How much should you spend on glasses?

You can't put a price on your sight, but what about a pair of glasses? Would you, for example, spend $7500 if that's what it cost to put the perfect frames for your face?

Eyewear shops think you would. They know someone is. And that someone is likely to be a man in the corporate world.

Watch makers realised years ago that men, with limited outlets for expressing personality, like to spend big on accessories.

Accessory du jour

Glasses have over time morphed from functional device to fashion statement, and in the past five years, a serious luxury item worn every day. It makes sense, really - what other item is as prominent, as necessary, and as well used?

Solid gold Bulgari frames are the most expensive in Australia and not to all tastes, but there are literally hundreds of other models well above the $3000 mark appearing on the shelves of mainstream retailers. And men are snapping them up.

Fifty-eight per cent of Australians wear prescription glasses, , and on average we replace them every two-and-a-half years.

Half of people aged 35 to 49 need to wear glasses, a figure that rises to 81 per cent of 50 to 64-year-olds. If you don't wear them already, you probably soon will.

The eyes have it

Common wisdom is that a smile is the first thing people notice, but spectacle wearers know it's really the eyes that have it, making expensive frames from luxury brands seem a reasonable proposition.

"Business people, wives with money, international uni students - we're surprised how broad the appetite for luxury is," says Brendan Hughes, manager of OPSM's store in Melbourne's Collins Street.

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The store opened in April as the second of OPSM's 10 planned "luxury" stores across the country, stocking seriously priced glasses from international designers. Two-thirds of the store is devoted to luxury brands.

The $7500 Bulgari frames, which feature 10 mother-of-pearl flowers, were selected for the store by senior buyer Rebecca Demetriou. "People like choice," she says. "People look at your face, not your feet."

Not to everyone's taste

Gold and mother of pearl is not to everyone's taste. Nor are Murano glass tiles or crushed crystals or animal prints, which feature on frames by designers including Dolce and Gabbana, Prada and Versace.

Studs, diamonds and even colour can be too challenging for some. Demetriou is aware it is men in the corporate world who have most embraced the luxury frame, and many prefer understatement.

Matt finishes are fashionably masculine, while ebony and buffalo horn are also big at the moment, Demetriou says. A solid platinum set of frames costs about $1200.

But luxury does not mean a return to the comic glasses of the Eighties. Remember them? If you wear glasses, wear them well. Whatever the cost.

How much are you prepared to spend on glasses?

A dedicated and long-time follower of fashion, Natasha Hughes has reported extensively on men's grooming and presentation. The former Fairfax staff writer also has a commission to write across manners and deportment.

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