|Tipton doesn't have figures on its penetration of the hipster market, but according to this poster, the potential is huge.|
But that was just for starters. I went down to their workshop -- a sprawling flat in a turn-of-the-century building at Belgrad rakpart 26 -- and a young Hungarian/Dutch guy Peter greeted me at the door. He invited me to peruse the frame selection, which was considerable -- not surprising as this is the place where they're made and shipped out from to scores of eyeglass shops around the world.
I tried on several pair, all very cool looking, but most of them somehow TOO cool for my 47-year-old face. I may have harboured fantasies of looking like Buddy Holly, but when I put on a pair called "Holly", I decided these were more suited to a 18-year-old guitar slinger. After a bit, I settled on a model called "Bank ". The name makes them sound conservative, but they actually look much trendier than anything a real banker would wear (except, apparently, in France, where Tipton sells 45% of their product).
The Banks I tried on were made of three plies of plastic. The front was black grooved vinyl -- from a recycled record, as promised in the ad. The inner ply was a mosaic acetate of gold and brown and rust, and the middle ply, a nice cream colour -- like cookie filling. But these things weren't just attractive, they were substantial. In particular, the bridge was nearly a centimetre thick, which would make it more than twice as strong as my flimsy Ray-Bans. I thought -- knock on wood -- these things may well be a match for Sequoia.
So the Banks were definitely for me -- the only problem was that the bows (or "temples" as Peter called them) were a little short and didn't hook securely around my ears. No problem, said Peter. He scrounged through another drawer until he found a pair with longer bows. You'd have to understand the depth of my feelings about beer to appreciate this next bit: The frames that Peter presented had brushed steel bows which in profile looked like bottle openers. "Those look like bottle openers," I observed. "Actually, they ARE bottle openers," replied Peter. "You can really open a beer with them."
The hilarious thing is that Peter was almost apologetic about it. As if glasses that doubled as beer openers could somehow be -- I struggle to understand this -- undesirable. In fact, when he went to the computer to check the list price, this specific pair was half off. Apparently, glasses that double as beer openers are hard to sell. In France, anyway, but I say no more.
I scratched my chin as if mulling the the matter over in my head. And then I said in the most nonchalant tone I could muster that I would take them.