By Ki Hackney

When I was 5 years, mother said I drove her crazy, because I insisted on red frames for my glasses. One after the other, optometrists told us that red frames were not available for children. Those were “the olden days”, as my younger daughter used to describe my childhood era. We finally found those clear red frames, and I wore them until a surgeon’s skill corrected the problem, and I no longer needed glasses. The red frames went to a neighbor whose daughter loved them.

Flash forward. When I needed glasses to decipher a menu, I began the hunt for red readers – finally finding some beautiful ones during a business trip to Zurich. I bought two. They are broken now, but some day I’ll find those little tiny, metal pieces that hold the hinges together, in the right size so that I can repair them.

I’m not the only one who obsesses about red glasses. After all, red is the color of passion, and in Chinese culture it symbolizes life and happiness. That has a good ring to it, doesn’t it?

Sian’s four red readers (top to bottom): pointy “schoolmarmish” (or are they the newest look, as per Ugly Betty) are from Zitomer’s; red and black glasses also from Ricky’s; polka dots (Sian’s first venture into reds) that she bought in a children’s store called Step and Stuff in East Hampton; red frames with yellow ear pieces from Blacker & Kooby.
1. Really red readers and classic red frames are just two of the colorful selection available at Friedrich’s Optik, (also home to those magnificent, hand-made buffalo-horn styles). These red frames are $355 at 480 Park Avenue/58th Street, 212-688-5531. 2. More red frames -- these oversized, à la the late fashion editrix, Carrie Donovan, $385 each, from Friedrich’s Optik, 480 Park Avenue/58th Street, $385 each.

Today, it turns out that red glasses may just replace chocolate as a woman’s secret treat. I guess red frames aren’t so secret, but collecting them is. I have five pairs.  My colleague at NYSD, Sian Ballen, has the same number, but hers are all for reading at night. “If I think I’ve lost them, I buy another pair,” she says, cheerfully, “It’s almost like purchasing a lipstick. They are inexpensive enough so that you can collect them.” That’s how she discovered that she really likes red glasses. “I wear contact lenses during the daytime, and at night, I change to bifocals with thin wire or wireless frames; something invisible. I never had the guts to buy prescription glasses in red, for goodness sake.” Red readers have given her a rosier view. “Reading glasses are so inexpensive that you can really have fun with them without making a big investment, and red is my best color.” Sian has turned the corner and has envisioned her next pair of bifocals with red, red frames.

1. Big, square, matte finish red sunglasses, $495, at Alain Mikli Boutique, 986 Madison Avenue/66th Street, 212-472-6085.
2. Big, red rectangular frames, $495, from the Alain Mikli Boutique, 986 Madison Avenue/66th Street, 212-472-6085.
3. Black frames with clear red around the lenses, $515, from Alain Mikli Boutique, 986 Madison Avenue/66th Street, 212-472-6085.
4. Upside-down square red frames with arms at the bottom, $495, from the Alain Mikli Boutique, 986 Madison Avenue/66th Street, 212-472-6085.
5. Betsey Daniels in her favorite red sunglasses and, by chance, her red necklaces.
6. Newest red readers that Sian uses for reading at night and I use for working at the computer, by A.J. Morgan, $24.99 at Ricky’s, 1380 Third Avenue, 212-737-7723.

1. My own red sunglasses from Bergdorf Goodman. 2. My own red readers with white earpieces by Gucci, from Purdy at 1195 Lexington Avenue/81st Street, 212-737-0122.

The incomparable Helen O’Hagan has worn red glasses for so many years she can’t remember when she discovered the joys of seeing red. “I started wearing glasses in my early twenties, and the idea of putting contact lenses in my eyes was too much.  My reading glasses were red for years. When I had cataracts done, I didn’t need those anymore and switched to red prescription glasses.”  Her signature frame is a classic Morgenthal-Frederics “Lifesaver 40” round, red frame.  Helen says she got the last ones, but if you look online at, you fill smaller, “Lifesaver 35” red reader frames.

These weightless red glasses are supposed to be unbreakable, even if you sit on them; $30, at Boyd’s, 968 Third Avenue/58th Street, 212-838-6558.
The specs that Boyd’s shopper Nancy Isaacoff are wearing are red, multi-color stripe, but she has “four pairs of true red reading glasses” at home in New Jersey.
Thin red glasses belonging to Boyd’s makeup artist, Tina.

I ran into Betsy Daniels the other day at a presentation about fashion trends for Fall 07 by the Tobé Report, (look for bright colored accessories and accents next winter, especially red ones), and while Betsy recently retired as one of America’s most visionary children’s wear designers, her bright red sunglasses continue to be hard at work. “I’ve had them forever,” she said, noting that she has collected sunglasses in every color over the years. But my favorites are the red ones – I don’t even know how many I have-- and I take particularly good care of them.”

On the hunt for red glasses in a few shops last week, a quick stop at Boyd’s Chemists turned into a fun, lively experience, as well as a spontaneous window into the intensity aroused by red glasses. To begin, I lucked into a saleswoman, Bebe, who is the major domo of hair ornaments, extensions, etc., but who got into the idea of red glasses. While we were shooting, the customer buying makeup nearby came over to say she loves red glasses and has four pairs. Then her makeup artist said that she did, too, and volunteered the ones she was wearing for us to shoot, even though she couldn’t see anything without them. Pitying her client, we hurried. And on it went. You get the idea. And Bebe at Boyd’s was perfection, right down to her wonderfully red hair.

I understand that the late, great, silver screen icon, Audrey Hepburn, wore glasses with red lenses. Bless her.  However, colored lenses are another story. Let’s just appreciate Ms. Hepburn’s everlasting style, that Pamela Clarke Keogh explained so beautifully in Audrey Style (HarperCollins, 1999) and her ability to smell the roses.

Helen O'Hagan in her signature red glasses.
Above, right: My new dark red, oversized glasses, lined with beach plum -- the style, not the color, that was Nicole Ritchie’s summer signature; and the newest squared, Cerise frame, lined in snake print, $375 each; from Robert Marc at 782 Madison Avenue/66th Street, 212-737-6000 and 386 Bleeker Street/Perry Street, 212-242-6668.


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© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/