One Writer’s Quest to Find the Best Place to Buy Glasses Online

Kristen Bousquet
One Writer’s Quest to Find the Best Place to Buy Glasses Online
Photo: Mandatory Credit: Photo by Grosescu Alberto Mihai/REX/Shutterstock (10124109gg)

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Growing up, many of us dreaded the day we’d end up with glasses. Choruses of “four eyes” echoed in our heads as we imagined how incredibly nerdy we’d look wearing the things. But as time went on—and as we grew up—glasses became veritably trendy. These days, it isn’t rare to see someone with 20/20 vision sporting a pair of fake glasses just to get in on the accessory action—and it’s even less rare to see someone buy glasses online.

Though sites like Warby Parker seem obvious to us now, the truth is: Glasses shopping has historically happened IRL. This was, obviously, pretty limiting. Local glasses stores tend to offer a restricted selection of frames—many of which cost an arm and a leg. Stores that let you buy glasses online have totally upended this paradigm. Now, we have entire arrays of frames to peruse online—and budget-friendlier frames, at that.

When life is this good, only one question persists: How the hell do I know which site to use to buy glasses online? Warby Parker isn’t the only game in town. There are, in fact, a handful of online glasses retailers to choose from. And I took the liberty of road-testing a few, so the next time you find yourself in need of a new pair of spectacles, you’ll know where to turn.

STYLECASTER | One Writer's Quest to Find the Best Place to Buy Glasses Online

Warby Parker

Warby Parker is probably the most well-known online eyewear brand—at least among the millennial crowd. And I was really excited to give the iconic brand a try.

When you visit the Warby Parker website, you’re greeted with a number of ways to find the right frames for you. First, they have a quiz that matches you with glasses that work for your face shape, preferred glasses style and overall aesthetic. If you’d rather browse all the store’s offering, you can do so by navigating to the “eyeglasses,” “sunglasses” or “more” tabs running along the top menu.

Once you’ve narrowed the wide selection down to your favorites, you can choose five pairs you’d like to try on at home. They’ll ship the frames (which come with clear, non-prescription lenses) straight to you, and—bonus—they’ll cover the cost of shipping both ways once you’re done trying them on, too.

When you’ve figured out which frames you want to buy, you can hop back on the Warby Parker website to complete your purchase.

My review? When it comes to quality, Warby Parker does not skimp. Both pairs of glasses I received from Warby Parker have been dropped, thrown in my purse and essentially manhandled, and you’d never know looking at the lenses or frames (both of which are, somehow, still in perfect condition).

STYLECASTER | One Writer's Quest to Find the Best Place to Buy Glasses Online

Zenni Optical

This up-and-coming online glasses retailer is totally sneaking up on its competitors. After spending what felt like hours on their website browsing the hundreds of frame options they offer, I decided to test out their digital try-on web service. You can use a photo that you’ve already taken where you’re facing the camera head-on, or you can pop onto your webcam in order to virtually try on the pair of your choice.

What I really loved about Zenni was the price point. You can grab a pair of chic frames for less than you’d spend on Sunday brunch. I’m the kind of person who’s constantly changing her mind and falling in love with new styles, so the budget-friendly prices give me a way to indulge my love of shopping without breaking the bank. Seriously, you can get multiple pairs of Zenni glasses for the price of one more traditional pair of glasses—and bonus, standard single vision RX lenses are included in Zenni’s glasses pricing.

I know what you’re thinking: Does a lower price point mean lower quality? And with Zenni, it actually didn’t. I was genuinely surprised to find that Zenni’s frames held up to my day-to-day manhandling as well as the other frames I tested for this piece.

STYLECASTER | One Writer's Quest to Find the Best Place to Buy Glasses Online

Ambr

While it may be lesser known than it’s competitors, Ambr really did go above and beyond with their product, ordering system, and website features. They have a tab on their website called “Virtual Mirror”, and when clicking on this feature, you’ll be taken to a page where you’ll see yourself via your webcam. You can then choose the frames you want to “try-on” and see yourself in any and every one of the styles they offer. This was really helpful, of course, since Ambr is an online-only retailer meaning there would be no way to do an in-person try-on.

What Ambr really specializes in would be their blue light lenses. All of their glasses are blue light blocking and you’re able to add your prescription rather than the other way around. If you’re looking to wear non-prescription glasses with just the blue-light blocking feature, this is absolutely a possibility with Ambr. They really push that blue-light lenses help to eliminate digital eye strain (which is truly something that we all likely suffer with if you’re working on a computer all day, staring at your phone for hours, etc.).

I also have to mention that Ambr’s customer service was top notch which is something that is incredibly important to me when shopping online—especially when you’re spending over a hundred dollars on a solid pair of prescription readers. Their mid-range pricing (most frames ranging from $50-70) is honestly perfect for the experience and product you’re receiving. I was pleasantly surprised when I was not being careful with one of my Ambr pairs, and no matter how many times they were left in the wrong spot, knocked off the counter, or throw around in some other daily life way, they sustained no damages.

The verdict:

Look, I know it’s lame to say I liked all three equally, but I liked all three equally. Here’s the thing: They all brought different things to the table. Zenni’s price points were incredible, especially considering how great the frames they sent me were. Warby Parker has mastered the modern, sophisticated aesthetic, and their at-home try-on program is super helpful. And I really appreciate the fact that Ambr offers blue light-blocking lenses (especially because I spend a ton of my time looking at screens).

So if you’re a budget shopper, check out Zenni. If you want to try before you buy, Warby Parker’s the move. And if you’re a screen fiend, Ambr might be a good option for you. I know it sounds like I’m just being nice, but it’s pretty hard to go wrong here. Your opportunities for shopping glasses online are almost endless—so go forth and embrace your most bespectacled self.

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