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Ali Wong exclusively wears glasses after a scary incident involving disposable contacts in college. “I was so cheap that I left my contacts in for so long that my eye turned red,” the comedian and author of memoir Dear Girls says. “It was so painful to take out and my eyes were messed up for a week. I was scared that I had messed up my eyes forever, so I never went back.”
That frightening tale led to Wong’s finding her personal aesthetic in glasses. “I found thin oversized metal Paul Frank glasses from an outlet in San Francisco. They were these old Chinese-man kind of glasses that were big on my face. I loved them because they reminded me of my dad, and they only cost 40 bucks.” They were her first pair with nose pads, she says, something “revolutionary for the low-bridge Asian nose, because the other style would always slide down my face when I got excited or shook my head.” Now, she won’t go without glasses.
Wong’s statement glasses have become synonymous with her look. Everyone always expects a big eyewear moment from her onscreen, onstage, and on red carpets. They’ve even turned her into a cosplay costume, as fans dress up as her for Halloween and at her standup shows, wearing big red glasses and leopard-print dresses. I haven’t dressed up as Wong myself, but I’ve worn glasses since I was four and have my own collection of bold frames I switch out based on my mood, so she’s always been a bespectacled icon for me.
When I spoke to her about her Netflix rom-com Always Be My Maybe, we lamented about how glasses-wearing women are always seen as needing a makeover (and contacts) in order to get the guy in rom-coms, but her character, Sasha could be the powerful, successful “girl next door” yet still have an attainable look that women could actually achieve. During that meeting I told Wong that I also pop lenses out of sunglasses to get a bolder frame (her secret to really oversized frames), and I needed to know everything about her collection. Before she told me all the answers, I compiled where to buy many of frames worn in the movie in this Twitter thread. Now I’m here to spill all her real-life glasses secrets.
Wong says she had a gradual graduation to super-huge, bold frames. Her “glasses just got bigger and bigger”—both for style and function. “I’m short, but secretly I have a huge head. So if I wear small glasses, it makes my head even bigger. Bigger is more flattering.” One of her favorite frames are the iconic Dsquared2 tortoiseshell frames that she wore in her Milk and Money tour poster (the epically-long 2019 tour that had a 13-show residency in Los Angeles). “They scare my husband because it makes me look like I don’t have eyebrows,” she reveals with a laugh.
As she’s started doing more red carpets and photoshoots, she’s gravitated toward oversized yet thin silver frames (like Gentle Monster and Marc Jacobs) because they are able to show off more eye makeup than heftier black frames (though her go-to will always be quilted black and gold Chanel frames that are not subtle at all).
She owns at least a dozen pairs, all of which are stored in their original cases or in clear packaging so she can see what’s inside. They occupy a special drawer in her room. Wong likes eyewear because it’s not a high-stakes purchase: “Glasses are like shoes for your face. They’re not a permanent tattoo, so you can go through phases and chronicle your taste and your sense of style through your glasses.”
Below, she shares the stories behind some of her favorites. Some are from brands you might recognize; some she bought on eBay or in random shops across the U.S. and Canada. But don’t be surprised if you come across Ali Wong–branded eyewear in the future. “I would love to do a collaboration with Barton Perreira and Opening Ceremony together,” she says. In other words, get your wallets ready.
The metal Paul Frank aviator glasses
“These are those Paul Frank glasses that look a lot like my dad’s glasses that I love. My first big pair. But wait, oh my God, look how big my boobs are. They’re huge! This was taken when I wrote on Fresh Off the Boat, and I was pregnant with my first child. DMX was the guest star. And my boobs, wow.”
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145.00, Warby Parker
260.00, Moda Operandi
181.9.00, Karen Walker
The red Barton Perreira Edie sunglasses fromBaby Cobra and Hard Knock Wife
“I saw these online somewhere as sunglasses, and then I thought, ‘Huh, those might make a great pair of glasses.’ But they were discontinued Barton Perreira—which is one of my favorite brands—and then I found them on eBay. I bought them used for like 40 bucks, then I popped the lenses out and had them put prescription lenses in. I didn’t know if they would look good on my face, but they were perfect when I put them on. It was kind of like finding my glasses soulmate. I used to stay away from red a lot, because I had really severe rosacea and I didn’t want to wear anything that would highlight that. But then I think I found those red glasses just as I was struggling to heal from it. And then I was so excited to wear something that was red, but I didn’t want to go too far.”
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335.00, Garrett Leight
The black-and-gold Chanel Butterfly sunglasses
“If you zoom in you can see the black part has this quilting, because those are Chanel. I got those sunglasses at a shop in Vancouver. I got them when I was shooting Always Be My Maybe. I asked, ‘Can you pop out the lenses, so I can try them on without lenses?’ And they said no! So I bought them and risked it. And I love them. I’m wearing them right now. Those are one of my favorite pairs.”
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The Gentle Monster glasses on the cover of Dear Girls
“Carol [Lim] and Humberto [Leon] from Opening Ceremony suggested these Gentle Monster frames to me, because they said that they do cool fashionable glasses with nose pads. These are actually glasses and just kind of went with the outfit. A lot of times it’s a little bit frustrating for a makeup artist because my glasses hide so much of the beautiful work that they do. And these frames were nice and sort of thin on the edges. You could see that kind of ‘60s cut crease look that Mai Quynh, who’s the makeup artist for the cover, did. I never wear lashes and you can see that too; sometimes that gets lost when you wear thick, heavy frames. At the time, that was one of the lightest frames I had. Otherwise the glasses just eat up your face and the makeup is lost.”
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249.00, Gentle Monster
529.00, Specs Collective
The Barton Perreira Mystère sunglasses
“Barton Perreira gifted me these sunglasses, which was so sweet. I like that these are nice and lightweight and thin metal on the outside. I was like, ‘I’m going to pop those shady-ass lenses out and pop them prescription lenses in.’ And I loved it. And those are my everyday glasses now. Whenever I wear a new pair, I’m like, ‘Oh, these are going to be mine forever.’ And then a new one comes in, you know, like someone who’s just like has a lot of lovers, I suddenly like this one. These ones just feel right for what’s happening right now. With my kids and my lifestyle, they’re the best.”
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490.00, Neiman Marcus
The Dsquared2 Clubmaster tortoiseshell glasses
“Before my current Barton Perreiras, these Dsquared2 frames were my go-to. They were originally glasses, not sunglasses. I remember when I first put them on, and my husband was very alarmed by the tortoise on top because they kind of cover up my entire eyebrow. It looks like I don’t have eyebrows. Every time I’ve put on a new pair of glasses, my husband’s very alarmed. It’s as if you were with someone for a year who had a beard, and then they shave their beard. But then he gets used to them. I got them at a store in Koreatown [in L.A.] as I was coming back from lunch in a mall and walked by a glasses shop. I saw them in the window and I said, ‘I love those, and I bet they would look great on my face.’ I keep my prescription on me at all times so I could try them on and get them made up for me in an hour!”
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380.00, Oliver Peoples
206.00, Westward Leaning
The Marc Jacobs cat-eye glasses
“I got these Marc Jacobs glasses online. It’s hard to see in photos, but the inside is silver and then outside it’s like a double-wire thing with a gold cat eye. Because gold and silver at the same time, so I can mix my metals for jewelry without the glasses dictating what kind of earrings I can wear. They’re thin and showcase more of the makeup, which is nice. But as you can see they kind of covered my eyebrows. It’s not so heavy on the face or heavy around my eyes, you know, so it works great for formal stuff.”
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195.00, Warby Parker
470.00, Saks Fifth Avenue
The Dita Willow black-and-gold glasses from Always Be My Maybe
“There was this guy who came up to me on the street, and he was so aggressive. He said, ‘I just want to let you know, I’m wearing the same glasses that you did in Always Be My Maybe!” He had the black pair of glasses, and it was this really tall, thick dude wearing these tiny women’s glasses. It was insane. That’s all he wanted to say. And then he just walked away. I own all the glasses from the movie because they have my prescription, but they are all a little bit small for my personal taste. But if I had to pick a favorite, it’d probably be the gold ones, because I don’t have any glasses that are just gold. And it was such a beautiful outfit with the white jumpsuit and that giant tooth necklace.”
Originally Appeared on Glamour