Gone are the days of large, wire-rimmed round glasses and spectacles. Over the years, glasses have evolved from practical vision enhancement tools to fashion statements. With each passing decade, eyeglasses change to keep up with ever-shifting fashion trends. Here is a look at the evolution of glasses through the years:


This period was marked by lorgnette and pince-nez style glasses. Worn by men and women alike, lorgnette glasses did not rest on the wearer’s face, but rather were spectacles held up to the face with a handle. These were lauded by women because they did not fully cover the face, and they were used more as an accessory than a practical, vision-enhancing tool.

Pince-nez (pinch the nose) glasses, as their name would suggest, were kept in place by pinching the nose of the wearer. These glasses did not have ear pieces or a handle to keep them secure, but were often connected to a chain worn around the neck.

Because it was unfashionable during this time period to wear glasses all the time, these glasses were very popular during the early 20th century because they allowed you to wear them only when needed.


With increased functionality and a bold design, round-framed eyeglasses became popular in the 1920s. These glasses were heavy and sat close to the face, but they could be found in a variety of new materials, including gold and tortoise shell. These frames could be wire-rimmed, but were mostly made of celluloid. The growth in popularity for these round specs came from the emerging feminist movement, as these glasses were the same for both men and women.

In the 1930s, aviator sunglasses were created to help pilots and members of the U.S. Air Force protect their eyes when traveling at high altitudes. While initially created to meet the needs of pilots, these polarized glasses were eventually sold publicly in 1937.


This time period gave way to the rise of browline frames. Introduced in the late ‘40s, these frames combined plastic and metal and gave wearers a fake eyebrow look. As people desired more fashionable looks in clothing, cars, and accessories, the need for stylish glasses with a variety of styles grew. These browline frames were offered in several different colors and plastic materials, and they were so popular that they made up 50% of all eyeglass frame sales in the 1950s.

Cat-eye shaped eyeglasses also made waves in the 1950s. Worn by the idolized Marilyn Monroe, these iconic glasses featured an upsweep at the top of the frame and were available in a variety of styles. These glamorous glasses could even incorporate rhinestones and gems.


Eyewear during this time was defined by two, opposing styles: the Mods and the Flower Children. The Mods embraced oversized, unique geometric shapes for frames. Sometimes completely impractical for vision correction, these over-the-top glasses represented a passion of futuristic ideals.

Popularized by celebrities like John Lennon and Janis Joplin, circular rimmed-glasses with rainbow colored lenses called teashades were worn among the Flower Children. These glasses represented the peace and love that these wearers cherished.


Extravagance was traded for quality in the 1980s and 1990s as eyeglasses shifted from being colorful and theatrical to being lightweight and practical for everyday use. Wraparounds and wayfarers became the top glasses designs in the ‘80s. These styles fused futuristic elements with a simplistic design and were made famous by celebrities like Tom Cruise.

As people embraced vintage music, entertainment, and fashion, round frames, cat-eye shaped glasses, and other eyewear from the ‘50s made a slight comeback in the 1990s. During this decade, minimalism and grunge were favored.

2000s-present day

There are no clearly defined styles during this time as people began to use glasses to express their own individual styles. These decades brought an increase in simple rectangle frames and oversized square frames as well as other designs. Glasses wearers are meshing the classic and the contemporary for a look that complements their own personal style.

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