A snippet of my eyewear story from the just-published third issue of Vintage Magazine…
Serious student, man of mystery — few accessories offer as many possibilities for transformation as that perfect pair of eyeglasses…
Would fans even recognize Woody Allen without his chunky glasses? Would Elvis Costello have made such a new wave splash without those thick black Buddy Holly-esque zyl frames? Would Marcello Mastroianni’s Guido character have been as irresistible to his 8 1/2 harem sans the sunglasses? And what about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis? Are any of her other first-lady or Ari-era accoutrements as emulated as those oversized Jackie O. shades?
Eyewear can be such a stamp of the wearer’s personality—famous face or not—that it’s hard to imagine a time when they were more medicinal than fashionable. And yet, during the Industrial Revolution of the mid-1800s, when glasses became less cost-prohibitive, opticians oftentimes took the liberty of filling a patient’s prescription and choosing the patient’s functional frame too—a departure from the 1700s when decorative eyewear was considered yet another form of modish expression.
The early twentieth century brought eye-opening choices aplenty, with long-handled lorgnettes or dainty monocles with silk cords for the style-conscious lady, and gold-framed monocles or tortoise-shell pince-nez styles for sir. Nevertheless, these attempts at nearsighted glamour were oftentimes met with ridicule: staunch traditionalists derided wearers for detracting from their beauty or—heavens!— reveling in their infirmity.
Providentially, some of those iconoclasts who bucked the tide triumphed, including, most famously, silent-film star Harold Lloyd, a comic contemporary of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Lloyd began wearing lens-less horn-rim frames in 1917 as a prop and used them to define his “Glasses” character, one of his most successful screen personas, said to be one of the inspirations for Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent. And his spectacles even sparked a craze among fans.
To read more, purchase Vintage Magazine! Go to www.vintagezine.com for more details.