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An Image Consultant Gives Fashion Advice to Google Glass

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Wearable tech is supposed to be one of the defining trends of 2014, but that doesn’t mean Google will have an easy time selling Google Glass.

A head-mounted wearable computer, Glass has gotten a lot of attention for its ability to record and stream point-of-view video, but the initial buzz is wearing off. Still in beta, Glass has at least two major obstacles facing it.

One, it doesn’t feel essential. If people are going to open their wallets for another device, they need to know they’re getting something useful or fun. So far, Google hasn’t announced any must-have apps.

The second problem is more serious: Wearing Google Glass makes you look like an idiot.

When did techies get so sensitive? I blame the Segway. Before its release, the Segway generated massive hype as the transportation of the future. It debuted to rave reviews. Then we all realized how goofy people look riding one and lost interest. Now, the Segway either calls to mind Paul Blart, mall cop, or Gob from "Arrested Development."

When the "Arrested Development" movie comes out, I predict Gob will wear Google Glass.

Google is well aware of its image problem. Not long ago, the Glass site began highlighting stylish frames to wear with the device. Google has also tried to sway opinion by redefining the pejorative term “glasshole.” In a list of dos and don’ts for Glass wearers, Google says a “creepy or rude” Glass wearer is a glasshole. Nice try, Google. The term actually refers to anyone wearing Glass.

To help Google with its image problem, I spoke to an image consultant on its behalf. Carmen Westbrook owns Naked Fashion Help in Atlanta, Georgia, and was happy to talk about how Glass could be more appealing.

Describing the first version of Glass as “nerdy” and “futuristic,” Westbrook says that variety is key.

“There has to be options that could fit any face,” Westbrook says. “When you go to buy glasses, ideally you’re going to buy something that’s going to flatter your face and enhance your look, not take away from it, so there has to be options.”

How many options is the right number? When it comes to eyeglasses, people can choose from thousands of styles. Is that the right direction? Westbrook thinks so.

She’d also like to see Glass become more flexible, so wearers aren’t limited to Google’s fames, but can use their own.

“If you’re given enough options and if you can adapt it to glasses you already have, to me that seems like it could work,” Westbrook says.

Once there are a variety of styles to choose from, people will still need to be convinced that Glass is for them. To show Glass as a fashion-forward accessory, Google needs to recruit influential brand ambassadors.

“If you want to get people on board with it, you’ve got to get people like the beautiful people of the world wearing it: the models, the actresses, the rock stars, the sports stars,” Westbrook says.

Glass could be attractive and fashion-forward, but still run into trouble if people aren’t comfortable around it. We’ll need to develop norms and etiquette about when it’s okay to wear Glass and when it isn’t. That won’t be easy.

“I don’t know that there’s anything they could do to make me feel comfortable,” Westbrook says. “It’s more about the person I’m sitting down with and having some level of trust with them.”

Whether it’s a social or business situation, Glass won’t be welcome much of the time. Perhaps the best way Glass wearers can improve the device’s image is by taking it off.

This article appears in the May 2014 issue of Streaming Media magazine as "Google Glass Rides a Segway."

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