Not long ago, Billy Reid was helping his wife Jeanne with a renovation project when a door fell and hit him on the side of the head. Fortunately, his trademark Paul Smith glasses, (which, as a guy who suffers from both myopia and an astigmatism, Reid had worn every day for almost 20 years) were there to break the fall. Unfortunately, the frames were damaged so severely that, unlike his head, they couldn’t be repaired.
“I was probably more upset about the glasses than the actual injury,” a laughing Reid told Men’s Journal.
But every cloud has a silver lining. And in this case, that lining is the offering of men’s and women’s sunglasses Reid put on the market this week. (An optical collection will follow in February.) Like his clothes and other accessories, the shades add new life to traditional shapes with a distinct and eccentric Southern character. Instead of a simple curve, the bridges on the stainless steel models look like the Japanese metalworkers who created them took an omega symbol and flattened it slightly. The eye wires and top bars on a number of models are wrapped in leather, and each pair is subtly branded with the diagonal stripe pattern of Reid’s heirloom ribbon, a quiet finishing touch.
As soon as he can get them in front of an optician, Reid will be making himself a new pair of glasses in the William shape, seen above, which he named after himself. It’s modeled after the kinds of square glasses he’s worn on and off since childhood.
“The first pair of glasses I wanted to make are the frames I’ve kind of had since day one,” he said, adding that he prefers shapes that are familar with subtle dashes of individuality. “Most of us aren’t Elton John … and glasses aren’t a print shirt that you’re gonna wear this season and not wear next season. They need to live with you.”
To that end, the sunglasses collection features something for every face shape, and each of the ten styles available comes in multiple colors. (Another three will debut in December, right on time for holiday shopping.)
They come at multiple price points, too. While the least expensive pair goes for $250, the most expensive ones—limited-edition buffalo horn versions of the styles named for Billy and his wife—cost $995. Each of those pairs comes with a box containing the traditional leather-wrapped case, a microfiber cleaning cloth, plus a chamois and a vial of mineral oil to keep the horn looking shiny.
And the boxes themselves are pretty special too. Handmade in Tennessee Amish country, they’re finished with an ages old Japanese burning technique called Shou Sugi Ban that gives them a rich dark color.
“I’m inspired by that type of craft. It’s so much fun to work on it and then see it come to life. Since we’ve been doing that, I’ve bought myself a blow torch,” he said. “For about a three-week period, I wanted to burn everything.”
But not in a nihilistic way. “There is some functionality to it,” he said of the craft, which can be used on large scale projects, too. “I want to do the entire deck and the side of the house in the Shou Sugi Ban. It’s gonna take forever, but it’ll be fun.”