From Yves Saint Laurent’s thick black frames to Paul Newman’s Persol aviators to Audrey Hepburn’s Wayfarers, few accessories have the same immediate impact as a pair of statement-making eyewear. Bold frames are uncommonly hot this season, whether reimagined designer labels, affordable newly launched brands, or resurgent classics. After building a career dealing vintage frames to stores like Bergdorf Goodman, Opening Ceremony, and Jeffrey, Silver Lining Opticians co-founder Jordan Silver is an expert in the rapidly expanding market. He launched his frame-packed shop in 2007 with business partner Erik Sacher, specializing in a rare and storied collection of eyewear from the sixties through the nineties. The Silver Lining brand has grown considerably since then, partnering with labels like Antonio Azzuolo, Band of Outsiders, and Nicholas K for spring 2011 and outfitting celebs from Jay-Z and Kanye West to Brad Goreski and Stefano Pilati. The pair moved into a larger, sleeker space down Thompson Street in October and has been unveiling new styles for their in-house collection of handmade plastic frames (five are out so far; three more will be released this winter). Last month, Silver released his second collection of frames for Opening Ceremony. We met up with the eyewear expert to discuss his new line, “regressive” style, and latest vintage collecting obsession.
In the expanding high-end eyewear market, what's your niche?
We cater to people who want to buy high quality glasses that don’t scream a designer’s name on the side. We sort of try to educate people — our clients know that there are independent eyewear companies out there. Eyewear isn’t an afterthought for them, it’s their main business. A number of my clients also want vintage styles that are really unique.
What are your favorite vintage eyewear brands?
In the seventies and eighties, Dior probably took advantage most of the eyewear market and came up with a lot of iconic shapes. They were first, before a lot of other fashion companies did it. But my all time favorite is Persol. I love the branding of the arrow and the functionality of the temple system.
How large is your personal eyewear collection?
There are probably 100 pieces that I can't bear to sell.
Any contemporary designers you’re excited about?
Right now we’re selling L.A. Eyeworks, and we’re really looking forward to getting in Garrett Leight in February. He comes from an eyewear background — his dad founded Oliver Peoples. He has great quality frames at a great price in fun shapes.
Where do you like to shop in New York?
I moved recently, so unfortunately I’ve been spending a lot of time at Bed Bath & Beyond lately . But I shop at Uniqlo for basics, and I love Shipley & Halmos. I also have a collection of vintage clothing from my father and both my grandfathers that I wear, ranging from Bill Cosby–like sweaters to J. Peterman tweed.
How would you describe your personal style?
I used to work in a real job and wear a suit every day, so now I’m allowed to be intentionally regressive. I’ve regressed to the level of the teenager I always wanted to be; my favorite brands are the brands of 13-year-old boys. Now I can finally afford the sneakers and the baseball caps and T-shirts I really wanted back then. I can’t afford a Jil Sander suit, but I can have all the G-Shocks and the Stussy Hats and Nike Air Max sneakers. Give me a pair of jeans, a bunch of black t-shirts, and a few cashmere sweaters and I’m okay.
What do you see as the next trend in eyewear?
I think we’re moving away from thick plastic eyeglasses into thinner, more nuanced frames. People still want plastic frames, but they want something a little more designed. We’ve also been loaning out a lot of small round sunglasses for editorials. We just bought a bunch of plastic and metal ones manufactured by Bausch + Lomb called I’s; they were made for Levi’s in the eighties and nineties. They’re a really awesome early-nineties take on Gatsby-style sunglasses, with a metal bridge and tortoise shell front.
What trends are you ready to see retired?
Workwear, in general. I think that men can dress a little more sophisticated than lumberjacks in Manhattan. It doesn’t have to be all runway-crazy, but it doesn’t have to be steel-toed boots. I think there’s something to be said for fashion.
What should every guy have in his closet?
A nice pair of oxford shoes with leather soles, for when you need to be able to step it up.
What’s one item you’re saving up to buy?
I’m really into scouring the diamond district for gold vintage watches. I’m not really buying any right now — I got married this year, so I’ve been told I’m not supposed to spend a lot of money — but that’s my main collecting passion lately.