Tim Parr’s vision was getting increasingly fuzzy. He found himself squinting at menus and newspapers, holding them at arm’s length in the hopes of making out the blurry print. He realized he needed his first pair of readers.
“Then I was exposed to the fact that the solution was [drugstore] eyewear racks. That was not an option. I was looking for an option that was familiar in style and taste. And it didn’t exist.”
Even though most of us wear our reading glasses more than almost any other accessory, we typically view them as an unwelcome, unflattering and very public symbol of getting older. The plastic or wire-rimmed options have too often been designed with pure utility in mind.
But what if our reading glasses were a fashion statement or a stylish accessory? What if they were an “eye appliance” that made us look forward to slipping on our readers?
Enter Parr, who recently launched Caddis to revolutionize reading glasses.
“The [reader] market is comprised of action-sports brands or fashion brands,” says Parr. “Neither of those two segments design and market to people over 40, so I think it’s as simple as nobody cared about the demographic. That’s when it was obvious that Caddis needed to be the authentic brand that owns age.”
If anybody can accomplish this, it’s Parr, the Mill Valley designer behind such iconic brands as Patagonia, Filson, and L.L. Bean. He lectures at such places as Stanford School of Design, the California Institute of the Arts and Interbike.
While many lifestyle brands traditionally have steered away from older consumers for fear of losing their appeal to the youth market, Parr believes this thinking is tired and in need of an overhaul. “Forty is not the new 30. Forty is 40. Own it.”
And with Caddis, he hopes to own a huge part of a large and growing market. If you’re over 40, you’re one of the 90 percent of people who needs reading glasses. Presbyopia — the gradual loss of the eyes’ ability to focus on nearby objects — is a natural part of aging. It happens when the natural lens in the eye gets less flexible, and it happens to us all at some point.
It was only a matter of time before brands seized upon the opportunity to create fashionable alternatives. In addition to Caddis, brands such as Eye Bobs and Peepers are creating colorful, creative options. Even Foster Grant is getting into the game — with colorful models like “McKay,” “Rocket” and “Kala.”
Caddis is quickly gaining a cult following, with a growing customer base who proudly post photos of themselves (and their Caddis glasses) on Instagram. Says one poster, “If I’m going to surrender to progressive lenses, I’m at least going to do it with biggest black frames I can find.” Another wrote, “Suddenly getting older is the coolest thing you can do. Love my new Caddis readers.”
And that’s exactly what Parr set out to do when he created Caddis. “We are going to make aging cool. If we can get people to reconsider the beliefs around aging, which is what happened in that moment, we’re accomplishing our mission. Plus, worshipping ‘youth’ is so tired, crowded, un-authentic. And not that exciting.”