The invention of eyeglasses was a total game-changer, as you can imagine. These accessories have undergone a huge transformation since their early days in the 13th century, when they were little more than leather and glass resting carefully on the tip of one’s nose. In this post, we’ll explore the most fashionable frames from every decade, beginning in the 1900’s.
The most popular style of frames during this twenty-year span was pince-nez. Hailing from France, the name translates to “pinch nose”. This style is actually really similar to the earliest frames created centuries before. They didn’t have any arms, but rather sat precariously on the bridge of the nose, just as the name suggests.
Of course, this style created some practical problems. For starts, these frames were known for falling off and breaking easily. Some wearers started using thin chains, which wrapped around the neck, to prevent this from happening. We’re guessing they still fell off, but at least they didn’t crash onto the floor and break. The solution was sound, at any rate, as chains are still used for reading glasses today!
The pince-nez was still popular during the 1930’s, though they started to become less fashionable. The older crowd continued to wear them, but a wholly new and hip style rolled onto the scene: thin round frames. They were made from a delicate plastic, which meant they were still fragile. The style was popularized by Hollywood types and from there trickled down to the general population. Tortoise shell was especially popular.
It’s worth noting that this new style had arms, which we’re guessing was a huge relief ‒ and perhaps why they were so easily accepted by folks.
While the ‘30s may have been all about small, tight, round frames, the ‘40s took some fun liberties with size. Fashionable frames became larger and more rectangular shaped, a fairly big departure from the previous decade’s roundness. As plastic manufacturing grew, frames also became available in just about any color.
One particular style that gained popularity during the ‘40s used plastic along the browline and glass on the bottom ‒ a style now popular again today.
Check out this quick video from the 1940’s describing how a woman can utilize her glasses to enhance her natural features. This content put the theory out there that glasses could, indeed, be fashionable:
The most iconic frame of the 1950’s was, hands down, the cat eye. The ‘40s may have been all about adding color, but the ‘50s took it one step further and totally rewrote the shape. The cat eye’s sweeping corners were fashion darlings, worn by celebrities and school teachers alike.
The free-wheeling 1960’s had another take on eyewear, which can be divided into two main camps: oversized bug-eye frames and rimless, round wire ones. They may have been opposites, but they had one thing in common ‒ they certainly made a fashion statement.
Oversized bug-eye frames were super mod, and were all about bold, geometric shapes and styles. On the other hand, the rimless, round frames were a popular choice for the flower childs and hippies of that era. These tended to use fun, colorful lenses, like blue and yellow for sunglasses in particular.
This decade took a throw-back stance, borrowing the most popular shapes and styles from the previous eras. One could get away with donning cat eye frames while his or her friend favored the boxy, geometric style of the ‘60s. The ‘80s were a catch-all for the best of what came out of each previous generation, although the pince-nez did not reemerge (which surprises exactly no one…).
The ‘90s did something kinda fun when it came to eyewear: they borrowed the simple wire frames of the 1930’s and enlarged them. Glasses wearers also played around with shape in the ‘90s. While round was really popular, oval shaped frames shared the spotlight. That said, both styles erred on the thin side, whether metal or plastic.
For the past 10+ years, it’s been hard to pinpoint the most fashionable frame. Eclectic tastes draw from every period; vintage reigns supreme, and tastes are not limited to a specific decade. While the ‘80s shared this hodgepodge, borrowing vibe, it wasn’t quite to the extent it is today. When shopping for frames, you’re likely to see a pair in nearly every shape/style listed above!