The History of Glasses
7 October 2016
In today’s world, if you feel your vision growing weaker you simply go to the eye doctor and get a prescription for glasses or contact lenses. It wasn’t always so easy!
Glasses have come a long way since their inception some time in the 13th century. Join us on a journey through time as we explore the way eyeglasses have changed through the ages!
Eyewear Began As a Magnifying Glass
Between A.D. 1000 and 1250, monks developed and used reading stones–much like a magnifying glass–that laid against reading material to magnify letters. The first wearable glasses were invented some time between 1260 and 1290, however the inventor is unknown.
The use of spectacles spread throughout Europe over time. There were various styles available, one of the most popular being the scissor-glasses, used by historical figures such as George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte.
In the 1780s, Benjamin Franklin developed the bifocal lens, targeting two different areas of vision correction.
In The 19th Century, Eyewear Became a Fashion Statement
The most iconic piece of eyewear popularized in the 1800s was the monocle (think Mr. Peanut), meant for vision correction in one eye only. Monocle wearers were usually men in society’s upper classes. Women, on the other hand, had their own fashion statements to worry about.
The 19th century saw the advent of what was called the lorgnette, two lenses in a frame held with a handle on one side. The lorgnette was popular with the ladies, many of whom would not wear spectacles, and was thus more of a fashion accessory than a visual aid.
Pince-nez, French for “pinch nose,” glasses were developed and popularized in the late 1800s and early 1900s. These glasses were not supported by earpieces and stayed on by gently pinching the nose. Pince-nez glasses were sported by U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt.
Hollywood Stars Heavily Influenced 20th Century Style
Glasses of the past, such as pince-nez, were seen as stuffy and out of date by the early 1900s.Hollywood stars began to popularize round, tortoiseshell spectacles that better resemble the glasses we see today. Temple spectacles became all the rage.
By the 1940s glasses were available in many sizes, shapes and colours due to advances in the manufacture of plastics. As glasses became more customizable over time, they began to reflect the personality and tastes of the wearer.