As a break from the summer sale madness, today I thought I’d talk to you about my new glasses. I’ve been aware that I need some for quite a while but, in the same way that some people dread going to the dentist, I dread the opticians – so I always put it off. The reason for this is that my mum had Macular Degeneration and was nearly blind towards the end of her life. Watching her lose her sight over the years was hard, particularly seeing her sadness when she couldn’t do things she loved, like reading the boys stories.
Macular Degeneration is often hereditary and both my older brother and sister have been told by their opticians that they have early indicators. This means that for me, going to the optician feels like playing one of life’s games of Russian roulette. It’s stupid that I avoid it but I do. So, when Specsavers got in touch and asked me if I would like to experience their service, I felt as though I was being given a bit of a push in the right direction.
I already had a certain affection for Specsavers. Anyone who spends as much time as I do at the side of rugby pitches will know that they sponsor the kit (and ocular health) of a lot of rugby referees. You can imagine the little “you should’ve gone to Specsavers” quips that ensue, usually from the dads in the light of a questionable decision. They lighten up many a long cold game for me.
The Specsavers eye testing process
So, last week I went along to have my eyes tested. I didn’t tell Specsavers which branch I was going to, so the staff had no idea that I was anything other than an ordinary customer. I wanted to make sure I reviewed them objectively.
Until now, I’ve used an independent optician. He has a dark, dreary little shop so I was impressed by the Specsavers’ set up as soon as I walked in. I went through all of the usual eye tests but they were split between different staff in different parts of the shop which made the whole process very efficient.
The time I spent with the optician herself was very reassuring. She quickly picked up on my anxiety about Macular Degeneration. She told me there was no sign of any problem on the photographs they had taken of the macular. However she explained that over the next 12 months, Specsavers will be investing in new equipment that will examine the eye in even more depth. So, she put my mind at rest by saying that they would recall me for another eye test in a year’s time rather than the usual two. In the meantime she suggested eating lots of kale to build up eye protecting levels of lutein. She also said that with my hereditary factors, it was particularly important to protect my eyes from UV light – giving me an excuse to buy more sunglasses!
Incidentally, another thing that was interesting was her answer to a question I had about an eyelash growth serum that I’ve been sent to trial. You sweep it onto your eyelash line each night before bed and I have been noticing great lash boosting results. However, I have also been getting sore and itchy eyes.
She explained that some of the serums include the same ingredients that are used to treat glaucoma. She ran through potential side effects including dry eyes, a change to the surface area of the eye and sometimes, a change to the colour of the iris. By the time she’d finished, I decided it just wasn’t worth risking the damage to my eyes and after a few days of not using the serum, they are already feeling better.
So, the eye tests showed that my sight has deteriorated quite a bit. I can still manage without glasses for distance vision but my reading glasses need a completely new prescription.
Choosing new glasses
With my prescription in my hand, it was time to look at new frames. As with my clothes, I prefer to have different styles of glasses for work and weekends. For work, I usually opt for frames that are black and serious – I tell myself that they give me an air of authority. When I’m at home though I prefer a lighter coloured frame (although I have been known to don my work glasses as ‘telling off’ specs)!
The staff managed the right balance of being on hand to advise but without crowding me. They seemed to sense that I needed to be left alone to try every single pair in the shop before I could narrow my selection down.
So, I spent some time walking around the store, assessing the different brands that Specsavers stock. They include high street names such as Karen Millen and French Connection, as well as ranges developed with people like Karl Lagerfeld. I found myself drawn to the Max & Co collection. Max & Co is part of the MaxMara group and I liked the simplicity of their bold frames. Each one differs slightly and it was surprising what a difference a fractional adjustment to the shape of the frame can make.
New glasses for work
For the work pair, I ended up choosing stainless steel frames which isn’t something I have ever tried before. However they feel lighter than my usual perspex frames and, given that I wear them for hours at a time, that is a benefit. They were also slightly lighter in appearance and I realise now that a heavy black frame doesn’t suit me quite as much as I always thought it did.
New glasses for weekends
Moving on to weekends, I chose a pair in simple tortoiseshell. They were similar to the ones I had before but a much nicer, cats eye shape. They have a slim gold arm with discreet branding. I am completely in my comfort zone with these. They’re comfortable to wear, don’t slip and they feel like me.
New prescription sunglasses
The staff asked me if I use prescription sunglasses and I realised that it had never occurred to me. Thinking back to our holiday last year though, I did notice myself doing the thing that my mum used to do and putting a pair of sunglasses on top of my reading glasses in restaurants. I remember how much I used to cringe when she did that and I suspect the boys were probably doing the same.
There are two options. You can either have ‘Reactions’ lenses in your reading glasses. This means that your ordinary glasses will darken in sunlight. Alternatively you can choose prescription sunglasses with an option of polarising lenses that eliminate 99.9% of glare.
So, I went to look at the prescription sunglasses. Mr MC had joined me by this point and he picked out this pair which I would never have tried if he hadn’t suggested them.
As soon as I tried them, I could imagine sitting outside a sunny café in Italy with a book. I was sold. I can’t quite recreate that effect for you here so you’ll have to use your imagination. However they are a revelation – I don’t know why I haven’t bought prescription sunglasses before.
So, I was impressed by Specsavers – very impressed. The range of glasses to choose from was good and it was nice to see a few high fashion numbers – like the sunglasses I chose alongside the more serious everyday frames. Where Specsavers particularly excelled was with their level of service. I’d liken it to the experience you usually get from John Lewis or one of Virgin’s companies. It was professional and yet warm and friendly. It really surprised me.
As you know, I always try to write balanced reviews but on this occasion it’s hard to find an area that they could improve on. Perhaps the only thing would be the level of information at frame level on their website. I’d like to see fuller descriptions of their glasses. But that’s a very small detail. If you need new glasses, I really do recommend Specsavers. Sight is so precious. I’m ashamed that I have been so cavalier about mine and I’m very relieved to have sorted it out now.