But what if you’re not into wire frames? Years back, Anna Sui longed for the kind of wraparound sunglasses she saw on Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg, “but the fit was never right.” Nowadays, Sui can console herself with her own eyewear collection, even if the styles aren’t specifically targeted toward Asians. “The first thing I wanted to do were cat-eyes,” she explains, “because instead of pressing against your cheek, they swing up the other way.”
Back to my sunglasses woes—I haven’t bought any in years. The last time was as a junior in college, when I had my own wraparound moment with a Gucci pair that hugged my cheeks way too tightly and was soon relegated to a drawer. But now, with summer approaching, I’ve decided it’s time for one more try. I hit up all sorts of sunglasses stores in New York, from Chinatown shops to optician-owned boutiques such as Nakedeye and Selima Optique. I call up various firms—Robert Marc, Charmant, L’Amy, Luxottica, Safilo—and ask for advice. “Get the wire frames with those metal shanks,” every one of them answers off the bat. But I’m a fan of plastics, so I press on. I quickly learn to pay attention to the shape of the glasses. Large temple-to-temple curves often cause discomfort because Asian facial bone structures tend to be flatter; thus straighter frames better follow our contours. Another helpful piece of advice: The smaller the lenses, the less likely they are to hit the cheekbones.
According to an executive at a sunglasses manufacturer, the average consumer tries on four to six pairs when shopping. I’ve blown well past that statistic. At SoHo’s Ilori alone I spend hours donning frame after frame. Around the corner at Selima Optique, owner Selima Salaun pulls out a pair of Thierry Mugler wraparounds. “This is going to be a complete disaster for you,” she predicts in her rapid-fire French accent. She’s right. But all is not lost. She points out the flatter frames in her own line. Some, including best-sellers Ayumi and Miho, are named after long-standing Japanese clients.
Salaun sends me to her friend Toshiyuki Hamaguchi, president of the nearby eyewear store Facial Index New York. There, Hamaguchi tells me he offers sunglasses in two versions: for “lower bridges” and otherwise. He clues me in on key differences. In addition to a smaller curvature, European bridges on glasses usually range from 20 to 22 millimeters wide, while those on his Japanese frames are 16 to 18. “And it’s all about angles,” Hamaguchi adds, explaining that the tilt of the frame matters, as does the angle of the side arms, relative to my ears. He brings out a boxful of tiny plastic nose pads and shows me how he can add them to an acetate frame to create a perfectly fitting nonwire pair. (Nakedeye and Selima also offer this service.)