I recently met one of the most stylish women I know for coffee and a walk. When I arrived at the cafe, she looked predictably stylish, wearing gunmetal aviator glasses. Then, as we stepped outdoors with our matcha tea latte (her) and double espresso (me), I watched as the lenses of her glasses turned to a dark sun-blocking yellow. She was wearing rust-colored, wide-leg crop pants, her blonde hair blowing in the California breeze. She looked cool.
Transition lenses—the photoreactive technology that darkens eyeglass lenses in sunlight—have long signified the tragically unhip. But every standout style—from big, clear '80s frames to mom jeans—has its day in the sun and inevitable return (Birkenstocks, looking at you.) Could this be the moment Transitions transform into the cool kid accessory? Minimalism is hotter than ever, and Transitions lenses mean one less eyeglass case clunking around in your Smash the Patriarchy tote bag.
"This whole thing is changing my life," Christian Siriano, who has partnered with the brand, told ManRepeller, "because I never ever change to sunglasses because it's annoying and now I'm like obsessed with it that I can wear them all day. I was in LA last week and I was like, 'This is so easy!' so now I just have a ton of pairs."
Siriano and my stylish friend are not the only ones at the cusp of a Transitions trend. Tim Gunn, a brand ambassador, also opts for Transitions. While talking to Esquire, he was asked: does he ever worry that the lenses can't shake their fuddy duddy image?
"I'm more of a mind that it's my experience and not that of someone around me," Gunn said. "I'd like to think I'm always cool!"
Transitions' new technology bodes well for the lenses gaining cool status. Part of the problem with the lenses in the '80s was that the glasses fell short on every front. They were too dark indoors and too light outside, a problem the company says has been fixed. If they're good enough for Gunn and Siriano—not to mention Courtney Cox, Brad Pitt, and Robert Downey, Jr.—they're good enough for us. If you're seduced by the idea, Esquire writer Miles Raymer says the trick is to place chameleon lenses in frames that will look chic as sunglasses and regular glasses (he recommended this pair of Persols, but my friend's aviators were dope).
The company has been actively working to makeover the brand's reputation by catering to millennials, reports Media Post. The aim is to attract a younger generation to photochromic lenses by positioning the brand as a way to personalize lenses and express oneself.
Transitions Optical's "The Light Under Control" adInsight News
"In the age of the selfie, we know style and self-image are important to young eyeglass wearers," Chrystel Barranger, president of Essilor Photochromics and Transitions Optical, said. "Glasses are part of their personal identity. The Light Under Control campaign encourages consumers to personalize their glasses, including the lenses, to reflect their lifestyle."
We're into cool factors, but we're also into any trend that has legs. Consider, for example, how much of a hassle it is to switch between glasses and sunglasses all damn day. Transitions lenses also protect your eyes from harmful blue light. The sun is the culprit outdoors, but if you're a nine-to-fiver camped in front of a computer screen all day, the blue light from screens can also do a number on your eyes' health.
"One major cause of ocular discomfort and vision issues is exposure to harmful blue light," Dr. Jennifer Lyerly, optometrist at Triangle Visions Optometry, told Well + Good. "In today's world, we're spending more time than ever on digital devices, which is dangerous because long-term exposure to harmful blue light can cause eyestrain, eye fatigue, and light sensitivity."
A fashion trend that—unlike stilettos, tattoos, and platinum blonde hair—is good for our health? We'll sign up for that.