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Acetate Eyewear Frames – Five Plus One

Five Plus One is our weekly series of buyer’s guides. We pick a specific category and dig up five great options along with one that’s a little outside the norm.


Whether you need corrected lenses, wear sunglasses due to the weather, or just like the look of glasses, you’ll definitely appreciate high quality eyewear once you get your first pair of nice frames.

Generally speaking, acetate frames are stronger and more durable than synthetic plastic frames, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have high quality synthetics outperforms low quality acetate.

The acetate used for glasses frames is a cotton pulp derivative, which forms into sheets that frame-makers carve down. Manufacturers can produce these sheets in a range of colorways, from your basic solids to faux-tortoise shell patterns, and each is then carved either by hand or machine. How the pieces are cut out of the acetate is important as, just like with leather, portions of the material being used for the same piece need to match.

1) Warby Parker: Beckett in Jet Black Matte

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No one likes sticker shock, but what’s shocking about Warby Parker’s prices isn’t how high they are, but rather how reasonable they are compared to other eyewear on the market. For the same price that you’ll see on frames at your local optician, Warby Parker is able to produce hundreds of styles made from high quality acetate and titanium. Are you going to get the same craftsmanship and attention to detail that you would get with a thousand-dollar pair of frames? No, but that doesn’t mean their products aren’t durable and classically styled.

Available for $95 from Warby Parker.

2) SALT Optics: Paxton in Matte Tobacco Brown

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The eyewear industry is in an unfortunate position, where the vast majority of optical companies are owned by several large corporations. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but the unfortunate fact remains: almost every small optical company acquired by one of these large conglomerates sees a decline in craftsmanship and quality. That’s one of the reasons it’s so refreshing to see SALT Optics remain truly independent. Some of their glasses are a bit more stylized than others on this list, but they still produce the classic styles that we all know and love. And hey, once you have a nice pair of everyday glasses, aren’t you going to want something a bit more out-there anyway?

Available for $339 from Good See Co.

3) Globe Specs: The Barracks in Translucent Bronze

acetate eye frame

Self Edge has been at the bleeding edge of importing interesting wares from Japanese designers for a decade now, and their eyewear stock form Globe Specs is no different. Each pair is made from high quality Japanese acetate, and are styled based off of vintage military designs. They’re outfitted with tinted, non-prescription lenses, but that can easily be changed to whatever you want.

Available for $320 from Self Edge.

4) Tender Co: Flat Tops in Mock Turtle

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Faux turtle and tortoise shell glasses often look cheap or gimmicky, and real shell glasses are unethical and often illegal, so designing faux-shell eyewear can be quite the task. For me, the appeal of these “mock turtle” glasses is in the fact that they really don’t look like turtle shell at all, but rather a gradient of browns and tans–much more like translucent wood replicates turtle shells. Appearances aside, these glasses are truly something else–they’re designed to stay in place with pressure on the sides of your head rather than hooked stems on your ears. Each pair is finished with seven-chenier hinges, which helps to create a sturdy frame.

Available for £445 from Trestle Shop.

5) Kilsgaard: Kempinsky in Grey

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Kilsgaard is yet another small company producing frames of higher quality than most of the big optical companies. Despite the complex colorway of the acetates they use, the designs are very simplistic–perfect for wearing everyday, or rotating along with several other pairs.

Available for $325 from Good See Co.

Plus One – Thom Browne: Navy & Gold Round Folding Sunglasses

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Alright, I admit it — I might have gone slightly too lavish on this last pair, but I just couldn’t resist. Folding glasses have been around for ages: they’re nothing new, but somehow they still standout from everything else. And there’s something so perfect about these pairs — the navy, gold, and mirrored lenses look fantastic together in a way that very few pairs do.

Available for $1000 from SSENSE.