A Look at the Vintage Persol Sunglasses That Collectors Lust Over
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Silver Lining Opticians occupies a quiet storefront across from community basketball courts in New York’s SoHo neighborhood. The luxury boutique sells high-end eyewear from Japan and Italy, along with an in-house line of tasteful frames made in China. For over a decade, it’s been the go-to shop for New Yorkers seeking out tasteful and unique eyewear. Along with its selection of new merchandise, the store stocks a range of hard-to-find vintage frames.
Shop owner Jordan Silver has an affinity for vintage Persols, which he first discovered when he moved to New York two decades ago. “It was the first time I had heard of a sunglass brand that was a luxury brand that wasn’t a license like Louis Vuitton or Chanel, but that wasn’t a sports brand like Oakley or Ray-Ban,” Silver said. “It was evocative of the Jet-Set Era of early airplane travel and the branding was so beautiful and functional with the Meflecto flexibility. So, I instantly fell in love with the brand.”
As Silver explored the brand’s history, he learned about the different iconic frames. There were thick acetate frames from the ’60s worn by stars like Gregory Peck and Marcello Mastroianni, there was an acetate framed aviator made famous by Steve McQueen, there was a ’90s rectangular style with thick sides worn by actors like Harvey Keitel. “I thought it was just great because no matter the frame, it always had the same little arrow,” Silver said.
Persol’s attention to detail and high quality stem from the brand’s roots serving opticians. While the brand still offers excellent frames, they’re not quite the symbol they once were. “I think they still are one of the crown jewels of Luxottica’s portfolio, but the fact that they’re available at every kiosk and every mall doesn’t really do much for their exclusivity,” Silver said.
For those looking for something a little less ubiquitous, Silver offers a number of vintage Persols for sale. Frames are from the ’60s to the ’80s and prices range from $550 to $750 for optical and $650 to $995 for most sunglasses, though popular Steve McQueen and Nicholson styles start at around $1,850. We asked him to share a few of his favorites.
“A classic with a twist. The frame made famous by Miami Vice and Jack Nicholson (in real life). This is one of the hardest frames to find especially in a dark color, so opticians took to dying the frames themselves to make colors like the one above. These are rare.”
“This is one of my favorite persols because of how good it looks and feels on the face and many of my best clients have agreed. Its so simple yet so rare. I only discovered this particular model a few years ago. Its a great example of 1980s post-modern design in my opinion. Mixing many aspects of older frames into something new and different.”
“My personal favorite shape. I love a masculane up-sweep or cat or whatever you want to call it. Its manly and thick and gangster. The epitome of Persol. Everything about it is perfect.”
“Persol began as a sunglasses-only company and eventually launched optical as well. The name of course comes from the words “for sun” in Italian. The model pictured is a great example of pared-down design (no Meflecto), slightly-oversized acetate optical.”
“Many people don’t think of Persol as a brand that made many metals, but in fact they did. This style was definitely inspired by mid-century frames (see Season 1 Mad Men) but this specific frames was more likely made in the 1980s. Retro isn’t new.”
“Great example of slightly wrapped style constructed from very thick 10mm acetate. The beveling done by hand both on the front and backside are rare today.”
Silver Lining Opticians designs stylish sunglasses for city dwellers. They’re proudly made in China, and are surprisingly affordable. Read the Story