Adventures in Color Therapy: Are Tinted Lenses Comforting or Just Cool?

She didn’t want them to sell out. That had happened to her the year before and she’d been devastated. This year she’d be prepared by getting to the bakery before most people had to be at work — which is how, on the day before Thanksgiving, I found myself traipsing alongside her through south Brooklyn to a pie outpost before 8 a.m. Not a flagship store, which I imagine would have been warm and equipped with tiny tables at which I could perhaps enjoy a cup of hot chocolate (my reward for waking up so early) — but just a baby branch, optimized for quick dessert transactions.

I am not a morning person, but I agreed to get up earlier than required to accompany my boo in her quest to procure the pies we would be serving as Thanksgiving dessert. It is important to note that it was also the first day of my week-long “rainbow-colored glasses diet.” Although outwardly chipper, I was, to borrow a phrase from a sisterfriend of a similar demeanor, “born sad.” I’m down a lot, and often anxious. So, inspired by a kind of color therapy involving tinted lenses and emotional ailments (“My dentist gives you pink glasses to wear if you have anxiety before the drill!” my roommate once told me), I wanted to know if wearing colored lenses each day for a week would affect my mood or how I moved through the world. Plus, I love a tinted lens.

On that first day, my glasses’ flaxen hue truly did soften the blow of walking down Utica Avenue at a god-forsaken hour, but not enough to lessen my complaining about said hour. My boo was so tired she didn’t comment on my glasses at all. Neither did the guy who served me my pie, which matched my glasses. I chose to spend an obscene amount of money ($42!) on a salty honey pie because its custard was the same color as my glasses and no one even cared, which in turn made me a salty honey. And my salty-honey tinted glasses may as well have been clear for as much attention they were paid. I realize now that yellow lenses give me the attitude of a pawn broker named Big Sal. This is also, incidentally, how they make me look — in a good way (great with my skin tone)

The next day I learned green glasses also look great with my skin tone — my favorite jacket, a blessing that immediately upped my mood. Shoutout to Zenni for making prescription lenses in wildly cool colors. The mossy shade they cast over the world actually made things appear calm — it created a sort of slowing effect — although it also made the caramel for my candied yams appear like sludge instead of the sweet, buttery nectar it is.

Poppy Lissiman sunglasses styled with vintage mock turtleneck sweater -- similar herePoppy Lissiman sunglasses styled with vintage mock turtleneck sweater -- similar here

Tinted lenses are a look in general, but the red Karen Walker glasses I wore for this diet turned me into the 90s R&B goddess of my dreams. Unfortunately, wearing them all day made me feel like the human equivalent to “adjkadlkfkjdflkdflkfh” and there’s no need to relive that kind of trauma. If I did, thinking about the bucolic scenes set by both the blue and purple lenses would help. Everything was cool in these two colors — in tone and feeling. Orange was less aggravating than red but not as serene as blue and purple. And pink (rose?) was just as pleasant as you might expect. They don’t work better than mood stabilizers but they do drape the world in a warmth that is a visual joy.

Idiomatically, looking through rose-colored glasses refers to positive perceptions, and is often used to denote unrealistic optimism: Too much focus on the bright side; thinking of a situation as better than it actually is. The origins of the phrase are difficult to pinpoint. It may have roots in romantic imagery of the 17th century, or the concept of cockeyed optimism, or the prevention of actual chicken cannibalism. One origin story centers cartographers and their corrective lenses — apparently mapmakers back in the day used rose petals to clean dust and other contaminants from their lenses. The rose petal’s natural oils would protect the lenses, but often left rose-colored stains. In this sense, viewing the world through rose-colored glasses is equivalent to focusing all of one’s attention on the smallest details — perhaps even ignoring the realities of the larger world.

I could focus on the small details of this endeavor — write all about how vivid the world looked, how enhanced each one of my outfits was (very, very enhanced), make some correlation between looking better and feeling better. That would make sense, especially because I am one of those people who will try almost anything to “improve” my mood. I say affirmations. I indulge in small, safe vices for comfort. A SAD lamp lives on my desk at work. Tinted glasses are right up my alley because they are both a supposed form of therapy and they make any outfit appear even more intentional, which is fun.

As accessories, they’re unexpected — like UTIs, but way more enjoyable! Especially if you wear them all day like I did for this diet — most of the tinted lenses I used were actual prescription glasses. I needed them to see, which meant I had to keep them on. But did they alter my disposition?

I’ll level with y’all: Not really. Not like Xanax does! But I’ve accepted the fact that I’m an irretrievably melancholy bitch regardless of the spectrum of light being refracted into my eyes. Tinted lenses are thrilling style statements nonetheless, and isn’t that the power of accessories? I may be melancholy, but on days when I’m wearing tinted glasses, I can be melancholy and fly as fuck. If this diet taught me anything, it’s that even tiny shifts in the way I look at things can have an impact. I love the extra-ness of buying a pie to match my eyewear (who cares if no one else noticed?), and the fact that rose-colored glasses make the world look as bright as the sky in Chewing Gum. Tinted lenses might not have changed me, but they were really good reminders that I’m in charge of the way I view the world. I can choose to focus on the fly.

Feature image by Edith Young. Slideshow images via Emma Bracy. Emma is wearing Adam Selman x Le Specs sunglasses styled with Laila Lott earringsNorblack Norwhite x Fila India top, NewTop custom necklaces

Emma Bracy

Emma is the Associate Editor at Man Repeller.

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