Guest Editor – David Hellqvist

Guest Editor – David Hellqvist

This month, our Guest Editor David Hellqvist, Fashion Features Editor at Port magazine, talks about his experience of wearing spectacles.

Let’s be honest: kids rarely like the prospect of wearing glasses. It’s a foreign object forced upon them by parents and opticians in white coats. Sitting in a small room, looking into a weird machine and trying to make out nonsensical combinations of letters in a distance is an odd experience for anyone, young or old. The smart kids memorised the letters before sitting down. I wasn’t that clever. I got caught and ended up with a lifelong subscription to a visual impairment.
I was seven or eight when I was told I had to wear glasses. In Sweden, where I’m from, they won’t let you wear contact lenses until you’re aged 15. At least that’s how the law was laid down in the mid-90s. As a result, the kids who couldn’t see all left the optician with glasses. None of them left happy. Except for the fact that it increased the risk of getting picked on, they were often in the way when playing, or got damaged during sports. My brother, who got his glasses at an even younger age than me, once went swimming in a lake without taking them off and lost them. Me and my dad had to dive in and try and locate them on the muddy bottom – it took quite some time.
When I did turn 15, like every other bespectacled teenager in Sweden, I rushed to the optician to get contact lenses. It was an adolescent sense of freedom, no longer was I strapped into a pair of frames that had most likely been chosen by my mum for their comfort and longevity as opposed to style and design. I then wore contacts religiously for 10 years. There was nothing you could have said or done to change my mind.
But this isn’t a story of lost youth, depressive eyewear and a bitter point of view. No, this is a tale of maturing and living a life less ordinary. It’s a coming of age piece, celebrating classic and timeless design. So, one day, I must have been about 25, I decided to buy a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers and stick prescription glasses in them. Thinking back, I’m not entirely sure what made me do it, maybe I was just ‘done’. Since that first pair of customised sunglasses another ten years have passed. I’ve gone through at least a new pair per year, and by now I have a decent collection of frames.

David Hellqvist wears Persol PO 9714

I don’t see myself ever going back to contacts. You should never say never, and according to my pattern so far, I should really change back again soon. But I’m perfectly happy hiding behind my frames. I love the fact that I can change them as often as I want to, as such adapting them to what I like and wear at the time. I have glasses that are fairly outrageous, at least enough to ensure people take notice of them. But I wear them less and less today. Of late I’ve gone for classic frames with a slight detail that make them stand out, if not to everyone else, at least to me.
My current ones, and my last couple of frames, have been made by Oliver Peoples. At the moment I’m wearing an OP Sheldrake style but done in collaboration with a Japanese brand, adding thickness to the frame on the sides. From the front they look like any rectangular tortoise glasses, but look closer and you’ll find they have a design USP that make them unique. It’s that subtleness I’m after, it makes them stand out without having to scream about it.
Personally, I like buying glasses from brands that do just that, glasses. They are eyewear experts trained at designing and producing frames of the highest possible quality. Another brand that qualifies for that is Persol. I like the Italian sleekness of the classic Steve McQueen style, they tick all my boxes. This summer I went to Italy for holiday, and I remember specifically looking at the sunglasses the Italians wore, both men and women. Even if not all of them necessarily dressed well, the majority had impeccable frames, be it Ray-Ban or Persol. I admire their natural instinct, their sartorial sprezzatura. I want some of that, and I’ll gladly wear glasses for the rest of my life if that’s what it takes.