These days, glasses are worn to make a fashion statement as much as they are used for function. From thick trimming to the embarrassingly huge 80s frames your nerdy dad used to wear, glasses have always had the ability to transform an outfit from normal to head-turning. As someone who’s been wearing glasses since the seventh grade, the response that comes to mind is: “FINALLY.” Ladies and gentlemen, nerd-chic is in!
Photo by Carla Pastén
Since this awakening, anyone with even a sliver of style has been on the prowl for the perfect pair — including people with 20/20 vision. But now the hunt is over. In the artsy neighborhood of Bellas Artes, wedged among other stores, resides a haven for vintage eyeglasses and sunglasses called Óptica Bahía.
A family-owned business opened in the 60s, Óptica Bahía is the epicenter of all things glasses. When asked about how their collection came to be, the Spanish-Italian father-son owners’ understated reply was “over time.”
When you first walk in, it’s obvious the selection is overwhelming. The small shop is filled with not only glasses but eye-catching vintage posters, records and cameras lining the walls. Óptica Bahía convinces you that having glasses is cool — contrary to what the media has been telling you all these years. They even have a poster of James Dean digitally altered so that he’s wearing wayfarer eyeglasses. Once you compose yourself and put the distractions aside, you realize that the store has specs from every decade since, brace yourself, the 1890s. And the search for the perfect pair begins.
There are a lot of no-name brands hugging Óptica Bahía’s walls, but if you look hard enough you can find gems from Christian Dior, Rayban, Rodenstock and Emanuelle Khanh Paris, among others.
Skim the store and you’ll find styles like Lennon-inspired oval frames, cat eyes, aviators, heart-shaped frames and some unusual styles difficult to describe in words.
The most popular and widely-sold style today, according to the owners, is the wayfarer which reminds Chileans of the fashion former President Salvador Allende used to rock.
According to Esteban Rojas-Buscaglia, the son of the father-son duo, there are only four to five eyeglass stores in Santiago. But he claims that Óptica Bahía is the only one that has “such a diverse selection, with the cheapest prices”. The frames range from CP$35,000 to CP$150,000 (US$65 to $250). Not that cheap, but be comforted by the fact that every single pair is vintage and restored. They also do prescriptions, for those who actually need it.
So if you are in search of a new pair of glasses or shades, be sure to consider a pair here as they will no doubt make a fashion statement. In fact, the trip is worthwhile even if you don’t buy anything — just visit to appreciate the art that is Óptica Bahía.
Merced 374, Bellas Artes
Metro Bellas Artes
Phone: 632 7031
Monday to Saturday, 10:30am to 8pm