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100 Years of Glasses

October 9, 2018

The way we look at eyewear has changed a lot over the last century. In fact, spectacles have changed a lot since their early days (we’re looking at you, monocle) but since the 1930s, we’ve seen every kind of frame material and shape at every price point you can imagine. Now that you can pick up a pair of glasses almost anywhere, let’s take a look at the history of eyewear and how they became the fashion-forward accessory they are today.


The look: Large, round frames made with high-end materials

Big, rounds frames were a holdover from the 1900s, but with new materials like real silver and 12-karat-gold plating, designers could make glasses that were more appealing to high society folks. The glasses usually were held together with wire frames that wrapped around the upper 2/3 of the lenses, making them very heavy on the nose.


The look: Aviators

Way before Tom Cruise had “a need for speed,” Ray-Ban Aviators caused a fashion revolution in the eyewear industry. US Air Force Pilots must have been flying too close to the sun, because its glare was causing them to experience headaches and altitude sickness. In response, glasses manufacturer Ray-Ban created Aviator sunglasses, which featured green-tinted polarized lenses that cut down the glare from the sun. Ray-Ban initially only sold them to the military, but made them available to the public in 1937. They’ve been fashion staple in the eyewear category ever since.


The look: Browline frames

Browline glasses feature metal frames topped by plastic, giving the sense of a fake eyebrow. They debuted in the 1940s, quickly becoming the eyeglass style of choice. They became so popular that by the 1950s, they were one out of every two pairs of glasses sold.


The look: Cat eye glasses

Named for their shape, cat eye glasses are perhaps the most glamorous trend to hit glasses over the last one hundred years. In their heyday, you could find cat eye glasses gilded with rhinestones, pears, plastic flowers and more. A favorite style of Marilyn Monroe’s, cat eyes were a fad that exploded across America in the 1950s. The only other specs that made a dent in the general consciousness during that time were G-man specs (heavy black-rimmed glasses) and Ray-Ban Wayfarers, both of which remain classic styles to this day.

1960s and 70s

The look: Bug eye glasses

The 1960s brought more than just a cultural revolution. There were a wide variety of styles in eyewear that hit the scene. One of the biggest was the “bug-eye” look using oversized black frames. These glasses were made popular by Jackie Kennedy Onassis, whose style impacted women across the globe. It would not take long for Onassis to be seen in some outfit or eyewear before similar styles were briskly selling.

Their counterpart in the culture was the rimless round glasses made popular by John Lennon and Janis Joplin. These were the glasses that were the most popular among the “flower children” and the Woodstock set.

1980s and 90s

The look: Wayfarers

Here comes Tom Cruise again, setting an eyewear trend into motion and bringing Ray-Ban back into the picture by sporting Wayfarers in 1983s Risky Business. This was also a great time to revisit vintage looks, like the cat-eye, or even futuristic ones featuring funky shapes and colors.


The look: Rectangle frames

When the 21st century hit, there was a lot of looking back. All things “vintage” began to be the rage and many of the styles of the 1940s and 1950s returned to prominence. A less-chunky version of rectangular G-man frames were especially popular.

Eyewear isn’t the only thing that’s evolved over the last century. Eye care technology is moving forward at an exciting pace, and Dr. Silverman and his team of eye care experts at OCLI are positioned to make sure you’re benefitting from that as much as possible. At OCLI, you’ll always have access to cutting-edge treatments and technology. Reach out today to learn more.

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