A Quick-and-Dirty Directory for Buying Affordable Eyeglasses Online

My mildly-obsessive quest to get to know online startups and small businesses who are making prescription eyeglasses more affordable.

Try-at-home kits like this one from Felix and Iris help customers get comfortable buying prescription eyeglasses online.

After starting to select new books based on the size of the font rather than their contents, I decided to go get my first eye exam in more than a decade.

With a new prescription in hand, I ventured off to my local eyeglass retailer to find that eyeglasses cost upwards of $300, a fact that my wife, mother-in-law and pretty much everyone who has ever worn glasses confirmed for me.

Thus began a mildly obsessive quest to get to know online businesses who are making prescription eyewear more affordable.

Below is one result of my research: a quick and dirty guide to the startups and small businesses who can help you avoid paying hundreds of dollars for eyeglasses online.

Want more detail? See The Ultimate Directory for Buying Affordable Eyeglasses Online over at Modern Fellows for a breakdown of costs, shipping and return policies and various pros and cons of 10 of the leading eyeglass entrepreneurs in the business.

Directory for Buying Affordable Eyeglasses Online

Classic Specs— Founders Andrew Lipovsky and Richard Ray Ruiz offer bold, classic frames online and a home try on program.

Coastal— provides a mix of house brands and designer labels at affordable prices and great sort features on its website.

EyeBuyDirect— In 2005, Ron Hessel founded Eyebuydirect, an early adopter of social media that offers slick photos and detailed information about their products to stand out.

Eyefly — A small collection of under $100 frames launched by Alessandro Lanaro and Bluefly in 2011.

Felix and Iris —Indiana couple Angie and Randy Stocklin launched Felix and Iris in 2014 to appeal to customers over 40, though their understated frames look good on faces of all ages (and they offer a home try-on program).

JINS — The leading eyeglass supplier for the Japanese market, Jins has a network of stores in California and offers a wide variety of frames with gorgeous color combinations available to buy online.

State Optical Co. — isn’t cheap, with frames going for more than $300, and unfortunately they aren’t sold online. But the Illinois-based company run by founders Marc Franchi, Scott Shapiro and Jason Stanley are out to prove there’s a market for American-made eyewear.

39dollarglasses.com— Founded by optometrists Marc Weinstein and Lee Marlow in 2001, 39dollarglasses.com provides frames starting at $80 (just kidding: most frames are $39).

Tortoise & Blonde— In 2010, Evan and his dad Steven Weisfeld founded Tortoise and Blonde, which are now featured at several New York-area Urban Outfitters.

Vint and York — New York City-based Larisa Ginzburg launched Vint and York in 2012 and offers a cool collection of 1920’s New York-inspired glasses via her website and a storefront in NoLita.

Warby Parker — Of course there is Warby Parker, founded by Wharton colleagues Neil Blumenthal, David Gilboa, Andy Hunt and Jeff Raider in 2010. Thanks to their home try on program and offline showrooms, Warby Parker does a really effective job at combining affordability and accessibility, allowing customers to try on glasses before purchasing them.

Zenni Optical — Founders Tibor Láczay and Julia Zhen launched Zenni in their garage in 2003, which today offers a dizzying array of frames to choose from.

There are also a number of places to explore designer-name prescription eyeglasses online such as Frames Direct, Glasses.com and Glasses USA. Just remember that part of what you’re paying for is the designer label, whether you are shopping online or in a store.

Who is missing from the list?