This post, one of Ivy Style’s most heavily trafficked ever, was written by contributor Bill Stephenson in 2011. It’s being reposted following the news that longtime Madison Avenue optician AR Trapp has closed due to the loss of its lease.
“This wonderful specialist was the J. Press of trad eyewear,” says David Wilder, who worked nearby at J. Press and is highly knowledgeable about eyewear. “The optical land of the P3 shape will never be the same, again.”
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Fans of the Ivy League Look have an endless array of things to obsess about now that the heyday is far behind us. Over the past few years online there have been endless discussions about the proper collar roll, proper width of a trouser cuff, the proper direction of stripes on a rep tie, et cetera.
However, nothing seems to be more elusive that getting exactly the right frames for eyeglasses. Glasses are more important than almost any other purchase. You can easily change your tie, but once glasses are purchased, the decision is somewhat permanent.
In looking for classic WASPy/preppy eyewear for many years, several things became apparent. First off, most standard retail opticians have little if anything to fill the bill. When you see frames by Brooks Brothers or Ralph Lauren, the glasses seem like they may have promise, but on closer inspection fall short. These are merely clothing retailers who have licensed their name.
The real deal is a frame style known as the P3, an optician’s term that goes back at least a century. The style is sometimes referred to as tortoiseshell glasses, from the material they were originally made from.
The Lafont Balthazar quite close to what many are looking for. The lens is a bit smaller, and therefore more traditional, that most imitations. The colors offered are unquestionably WASPy and “trad.” The weight of the frames is just heavy enough.
Another source is Ben Silver, which has an entire page devoted to the P3, made by firms such as Anglo American, Francois Pinton and Harry Lary.
There’s also AR Trapp Opticians in New York, which does a large amount of mail order in the hard-to-find frames. They carry a large number of P3 glasses all with minor variations; the price range is $195-$350.
According to David Wilder, who works at the New York J. Press store, the ne plus ultra of P3s was made by the now defunct May Optical company. Wilder is a P3 collector who has about 25 different variations on the shape.
Once you’ve found the frames, you can get the lenses from your local optician, who is generally pleased to have your lens business and will fit frames you’ve purchased elsewhere.
And if you don’t need prescription eyewear but like the P3 shape, you can always have sunglasses made. — BILL STEPHENSON