The Journey of Eyeglasses- From Practical Device to Style Accessory

by Suzanne Hughes

Posted on Sunday 15th of February 2009

The invention of eyeglasses was hailed as a revolutionary step forward in the battle against defective vision. However, this new development was not devoid of its share of problems.

People felt were awkward wearing eyeglasses. They were not comfortable about advertising their disability in public. They felt they would invite ridicule from those who had healthy eyes and that is exactly what happened.

Some resorted to using eyeglasses only in private. The English and French invented ‘monocular’, which could be easily hidden when not in use.

From Childhood To Adolescence

The manufacture and sale of eyeglasses was a lucrative business. However, customer dissatisfaction put the manufacturers on guard. They resorted to innovations and inventions to popularize the use of eyeglasses.

The monocle, also known as the eye ring, was first seen in England in 1800 and the elite took to them like fish takes to water. Monocles soon became a symbol of respectability and panache.

The popularity of monocles with the British elite led to an increase in its popularity in Europe and even Russia.

Another innovation was the lorgnette. The lorgnette is an eyeglass that has two lenses fitted in a frame and held in a handle. Instead of being worn on the face, the lorgnette was held in the hand and used when required.

Lorgnettes were marketed as style accessories and the products were embellished with artistic designs. This made them very popular with women, who despised wearing ordinary spectacles.

The 1840’s saw the invention of the pince-nez. The pince-nez can be described as an eyeglass without temples. They became very popular among men as well as women.

They were available in different styles and helped keep the eyeglass revolution alive. Men preferred pince-nez that were

•Heavy and round, or
•Oval shaped
•Attached to a cord or chain
•Placed around the neck or
•Pinned to the lapel

Ladies preferred

•Oval and rimless glasses
•Attached to a delicate chain
•Suitable to be hidden in the lady’s dress.

Despite all these marked improvements in eyeglass styles, even as late as the 20th century, eyeglasses were considered disfiguring, especially for women and girls. Though sunglasses did become extremely popular starting from 1930, eyeglasses were always viewed as a disfiguring though very practical aid for one’s eyesight.

While all the modifications and innovations became popular, eyeglasses were still very unpopular. They were considered disfiguring and avoided at all costs. The eyeglasses were tolerated but never liked or loved.

Adulthood Brought Popularity

However, the recent developments have changed the way the world looks at eyeglasses. Far from being an outcast, the eyeglass has become the most popular fashion accessory of all times.

Makers used high quality metals and plastics to make the glasses look good and cool. Top brands entered the market and the people were finally convinced that eyeglasses were not such a bad thing after all.

New frames, colors, designs and lenses- all helped improve the popularity of the eyeglasses. So much so that people are buying zero powered eyeglasses even if nothing is wrong with their vision.

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