Me and my glasses

“It has allowed me to express myself”

James Dawson, consultant dispensing optician and AOP Councillor, on the appeal of an aviator and mixing up colours and styles


How many pairs of spectacles and sunglasses do you own?

As a fairly new presbyope, having been in denial, I don’t have as many optical pairs on the go as I want. Currently I am styling out four pairs with multifocal lenses, but I do still use about seven more pairs with some form of anti-fatigue style lens. I guess the answer therefore is 11.

Sunglasses-wise, it’s a different story. At last count I had over 80 pairs. You could say I am a bit addicted.

What frame shapes, colours or styles do you usually go for?

For sunglasses, I do love an aviator – I just can’t resist. I am a bit like that for white shirts too. I like to mix up my styles though, so I go for squared, pilot and rounded aviators, but I can't quite carry off a teardrop one.

I do love a bit of colour so I will wear silver, gold, red, blue, green and black. I think you can really transform your look with a fabulous aviator; rock it up or go all sophisticated. I am not just fixed on my Top Gun look; I do wear different sunglasses for different activities or events. I have a few sports styles in my collection, and the obvious little black numbers in case I get asked to be one of The Men In Black – who would say no? And of course every optician has got to have their statement pair.

For my everyday spectacles I tend to mix it up with styles and shapes. I again wear aviators but also, round, square, hexagonal or something a little more quirky. I tend to choose based on my mood, my outfit for the day, or the impression I want to give out. My eyewear is not only for my profession but it’s a way for me to express myself and let people see me and my personality.

I am not afraid to get out an iridescent blue frame every now and then, or go a bit more edgy with a stark black look. If I want a bit more of an understated look I will pop on my gold and crystal.

My eyewear is not only for my profession but it’s a way for me to express myself and let people see me and my personality.


Can you describe your favourite pair?

That’s a tough one. I love all my current pairs. For sunglasses it would be my Chrome Hearts ‘Grand Beast.’ This is a titanium and unusually shaped aviator coated in sterling silver and gold with white ebony sides. The frames have a cut out gothic cross pattern all down the outside of the sides and with mother of pearl inlaid into a gothic pattern on the guitar pick-shaped temple end. The lenses in this pair are amazing too. This is the pair I go to when I want to feel like a rock star, paired with a leather jacket and ripped jeans. With my voice it’s the only way that’s going to happen.

For everyday I gravitate to wearing my Lindberg ‘N.O.W’ aviator. I have it in matte black and gold, as well as crystal and silver. Both, although the same model, look completely different and let me have some versatility. The lightness and durability with Lindberg is perfect for me.

Would you have a style icon of glasses wearers? If so, who would you pick and why?

I wouldn’t say I have just one icon who would automatically come to mind. I love to see anyone willing to take risks with their eyewear styling and those who embrace it.

Obviously, Elton John is the ultimate for this, and although I may not like all his choices, I do love the fact he lets his personality shine through, and he will tailor each style to his mood or look. Jennifer Aniston has been looking amazing in her eyewear choices of late, and some of the newsreaders look fabulous too.

If I was to state my favourite celebrity in spectacles though, it would have to be Robert Downey Jr. I’m a huge Marvel fan and as a dispensing optician, I feel he has done wonders for the street cred of spectacles, as himself and as Tony Stark. He has helped make being a glasses-wearer acceptable and desirable to a younger audience. Eyewear has finally become acceptable and it is increasing in its ability to be accepted as part of accessorising your look.

James sitting on a bench

How long have you worn spectacles for, and what prompted you to go for your first sight test?

I first started wearing spectacles at about 17. I went for a routine examination as I had been getting a few headaches. I was found to be about -1.50 with a small cyl; this had progressed quickly as the previous examination I was -0.50 sph.

Do you wear contact lenses?

I used to wear lenses regularly for sports. I was one of those awkward men that hated anything near their eyes, so it took a long time for me to adapt to getting lenses in. I now only have a very small distance prescription but do have a reading add, so I now wear multifocal lenses occasionally. These are great for going to restaurants and still being able to see a menu.

I have really noticed a difference in people’s attitudes to how they want to be seen.


How important is eyewear to reflecting your personality?

It has allowed me a way to express myself. As a follicly-challenged individual I can actually get away with a lot of colours and shapes so I do; I like to mix it up a bit. I can decide how I want to come across to others and also how I want to feel each day.

My kids would say I have an embarrassing fashion sense, trying to dress more like a boy band member than an old man they know as their dad. As a result, they don’t always like my choices, but I do – so that’s what matters, right?

What are your top three tips for selecting the right pair of frames?

1. Don’t be afraid to try something different and don’t stick to your comfort zone – you will find the most amazing eyewear this way
2. Know your colour ranges. We all have colours that work and those that don’t. Explore what matches skin tones and colouring and experiment with variations
3. Work to shapes that enhance facial features. We know there are set facial shape categories, so try and select ones that work best. Manufacturers are doing amazing work at reinventing shapes that fit better and give more options, don’t be afraid to try something unusual. Finally, have fun and take your time.