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The Allure of Glasses and Guitars

By Andrew Karp

Wednesday, June 13, 2018 11:41 AM
The loves of my life, other than my wife, are glasses and guitars. My fondness for both is apparent from the fact that I own about 10 pairs of glasses and about 30 guitars. My glasses are a mix comprised mostly of colorful metals with adjustable nosepads. My guitars run the gamut of acoustics and electrics, some vintage, some new.

Although some would call these collections, I don’t consider myself a collector. I acquire these objects mainly for their functionality, not because I have some sort of plan, or even a guiding aesthetic. I simply like the way they look, or, in case of guitars, how they sound, and how well they perform the job they were designed to do.

However, I must admit that my non-collections have gotten a bit out of control. I have glasses that I haven’t worn in years but won’t get rid of because I like having them around. And I have guitars that I don’t often play but won’t part with because I like knowing that I can pull them out whenever I feel a song coming on that requires the sound of that particular instrument.

Some would say I have a serious case of G.A.S. (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome), a term used by people—OK, it’s mainly men—who try to justify their insatiable appetite for guitars by giving it a pseudo-medical name that suggests they are in the grip of a powerful, unseen force. Of course, I don’t have this problem… except when I find myself dreaming about that gorgeous 1949 Gibson blonde ES-5 I saw for sale on Reverb.com, a popular website for buying and selling musical instruments. The similarly afflicted call this GASSing.

Fortunately, I’ve found a way to manage my impulses in a positive way. Playing with my optical friends at the annual New Eyes for the Needy fundraising concert allows me to help provide glasses for people who can’t afford them and channel it through my guitar.

I’m not the only one who sees touchpoints between glasses and guitars. My colleague and fellow music lover James Spina, editor-in-chief of 20/20 Magazine, offered these musings about glasses and guitars:
“‘I could be wrong now… but I don’t think so.’”

“I love that bit of brilliant observation from Randy Newman and it rings true whenever I think about the close kinship of guitars and eyeglasses.

“What? Yep. It’s all there from the sourcing to the pricing to the range of quality and even the actual retailing.

“Be it electric or acoustic (sunglasses or Rx specs) there’s a ton of origins from China to Korea to Europe to… AMERICA for both! And the pricing of these kinshipped objects aligns right along that same rainbow of origins.

“And then we can move right into the hotspot of… Where to buy!!!???!!! Should I trust the online lure or am I best served by the local music shop or even the bigger big box store where at least I’ll get a pro setting me up and assuring me that my choices are best served with a close personal connection and try-out session.

“And then there’s… Whatguitar?whatguitar?whatguitar? … Whatframe?whatframe?whatframe? …immediately followed by the deeper question of… WHATSTRINGS? WHATLENS?”

The nexus of glasses and guitars even extends to the realm of eyewear design. Designer John Varvatos, who is known for his rock ‘n’ roll-inspired creations, incorporates an image of a guitar headstock in his Bowery V361 UF model frame from De Rigo Rem.

   
John Varvatos Bowery V361 UF Lisa Loeb Sandalwood The Eyewear Company's Satriani

Acclaimed singer-songwriter and eyewear designer Lisa Loeb has worked with Classique Eyewear to create The Lisa Loeb Eyewear collection, which features frames that are accented with styles like marbleized purple guitar picks on the outer temple tips and unique clef note on frame corners, mirroring her musical roots.

An online site, The Eyewear Company.com, offers a frame called the Satriani in tribute to guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani, which features temple tips in the shape of an electric guitar headstock.

Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, a number of novelty companies make cheap sunglasses—to reference the title of a ZZ Top song—in the shape of electric guitars. This dude is rockin’ a pair on DrumBum.com.

I recently met someone who is uniquely qualified to comment on the glasses-guitars connection. Her name is Lori Fender, and she’s an optician and office manager for eyeballs, a Seattle-based optical shop. And yes, she’s related to the legendary guitar and amplifier inventor Leo Fender, whose last name is an iconic brand known throughout the world. (He is a distant cousin on her father’s side of the family.)

Although Lori never got to meet Leo, who died when she was young, she believes his work methods offer lessons in product design, development and production. “What I have learned about Leo is that he really listened to the player on how to improve the design, feel and function of his instruments,” she told me. “Anyone who designs or manufactures products for consumers should always listen to the consumers’ wants, needs, complaints and satisfactions.”

I asked Lori if guitars influence the way she dispenses glasses, and she offered this spot-on observation: “A nice pair of eyeglasses will serve a customer for a long time if well taken care of. Just like a guitar.”

Leo Fender’s creativity continues to inspire guitarists and guitar lovers everywhere. It can also inspire us in our pursuit of better eyewear and better vision.

In fact, I’m inspired to stop writing, put on my Jean Reno by Cendrine O. glasses and play my 1960 Swedish-made Goya electric guitar with faux wood finish and plastic fingerboard, which is pictured above. As Fender fan Jimi Hendrix sang, “’scuse me, while I kiss the sky!”








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