The Weirdest Eyewear Trends in History

It’s no secret we love eyewear at the Spectacle Shoppe and following the evolution of glasses and sunglasses throughout history is fascinating. We’ve created a list of some of the most bizarre eyewear trends through the decades (and centuries). At our Vancouver optical store we’ve witnessed styles come and go but most not quite as extreme as these. From puzzling to true statement pieces, here are some of the most noteworthy eyewear trends:

Emperor Nero

The Weirdest Eyewear Trends in History - Emperor Nero

Emperor Nero, who reigned from 54 to 68 A.D, was likely nearsighted. He viewed the gladiator combats in Rome through an emerald (fancy!), which helped him see the action, well, violence actually, more clearly.

The Lorgnette

The Weirdest Eyewear Trends in History - The Lorgnette

The lorgnette, which is a dainty pair of glasses with a handle, was the answer for ladies in the 19th century who needed glasses but didn’t want to actually wear them. They could simply hold them up to the eyes when they wanted to see something, which is why they were popular at the opera. We guess they could take or leave good eyesight during the rest of the day.

The Monocle

The Weirdest Eyewear Trends in History - The Monocle

Monocles really had their moment in the spotlight in the 19th century and became a common part of wealthy gentlemen’s attire. It was often paired with a top hat and a morning coat. The monocle was actually fitted to the wearer’s eye socket so they stayed put. Similarly, in the 1790s quizzing glasses were popular. These handheld monocles like a lorgnette but with one lens.


The Weirdest Eyewear Trends in History - Pince-nez

Pince-nez spectacles covered both eyes at least. The phrase is French. Pincer means “to pinch” and nez means “nose.” These specs pinched the bridge of the nose to stay put, as they didn’t have temples. Not only did they look a little odd, they were also pretty uncomfortable if one didn’t have the perfect bridge fit. Therefore, they were often suspended from a chain around the neck so the user didn’t need to wear them all day. These made their appearance as early as the 15th century in Europe but became really popular in the 19th century.

Mod Sunglasses

The Weirdest Eyewear Trends in History - Mod Sunglasses

In the 1960s, some crazy mod sunglasses rose to prominence. These were just as much works of art as they were functional. From oversized, round plastic frames to futuristic shades with slits, the 60s was a heyday for interesting eyewear.

Coloured Tinted Sunglasses

The Weirdest Eyewear Trends in History - Coloured Tinted Glasses

People in the 90s really took colored tinted sunglass lenses to the next awkward level. Sunglasses in blue, purple, yellow, red and every other color of the rainbow were par for the course.

Google Glass

The Weirdest Eyewear Trends in History - Google Glass

Google Glass, though ultimately unsuccessful, gave us a peek into what the future of eyewear may hold. The optical head-mounted display was shaped like glasses and even available with prescription lenses. Wearers could basically walk around with a computer on their face and communicate with the Internet though voice commands.



Morgan Nahanee
Morgan Nahanee


Morgan is The Spectacle Shoppe’s Lead Technician and Customer Relations Specialist as well as a Principle of Spectacle Shoppe. She is a licensed contact lens fitter and dispensing optician and has been working for The Spectacle Shoppe since 2006. She graduated from Douglas College’s two year Dispensing Optician and Contact Lens Fitting Program in 2008. From contact lens fitting to eyeglass repairs and adjustments Morgan is eager to help you with any optical needs. Connect with Morgan Nahanee on Google+