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Is there anything more intriguing than the development of eyeglasses as they rode a high wave of need and popularity throughout civilized history?


“Eyewear is still an important entry price point in fashion, that’s why the category is holding well….” – Pierce Fay, Luxottica Wholesale, North America


                                            Some History


SPECTACLES HAVE A CLOUDY HISTORY and probably date back to the ancient Greeks, Romans, or even Chinese, who used them as amulets to ward off evil spirits. There are indications that stones were used for magnification very early on, but nobody knows who came up with the idea first, or how such stones were actually used.  On the other hand, we have actual proof that spectacles were in use by the 14th Century, because paintings by Tomasso de Modena at that time focused on monks wearing eyeglasses while reading and writing.


America’s super-inventor, Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals sometime in the 17th Century, to offset the annoyance of having to change his glasses constantly for distance and magnification.  Modern glasses with rigid sidebars placed over the ears were developed by an optician back in the 18th Century as well.


Monacles were developed in Germany in the 1700s and stayed in use until after WWII, when their association with the Nazi Third Reich destroyed their popularity.  Lorgnettes, glasses held on a handle, were de rigueur during the 19th Century with ladies of high birth in England.  Pince-Nez spectacles, which just pinched the nose, also came on the scene in the 19th Century, along with an early version of present-day contact lenses.


                                    Idiosyncrasies of Fashion


TODAY, GLASSES ARE NOT JUST “MODERN,” they are trendy pieces susceptible to all the change and idiosyncrasies of fashion. Squared off glasses in many different styles are particularly hot at the moment and give their wearers an edgy, attitudinal look.  Prada’s acetate and metal glasses sport heavy frames and very dark lenses. 


Colored frames are also high on the trendy list for glasses. While dark shades predominate, “pop” colors are also hot, like green, orange, and purple-pink.  Leading couturier glasses in the hot color line include Chloe, Vera Wang, and Marc Jacobs.





  • New generation sunglasses, oversized and under-budget.  Hot Mediterranean flair!


                                        A Look to Kill For


IT’S FASCINATING TO SEE the different attitudes toward glasses during all this time. In both England and France, weak eyesight was considered a stigma; consequently, glasses were rarely worn in public for many years. In America, the popular idea that “men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses” prevailed even into the early 20th Century. At the same time, the Spanish saw things differently, regarding glasses as a sign of refinement and aristocratic birth. 


The real rage for glasses came into being in the 20th Century, when Hollywood discovered sunglasses. Yes, they had real optical purpose in protecting the eyes and making vision in the sun so much more comfortable.  But, hey! The real kicker behind sunglasses was undeniably that this was (and is) a look to kill for!

 —From the time they were first introduced, sunglasses have been a high mark of fashion.  

And, interestingly, sunglass popularity has spilled over into regular seeing glasses as well, dramatically upping their sales to men as well as women.



  • Designer level sunglasses in hot aviator shape.  Intense.



  • Rimless glasses with rectangular shaped lenses in a choice of lens colors. Wow!


Today, dark lenses, light lenses, colored lenses, metal frames, plastic frames, frameless, dressy-looking, sporty-looking, plain or embellished:  Glasses are hot! Designs for glasses are almost endless.  Demand is much the same way. Everybody wears them.  But who has only one pair?  Please…

Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

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