Whenever I tell anyone what I do, they usually ask: How did you get into eyewear?
One seemingly ordinary day, toward the end of my teens, I went to my optometrist. It was time for a routine examination. Only this examination turned out not to be very routine at all. Upon completing all my tests, the optometrist said wanted to speak to me about something.
I stared blankly at the doctor as he explained to me that as I’d grown taller and taller—I was a so-called “late bloomer,” and continued to grow until I was almost twenty—my eyeballs had gotten longer and longer, causing the focus of images I saw to fall in front of my retina, rather than on my retina. As a result, I’d become nearsighted. I listened numbly as he told me I was going to have to wear eyeglasses for the rest of my life. A heavy cloud of gloom descended over me. I felt glasses were the mark of Cain, had Cain been a dork instead of a murderer.
I hadn’t been a popular teenager. Everyone assured me that all this would change in college, and I really wanted to believe them. Finding out that I’d have to wear glasses until the day I died seemed like a black omen. My suspicion that I’d never get laid began to harden into panicked conviction.
First, I went into denial. Then, with dark resignation, I tried to make the best of a bad situation. Rock & Roll had been one of the very few aspects of my teen universe that actually made me happy. I had a passion not just for the music, but for the fashion as well. High style rock subcultures had always been an object of fantasy—a portal of escape—for me.
At the time of my optical diagnosis, I favored bands that were part of the British R&B boom of the middle 1960s. Their sense of style was essentially Mod. I’d been growing my hair out, and I figured that glasses with thick black frames, combined with the right clothes, might give me a retro-modern, Manfred Mann sort of look. It might even be cool enough to make the wearing of glasses tolerable. It was worth a try, anyway. What other choice did I have?
So I went into my local optician’s, and, after much searching, fished the only suitable frames out of the bin to which he’d consigned his cheapest and most undesirable stock. I can still see him standing there, perplexedly urging me to choose something “less ugly.”
As it happened, the pair of glasses I bought that day added a lot of panache to my look. In fact, I was taken aback. Girls, rather than finding me less desirable, as I’d dreaded, seemed to find me more desirable. And, as an added bonus, the cooler and more stylish the girls were the most responsive. I even, finally, got laid. And with a hottie, too.
Thus I found myself actually enjoying wearing glasses, becoming, even, an enthusiastic advocate. I sported this basic, vaguely Mod look for a good while. But style is sort of like a shark: if it stops moving forward, it dies. Likewise, my style icons began to evolve, becoming more eclectic. A touch of the Romantic began to manifest itself, and influences trended toward Syd Barrett, Jim Morrison, and Lord Byron, among others. I started getting into poetry. My favorites were the Decadents: Englishmen who were influenced by Frenchmen who were influenced by Poe. I began wearing velvet suits and fitted trousers. I came to own several billowy, embroidered, peasant shirts. But the thick black frames that had stood me in good stead through most of college were no longer sufficient; they didn’t fit with my new look. So I began to haunt my local flea market, buying up vintage and antique frames into which I’d put my prescription lenses. Soon, though, I had more frames than I could reasonably outfit with lenses, and I began buying frames just because I thought they looked cool.
Finally, it started to dawn on me — vaguely, uneasily — that I’d morphed into a collector. I really couldn’t help it: the beauty, artistry, and variety I found in this strange, neglected, style netherworld were unbelievable. Each individual piece told a story of its times, both aesthetically and technologically. As “useful objects,” each spoke more eloquently and thoroughly of its times than mere fashion items ever could. And, damn it, they just looked cool.
During the period this all unfolded, I’d attended and graduated film school. I had thought I’d wanted to do something in the medium, but intense immersion had burned me out. I developed an aversion to filmed entertainment that lingers to this day.
I still retained my love of visual art and design, though. Since childhood, I’d filled my notebooks with drawings of everything from cars, to guitars, to buildings. The sketches were always original designs. As I got older, my regard for fashion as a medium had grown. I considered it worn art. As such, it was living, and therefore more important than objects merely hung on walls. Eyewear occupied the most important real estate on your body and was therefore the most important worn art.
So, I started designing frames. I started making them, too. People responded well. My avocation had become my vocation.
So that’s the answer to the question, “Why eyewear?”.
Although, I suppose, “Why not?” works, too.
The Robert Rüdger Mens eyewear collection is available in the USA through Poets Eyewear in Miami, Florida for information on where to purchase use the form below or for retailer inquires you can reach out to us here.