SHE STOOD WAITING on Pike Street, huddled against a battering winter gust. “You look great,” I told her. “No, I don’t,” she said mordantly. “But maybe I’m about to.” Truth was my friend did look great, compared with how she’d looked three weeks before. That’s when her husband came home from work and picked the kind of fight that permanently alters the landscape of a marriage. The kind where things come out that change everything. He was an emotional bully. She knew it from about day three of the honeymoon. Still, she could never quite summon the force to boot the guy. A lifetime of accommodation dies hard, and she had resigned herself to accommodating him for the sake of their daughters.
She did seem to be longing for some kind of fresh start, however. “Could you come glasses shopping with me?” she’d blurted, as if something hugely important suddenly depended on new frames. “There’s this guy on Pike. He just finds the right glasses for people. I’ve been hearing about him for years. People call him the Wizard of Eyes.”
So there we stood outside Broadway Vision Source (which, as incongruity would have it, is on Pike). And there was the Wizard: a pink man with a round face and a kind smile. “Well, you are plainly a Winter,” he declared. “Let’s start with the jewel tones, shall we?”
Thirty-some years ago, Warren Ruby was an ordinary eyeglasses salesman who saw frames in the ordinary way. Then, in 1978, Ruby attended seminars held by the Helena Rubenstein makeup studio, training eyewear professionals to match glasses to facial coloring. It opened Ruby’s eyes.
Suddenly he saw why he, the son of a red-headed Irishman, couldn’t go near pink. Why the skin around his wife’s eyes looked bruised when she wore yellow. Why so few Asians could pull off tortoiseshell.
Years before Color Me Beautiful would definitively split the human race into Winters, Summers, Springs, and Falls, Ruby began teaching his sales team to look around the mouth and under the eyes for the truest tonal feedback. He was color-draping—placing swaths of fabric near faces to uncover the best complements—women and men, decades before the invention of metrosexuals.
“I discovered that eyeglasses weren’t just tools to help people see,” Ruby told us. “Eyeglasses help people be seen.”
My friend turned toward us, having traded her nondescript oval wire frames for a pair of emerald-green aviators. “Oh dear,” Ruby lamented. “I’m afraid those will arrive at the party about an hour before you do.” He held out delicate deep-red frames with rimless bottoms for her to try. “Mmmm…sweet,” he mused, standing back for the whole picture. “Look at the shape of the face in these. These work. What we’re trying to do here is find your Oil of Olay lady.”