Orthodox Jews Ban Retro, Thick-Framed Glasses

The kind I just bought!

I could never be a Yeshiva student in Brooklyn. My new glasses are too cool for school.

Borough Park’s Bobover Yeshiva B’Nei Zion has banned students from wearing thick-framed, retro glasses because the now-chic eyewear represents “the new modernism,” the New York Post reports.

Given that many Orthodox Jews consider anything after Moses climbed Mount Sinai as “new modernism,” the school’s reaction is not surprising.

What is surprising is that Yeshiva students—in this case, fourth- to eighth-grade and up rabbinical pupils—would be accused of being fashionable. What is the world coming to?

Which brings us to the retro glasses. The jet-black variety, for example, once the sole purview of nerds and serial killers, is currently the height of fashion. Celeb wearers include Rachel Maddow, Justin Timberlake and Woody Allen, though legend has it he was born with his.

In a letter to parents, written in Yiddish, B’Nei Zion officials said the retro, often multi-colored frames “give the child a very coarse look,” according to the Post. Parents were asked to exchange the “immodest” glasses for “simple” ones, with the added expense seen as “an educational boost.”

Fashion has always confused me. Over time, clunky eventually becomes funky, then goes back to clunky, only to become funky again. In other words, fashion comes and goes. Style, however, stays the same. That is why I still wear the kinds of clothes I wore in high school. I knew they’d come back some day.

Still, no one has ever used my name and “fashionable” in the same sentence, to my knowledge. (When my socks match, my friends call it an ensemble. Cue drum roll.) For me, this is a point of pride. I like to think of myself as Post-Cool—so cool that I don’t care whether I’m cool, which makes me cool.

The author, in her (cool?) new retro glasses.

So when I decided, after more than 10 years, it was time for new eyewear, I was cool about it. I only made three separate trips to the optician, each time dragging along a family member. I tried on so many frames, I completely lost track of what look I was going for, or if I had a look at all.

I tried colors. I tried colorless. I tried plastic, and wire rims. I tried square-shaped, oval. I tried big, small and everything between. Too many choices overwhelmed me. When did buying glasses become like buying a car?

To be honest, I hadn’t envisioned myself in clunky black glasses. But if Rachel Maddow could pull it off, so could I, I thought. I’m at least as butch as she is. Exhausted after trying and re-trying about 1,200 frames, I went with the retro black.

I guess that makes me part of “the new modernism,” in the eyes of the yeshiva.

I can live with that, no sweat, along with most of the civilized world.

What’s more problematic is knowing that yeshiva students and I share the same taste in eyewear. Oy vey. Maybe I’m not so modern, after all. Lucky thing I’m too cool to care.