⇾ How Tom Broughton Shops
⇾ Tom Broughton, Cubitts Founder
The importance of well-fitting eyewear and his obsession with Japanese vending machines
Right now, there are four billion adults in the world who wear glasses. Tom Broughton thinks about these people a lot and is constantly trying to make their experience of buying (and wearing) glasses smoother and cooler. As the founder of the British eyewear brand Cubitts, he's built a cult following since its inception in 2012 and grown it into one of the leading spectacle labels on the market. Their frames are bold and modern, yet classic enough to look good 30 years from now. And since they sell directly to consumers, these thoughtfully designed glasses are affordable too.
Tom's style is reflected in his frames, but also in his stunning home. He lives in London's historic Isokon building, which was the home to Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus School. You can definitely see a through-line on how architecture inspires his work, and it's not hard to imagine a Bauhaus designer wearing some Cubitts glasses in their studio. Perhaps this is why they have some of the most handsome retail shops on the planet.
While the brand has a serious following, Tom jokingly says their customers are simply “spectacle wearers who want to wear spectacles.” His signature blend of high design and playfulness comes through in his personal style. We caught up with the glasses guru to see how frames should actually fit, how he landed on the brand's name and why he's always on the hunt for vintage plywood.
Frames are a necessary accessory for a lot of people. What are the benefits of a well-fitting pair?
Well, first of all, vision—which might sound obvious, but a well-fitting pair will optimize the optical performance of the lens, meaning you can go about living your life in perfect visual clarity. Comfort is also important, distributing the weight of the spectacles across your face to avoid them slipping or leaving a mark. And lastly, your spectacles should be an extension of you—they sit in the middle of your magnificent face and are one of your most defining features.
How does your love of
architecture and furniture influence
the frames you create?
I'm a strong believer in the principle of 'form follows function.' Spectacles, like buildings and furniture, are a perfect example of that. A stunning amalgam of design and materiality. But this doesn't mean they need to be uninspiring or boring—quite the opposite. The beauty comes from their use and the intricacies of the design rather than unnecessary adornment or ostentatious branding.
We try to take inspiration from everywhere, but there are two main eras where it feels there was a particularly strong and refined design ethos, which feeds into our process. First, the architecture and furniture from the late 1920s and early '30s—following the enormous impact of the Bauhaus School. And the mid-century modernist revival of the 50s and 60s.
Sorry, that got a bit pretentious.
Frederick redux sunglasses,
$250 by Cubitts x TOAST
Could you talk more about your brand’s commitment surrounding Redux?
Redux is a catch-all term we mainly use internally to cover all the initiatives we're trying to implement to, well, be better. So, everything from reducing our water usage to becoming carbon neutral (without offsetting) to becoming a B Corp. We want it to feel like a legitimate philosophy of being a better business and not a greenwashing thing we stick on corporate material or throw into the virtue-signaling cesspit of LinkedIn.
The Redux frames for TOAST were made from offcut acetate waste (about 70-80% of material is wasted when you make a frame), which we reformed into beautiful new sheet material. Hopefully, this isn't just a nice little collaboration but a genuinely innovative way to create a new form of low-impact production.
How did you know it was time to start your own brand? What inspired you to name it after the Cubitt brothers?
I'm not sure I ever did know it was time. We just started it, and then it became too late to stop. Like a rolling stone—although in our case, I think we gathered a lot of moss. Mainly moss, to be honest. So much moss.
I lived on a street in King's Cross called Cubitt Street for almost 15 years, which was on the site of the Cubitts brothers' building yard. They seemed like pretty stand-up people and shared similar philosophies, so they were an excellent source of inspiration. And to be completely honest, the domain name was available.
$90 by Sunspel
What’s one item that every man needs in his closet?
A skeleton, for sure. A really good crisp, white T-shirt doesn't hurt either.
How would you describe your style in five words or less?
Marriage of convenience and pity.
What’s one item that you
cannot part with?
My spectacles, obviously. And my tiny voodoo doll to use against people who have wronged me—haha.
Model no. 403 chair,
$4,119 by Alvar Aalto
What’s something you’re looking to buy at the moment?
A wearable Rimowa voodoo doll case. I'm also always on the lookout for 1930s plywood furniture.
Do you shop more online or in person?
It depends on how late I've left it to pick up the birthday present, really.
What city has the best shopping?
I'm writing this from Tokyo, which has insane shopping. I've only just arrived, but last time I became vaguely obsessed with the little vending machines. I found a vending machine that sold miniature vending machines. I hope this trip we can go another couple of levels deeper.
$160 by Folk
Three favorite brands, currently?
What is something
you like to save money on or refuse to spend a lot for?
I recently noticed that the Pret Posh Cheddar baguette was £6.99 and had to balk at that. I also refuse to spend money on Crypto, NFTs and donations to the Conservative Party.
$20 by Pantherella
What’s something you buy in multiples?
I want to be one of those sock people, who only wear one type of sock. It still evades me, though. Currently, I'm wearing one multi-colored and striped, and one which has 'Carpe Diem' in Comic Sans.
Which do you experience more:
buyer’s remorse or regret for not buying something?
It's frustrating when you order the wrong thing in a restaurant, and when it arrives, you regret the decision. And then start reflecting on all the bad decisions you've ever made. Then you realize why you're 41 years old and single. Then the waiter asks you to leave.