by Meridith Levinson

The Career Implications of Wearing Glasses

Jan 29, 2010

Do you wear glasses? How do people perceive you in them?

You wouldn’t know it from my photo on, but I’ve worn glasses more than half my life. That changed a week ago, when I underwent Lasik eye surgery to correct four diopters of nearsightedness in both eyes.

I decided to have Lasik eye surgery primarily because I was tired of wearing glasses: tired of them always being dirty, tired of them fogging up in the winter, tired of getting greasy face prints on them every time I hugged someone, tired of not being able to comfortably watch TV while lying on the couch on my side without my pointy frames getting in the way of the throw pillow.

I wore contacts from time to time, and they were no picnic, either. There was no question in my mind that I wanted to be done with all forms of corrective lenses, despite my high anxiety over the freakish, Clockwork Orange-esque Lasik procedure. (Turns out, it’s really not that bad.)

I was so dead set on my decision to give up lenses for Lasik that I didn’t consider the career implications of this choice until two days after the surgery, once my Valium hangover wore off. I never thought that my glasses were holding me back career-wise. In fact, I think my eyewear has always been something of an asset professionally. I certainly didn’t get promotions or job offers because of my glasses, but in a creative industry like online publishing, the kind of frames a person wears can set them apart. And my frames (think Dame Edna meets Tina Fey) certainly distinguished me.

You see, despite my fresh-faced photos on Twitter, LinkedIn and, my personal and professional identity has been very much tied up with my eyewear…kind of like Groucho Marx or Woody Allen. I always wore bold, distinctive frames, such as the mauve cats’ eye glasses I purchased in Paris (once humiliatingly featured on a skyscraper ad on and later the purple rectangular frames with the rhinestones that I sported most recently.

By virtue of wearing such unique eye glasses for years, they became a hallmark of my identity. They distinguished me and gave people some impression of my personality. But now, thanks to a few pulses from a cool beam laser, that hallmark is gone (not that I’m lamenting it so much).

Since nearly two-thirds of the American adult population was wearing glasses in 2006 (according to research from The Vision Council’s VisionWatch), I suspect that many of you who are reading this blog are bespectacled yourselves. Do you give much thought to your frames and how people perceive you in them? When you go on job interviews, do you wear glasses or contacts? How much of your identity is tied up in your eyewear?