People have been wearing eyeglasses since the early mid 1700’s. Legends such as Benjamin Martin and Benjamin Franklin were some of the first to start using eyeglasses to help with daily activities such as reading and writing, just as we do today. Eyeglasses have evolved over the ages both in design, prescription and materials.
Interestingly enough, just as fashion trends come in and out of style, styles of spectacles do the same. Some spectacles lived past their initial introduction and still seem to exist in current fashions, while others faded and never returned.
1756 Benjamin Martin Spectacles
Benjamin Martin, an obstetrician in London, England, created one of the very first pair of spectacles to correct vision and be used as a reading aid. Martin wrote an essay called “Visual Glasses,” describing how lenses were rounded out with Ox horn material and how spectacles can be improved. Spectacles were also made out of tortoise shells, which only stayed popular for another two generations until steel became available.
1784 Benjamin Franklin Temples
These Benjamin Franklin frames, also known as double folding temples were worn by the one and only Benjamin Franklin. You have probably seen these glasses in many historical pieces and history books. Benjamin Franklin invented the very first bifocals changing the eyeglass industry forever.
1833 Straight Temple Spectacles
Straight temple spectacles were machine produced from 1833 until WWI. These lenses were usually oval shaped, however sometimes were square or octagon shaped. In this era, colored lenses were starting to be used for medical purposes.
1902 Pince-Nez Glasses
Made popular by President Theodore Roosevelt, the Pince-Nez glasses were extremely trendy in the early 20th century. This style is now often associated with dapper top hat-wearing men. However, this style experienced short lived popularity, most likely because of its inconvenient design.
1950 Thick Plastic Frames
Starting in the 1950’s, the thick plastic style frames remained popular until the 1970’s. This bold look was worn by the famous Buddy Holly. Today, this trend has made a comeback with the younger generation and on occasion worn without a prescription.
1960 Cat Eye Lenses
In the 1960’s color started emerging with plastic framed eyeglasses. Vibrant colors like bright orange, blue and red started to resemble this colorful time in history. With large oval type lenses to “cat eye” lenses for women, these styles are still around today giving people that perfect vintage look.
1970-1980 Aviator Glasses
Originally designed by Ray-Ban for fighter pilots in 1937, aviator sunglasses have been remained popular through various stages of history. While the sunglasses were perhaps made most famous by Tom Cruise in his role in Top Gun, the aviator glasses were not as popular. Though some men wore this style up into the 90’s, today these are seen as a very retro and vintage frame.
1990 Thin Wire Frames
Wire frames and rimless glasses were the hippest style of the 1990’s. These almost non-existent frames came in oval and rectangular shaped glasses and sometimes even tinted lenses. While this style hasn’t made a comeback yet, other trends from the 1990’s have started to creep their way back into popular culture.
2010 Bold Large Frames
These frames combine stylistic elements from the 70’s and 80’s with their large frames and square shape. Today, the trend of thick plastic frames continues to dominate and will probably be here to stay.
2016 Vintage Round Lenses
When it comes to the hottest trends for eyeglasses in 2016, it seems like retro round lenses are coming back around. Round, colorful lenses are popping up from major designers like Michael Kors and Ray Ban.
If you are interested in more influential eye glasses, Optometry Cares is a non-profit organization that manages the Museum Collections held at the Archives & Museum of Optometry. This organization strives to represent the history of eye wear, the optical industry, and the American Optometric Association.