Posted by: courtneygrapperhaus | May 19, 2015

Eyeglasses: A Look Back In Time

In our recent Marketing Meeting, we received a suggestion to post a history of eyeglasses on our Facebook page by asking our followers to submit pictures of themselves, family or friends in eyeglasses throughout the years. I did a quick Google search and found a ton of information on different styles that have gone in and out of popularity.

According to Wikipedia, the first eyeglasses were created in Italy in the late 13th century and “consisted of two magnifying glasses riveted together by the handles sot that they could grip the nose.” Benjamin Franklin “suffered from both myopia and presbyopia”. He is credited with inventing bifocals, though some argue that there may have been others that preceded him. “The modern style of glasses, held by temples passing over the ears, was developed some time before 1727”, but the first designs were not terribly successful and styles with attached handles (like lorgnettes) remained popular thru the early 19th century.

Over time, eyeglasses have evolved from being seen as unfashionable to trendy. A large part of this is credited to famous people that wore glasses (such as musician Buddy Holly known for his thick black horn-rimmed glasses). Styles have also expanded because of functionality.

Here are some of the most famous styles:

Browline Glasses

  • Popular in the 1950s and 1960s. It is estimated that they accounted for nearly half of eyeglasses worn in the 1950s.
  • Came back into popularity in the 2010s
  • First brand was the “Ronsir”
  • Top portion of the frame is much thicker than the bottom
  • Famous figures who wore browline glasses include Malcom X and Colonel Sanders
Malcom X

Malcom X

Bug-Eye Glasses

  • Popular in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s
  • Began as a square shape and later evolved into larger rounder frames
  • Famous figures who wore Bug-eye glasses include Audrey Hepburn, Paris Hilton and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
FRANCE - 1964:  Audrey Hepburn, British actress. Paris, 1964. HA-1532-25.  (Photo by Roger Viollet/Getty Images)

FRANCE – 1964: Audrey Hepburn, British actress. Paris, 1964. HA-1532-25. (Photo by Roger Viollet/Getty Images)

Cat Eye Glasses

  • Popular in the 1950s and 1960s
  • Temples are angled upward at the top
  • Famous figures who wore these include Elizabeth Taylor, Brigette Bardot and Marilyn Monroe
Bridgette Bardot

Brigette Bardot

GI Glasses

  • Originally designed to be worn with gas masks in World War II
  • The US Government issues these to recruits during training. After training there is a “Frame of Choice” program.
  • In 2012 the S9 design was replaced by the 5A that is smaller and unisex
The new 5A glasses

The new 5A glasses

Horn-Rimmed Glasses

  • First became popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Regained popularity in the 1950s-1960s, again in the 1980s-1990s and yet again in the 2010s.
  • Characterized by their material (horn or tortoise shell) and bold appearance
  • Harold Lloyd, a 1910s comedian, was the first to popularize this style. Others such as Buddy Holly and The Blues Brothers were famous for wearing these in later years.
Harold Lloyd

Harold Lloyd


  • The “Hard Bridge” or “fingerpiece” variety was popular from the 1890s thru the 1950s
  • The “C-bridge” variety was popular from the 1820s thru the 1940s
  • The “Spring Bridge” or “Astig” variety was popular from the 1890s thru the 1930s and became scarce after that
  • “Oxford Spectacles” and “Nose Spectacles” are two types of frames that are not exactly Pince-nez but resemble them
  • Pince-nez “are supported without earpieces, by pinching the bridge of the nose. The name comes from French pincer, “to pinch”, and nez, “nose”.” (Wikipedia)
  • Several fictional characters are remembered as wearing this style, including Hercule Poiroit in the TV Series Agatha Christie’s Poiroit and Morpheus in the Matrix film trilogy
Matrix character Morpheus



  • Have never gone completely our of fashion, though they were most popular in the 1800s-1960s, 1980s, and the 2000s-2010s
  • Mounted directly to the bridge by using screws or bushings
  • Popularized by Theodore Roosevelt and Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

The British Optical Association Museum has an excellent online exhibition on the history of eyeglasses. You can visit it at

To see how lenses have changed over time check out this infographic from VSP



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