Every week a different FADER staff member will pick a clothing item or accessory that he or she has lately been spending a lot of time with—or would like to—and write a little love letter to it. We would’ve done a column on who we’re dating but that seemed a little bit much. This week Alex Frank writes about Oliver Peoples Sheldrake frame and James Franco in Howl.
Most people don't know I need glasses, so averse I've been to even the thought of wearing anything but one-a-day contacts. I do have an old pair of frames, some oversized Buddy Hollys I ordered on the internet when I was 18 that feel cartoonish now. When I wear them, people tell me that they like them, that I look good, but I never believe them. I put them on my face and can feel them wearing me. The only time you'll see me in them is Sunday mornings when I step out of my apartment for coffee and the paper, a day of rest from contacts for my eyes. Even then, I'm kind of embarrassed to be seen. If I run into a friend and they say "Oh, I didn't know you wear glasses," I feel like I've been caught.
When I saw previews for James Franco in Howl, I kind of wanted to see the movie but I more just wanted his glasses. They're perfect, I thought, the exact glasses that I'd never be embarrassed to wear. Strong but not overpowering, round but not too round, big but just slight enough. Goldilocks glasses. I bet he was psyched to wear Ginsberg's famous frames the minute he read the script, excited to look so damn smart, classic and earnest. A poet's frames.
I don't think Franco and I want the same things in life. He is, though, as close in personality as I'll probably ever be to a Hollywood celebrity. We've never met but he seems like plenty of kids I do know, truly talented but also anxious about seeming square or pedestrian, eager to project the right, interesting face to world and show off but not ruffle the feathers that make him unique. It's funny, you could stare into the mirror everyday, think you're glancing at the real thing, but you'll always see the face you want to see, you focus the nose and eyes and lips to fit together in such a way that it matches what think you look like, what you feel you look like. Depending on your self esteem, you may see either what you hope you look like or what you dread—a fatter face than you actually have, or whatever your fears are. Friends and strangers see something else, but you see your own projection. I have no idea what James Franco sees when he looks in the mirror, but I have some idea of what he'd like us to see.
I finally found a pair that looks like Franco's in Howl, the Oliver Peoples Sheldrake. These glasses are what I'd like everyone to see (SMART) but I'm also happy when I catch a reflection in the mirror. They consolidate inner and outer, no schizophrenia or fear here. I'm confident in them, I think I look alright. I haven't seen Franco in specs since Howl, his agents probably need him to balance the blockbuster bombshell and the brain. But I'll always picture him wearing those frames and I never even saw the damn movie, those intelligent glasses burned onto my cultural image of James Franco, a permanent signifier. Here's hoping lightning strikes twice.