental impact of the ounce of plastic in eyeglass frames, but apparently that is a selling point at least on par with being made in the USA for some people.

    Reply

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