8 places to find vintage eyewear in Toronto
Vintage eyewear in Toronto is a community of enthusiasts, collectors, and connoisseurs. Sure, almost every store in the city sells eyewear in some shape or form, but there's no need to buy mass-market shades when rare vintage finds are so plentiful. New or used specs that originate from eras past are available in just about every price range, and are one of the best ways to top off a look with some personality. Here are a few places I like to buy frames that don't make my face look like everyone else's.
Gafas Optical Shop
Gafas is the only Toronto home to Kings of Past, a purveyor of unused, branded vintage eyewear that's hard to match. Storeowner Tony will gladly share the history behind each piece (I could listen to him for hours-- the man is a true connoisseur). One of my favourite vintage collections here is the Paloma Picasso line, designed by the youngest daughter of that Picasso. They even have vintage motorcycle goggles. I'd look like the Hamburgler in them, but kudos to someone much more badass than I who can pull them off. Glasses here are at least $100, often more.
F As In Frank
No vintage clothing shop would be complete without vintage eyewear. This one boasts a handpicked collection of over fifty frames from Playboy to Cazal, ranging from $250 to $750. Their stock of shades was recently replenished, so now's the time to visit.
Another destination for unworn, branded vintage frames, Spectacle exclusively carries the Oliver Peoples Vintage Collection that celebrates the twenty-year legacy of one of the most influential eyewear companies in the world. They also regularly showcase rare collector items, like Michael Jackson's tour glasses of the eighties. You can't actually buy these sorts of pieces, but they're still fun to look at. Frames don't leave this store for anything less than a few hundred bucks.
Ontario Specialty Co.
This store dates back to 1939, practically making it vintage itself. It may look like Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium from the outside, but inside, tucked between the rubber chickens, marbles (so that's where they went!), and other fantastical novelties, is a collection of vintage sunglasses in just about every shape and colour for under $100 (sometimes as cheap as $10). Rumour has it that Danny Masterson (Hyde from That '70s show) once bought 48 pairs here.
Aeroplane is a vintage-only eyewear shop, showroom, and lens-crafter. Not only do they sell shades, they also design high spec lenses that add unique gradients and hues to any pair of frames (a treatment fondly nicknamed the "Aeroplane edit"). They carry unworn vintage deadstock from brands like Cazal, Christian Dior, Gianni Versace, Playboy, YSL, and Zeiss. Eyewear ranges from $100 to $1000. By appointment only.
Specializing in unworn fine vintage eyewear, brands along the lines of Ted Lapidus, Vuarnet, Oliver Goldsmith, Cazal, Leonard, and Burberrys of London can be found here. Opticianado prides itself in being an active part of the Junction community, and even hosts free live jazz nights at the store each month.
Fashionably Yours Designer Consignment
This store is a destination for both new and previously-worn designer eyewear. The owner's adorable Chihuahua, "Chloe Chanel," hangs around the shop and looks disarmingly adorable (I can't say no to a purchase with those big eyes staring up at me). A professional luxury dealer authenticates all items before they hit the floor, so their merchandise is always the real deal. Stock varies, but frequent brands include Carrera, Celine, Leonard, and Missoni. Prices hover around the $200-mark.
Originally a very successful once-per-month pop-up shop, Philistine found a permanent Parkdale home in 2010 (this one-toe-in business model has become somewhat of a trend since then). They've won "best vintage clothing store" awards from publications all over town, and have over 40 styles of vintage sunnies-- all on sale right now for $10.