As talk of next-generation smart glasses and advanced optics invades the news cycle in 2021, Mark S. Agnew, CEO and founder of Eyeglasses.com, says that the future of eyewear is decidedly retro, with an eye on vintage styles and shapes.
“Cool new gadgets are fun to invent, design and talk about in social media,” says Agnew. “However, eyeglasses in some form have been around for a thousand years, and have not changed much in the last two hundred years. Even in the last 20 years of the tech revolution, there has not been anything that replaces eyeglasses.”
While the last century has brought such optical advancements such as contact lenses and LASIK surgery, “these options have only attracted a small fraction of glasses wearers. Progressive lenses are the biggest innovation in eyewear in the last hundred years, and even progressives are just a slight alteration of an old technology.”
So what of highly-touted scientific advancements? “Tech companies think that by turning eyeglasses into a dual-function computer screen, they are going to revolutionize the eyewear business. We already spend too much time in front of a computer, so turning those precious moments walking down the street into additional computer time is only going to appeal to the most socially aggressive people. Surfing the internet while driving? Don’t get me started on the problems that will cause.
“The inventions we have seen thus far have been chunky, low quality, and obviously too-geeky, usually made from the same quality of plastic used in take-home food containers. They feel more like a dog’s chew toy than something I would wear on my face. No technology will be good enough to compensate for bad fashion, because ultimately looking good is more important to people than staying connected. Tech engineers need to work more closely with eyeglass fashion designers to find that sweet spot.”
Agnew says that time-tested design of the past is riding the wave of the future, and trends in the coming years will highlight round frames, cat-eye styles and extended rectangular frames. In short, high-quality old-school vintage frames. “Good fashion and good vision is what people value.”
Mark S. Agnew is the CEO and founder of Eyeglasses.com, a leader in the online consumer eyewear business. Since 1999, Agnew pioneered online retailing by being the first eyewear company with a virtual try-on application, earning two patents which were later sold to Luxottica Corporation.
Agnew has long been a consumer advocate, leaving a successful Wall Street career to develop Eyeglasses.com, which sells high-quality eyewear to customers for half of the price normally charged by optical stores. As an expert in the eyewear industry, he is the author of the Eyeglasses Buying Guide: How to Pay Less and Get More, which offers advice and information to all consumers of eyeglasses, offline and online.
Founded on the principal of helping others, Eyeglasses.com has continued to evolve its charity program and in 2019 launched PiWear to literally make blind people see again. For every pair of PiWear sold, Eyeglasses.com funds a cataract surgery in India. This effort has earned Agnew wide-ranging media coverage in the press.
Prior to founding Eyeglasses.com, Agnew was Director of Fixed Income Research and Vice President at Lehman Brothers, and before that as Managing Director at Bear Stearns. Agnew started his Wall Street career at Drexel Burnham Lambert, but denies all responsibility for the demise of those three companies. Institutional Investor Magazine recognized Agnew as a top analyst for his investment research, which numbered in the thousands of pages during his ten years on Wall Street.
Agnew earned his MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and a BA in Art History from Vassar College. He is an active Rotarian, was a board member of the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce and is active in local charities.