1950s Glasses – Original 50s Glasses and Retro Eyeware for Sale

At Eyeglasses Warehouse, retro glasses from the 1950s are one of our most in demand styles. From rock and roll to civil rights fighters, glasses from this era are pieces of Americana that can complement one-of-a-kind vintage styles or accessorize a costume. Our glasses are real 1950s eyeglasses, reclaimed and restored by our team. They are able to be replaced with prescription lenses or tinted lenses for a vintage pair of glasses unique to you. See our entire selection of retro glasses below, browse our website for other styles, or bookmark this page to see vintage 50s eyeglasses as they arrive.

About Our 1950s Glasses

The 1950s was a time of shifting fashions for both men and women. With WWII firmly in the past, as well as the design stagnation caused by the Great Depression now long since over, styles were changing. Eyeglasses and sunglasses became an accessory rather than a utilitarian item people dreaded wearing, and the shape and designs of these 50s glasses themselves changed dramatically in this era.

In addition to changing tastes, changing materials also made the new looks of 1950s glasses possible. Plastics created during wartime were now available to manufacturers of consumer products. Suddenly, there was an opportunity to create glasses frames in bright colors and unique shapes that were inexpensive to produce. They were also more comfortable to wear than glasses of the past since plastic is lightweight, temples curved gently around the ear, and comfortable nose pads were now standard.

The result was that new glasses styles like browline glasses and wayfarer glasses emerged in the 1950s while older styles like cat eye glasses and horn rimmed glasses saw a reemergence to become dominant styles of the decade with a classic look that still provides a sense of nostalgia today.

1950s Cat Eye Glasses

The cat eye style was introduced in the 1930s, but reached the height of women’s fashion only in the 1950s. Altina Schinasi, the woman who first designed cat eye glasses, was looking to create a stylish option for women’s eyeglasses to replace the more functional, but less flattering, options of the past decades. The result was cat eye glasses with oversized lenses and frames, sweeping curves, and plenty of color and decoration.

By the 1950s, cat eye glasses had become all that Altina Schinasi wanted. The shape had narrowed slightly to more rectangular lenses with a dramatic upsweep on the outside frame to a sharp corner. The lenses remained prominent, especially at the top corners where there was plenty of space for decorations.

The new plastics led to brightly colored cat eye glasses in reds, blues, greens, purples, golds, and more.  Many of the embellishments for the corners of the frames were also crafted from plastic, letting women stylize their glasses with:

  • Pearls
  • Rhinestones
  • Flowers
  • Stars

Certain glasses manufacturers even created cat eye glasses frames that could be changed out by selling each pair several different frame front and bridge pieces, all in different colors and embellishments. The wearer could then snap the different frames onto the lenses and change their look in an instant.

New design capabilities and a trend towards more vibrant styles for women after the end of WWII meant that bold and colorful cat eye glasses fit in with the 1950s look. They were popular with women of many ages, and became more so after Marilyn Monroe began to wear them in her movies during the decade.

Although the cat eye style would persist over the next decades, its shape changed drastically. None of the later variations of cat eye glasses would have the same retro look as those from the 1950s, or stand out quite as much as these vintage glasses did.

Horn Rimmed Glasses

Horn rimmed glasses use a thick frame that encircles the entire lens and is clearly visible, unlike many metal frame glasses that attempt to make the frames as thin and subtle as possible. These bolder frames had been popular during the Jazz Age, and now made a comeback as their stand out appearance was in line with fashion ideals of the 1950s.

When they had first been popular, optical manufacturers made horn rimmed glasses from tortoise shells or animal horns, hence the name. Now in the 1950s, these glasses were more often made from plastic, which contributed to them becoming the standard eyewear for men and many women. Colored plastics for horn rimmed glasses included:

  • Black
  • Brown
  • Gold
  • Silver

Plastic horn rimmed glasses could also be tortoise shelled to imitate the earlier styles when these glasses were made from actual shells. Imitation wood grain was another style option, although its rarity in the 1950s makes it more difficult to find today.

Horn rimmed glasses in the 1950s were often rectangular or square in shape with rounded corners. On some styles, the top outer corners would be sharply squared.

Men of all demographics wore horn rimmed glasses most in the 50s, but it was the rock and roll culture that emerged in the 1950s that was most associated with this style in later decades. Horn rimmed glasses became iconic with musicians like Buddy Holly. Today, horn rimmed glasses are ideal for everything from rockabilly looks to a vintage, masculine style.

1950s Browline Glasses

Besides horn rimmed glasses, browline glasses were the other glasses style for men in the 1950s. They were first introduced in 1947 by the company Shuron and became the leading style in the next decade. In fact, browline glasses made up half of all the glasses manufactured during the 1950s.

The browline style used the heavy frames of horn-rimmed glasses for the top piece. The sides and the bottom of the frames were thin metal wire and appeared almost invisible. With the thick top resting above the eyebrow, these glasses either looked like sharp brows or drew attention to the wearer’s natural browline.

The design of browline glasses resulted in the nickname “combination glasses.” Other names for them included G-man glasses or Clubmaster glasses after Ray-Ban introduced the Clubmaster series in the 1960s.

Shuron Ronsirs, the original producers, continued to manufacture browline glasses throughout the 1950s while other companies followed suit. Some of the most well known include:

  • American Optical
  • Bausch and Lomb
  • Art-Craft Optical
  • Victory Optical

The brow piece saw the most change throughout the decade while the rest of the glasses’ design stayed relatively the same. Some manufacturers offered lighter aluminium frames in place of plastic. Art-Craft Optical changed the shape of the frames to fit better on women’s faces so they could market to both men and women.

Black was the most common color for the plastic parts with gold or silver colored frames, but this was not the only option. A wood grain look became popular for a few years, and Malcolm X was well known for wearing browline glasses in a variety of colors. Other wearers of browline glasses included everyone from Lyndon B. Johnson to Colonel Sanders.

Browline glasses were declining in popularity by the 1960s and had gone out of style completely by the 1970s. Their brief decade of being at the forefront of fashion makes browline glasses one of the iconic styles of the 1950s.

Ray-Ban Wayfarers

Wayfarers were a specific type of horn rimmed glasses introduced in 1952 by glasses manufacturer Bausch and Lomb, which branded their glasses as Ray-Ban. Wayfarers used the same thick frames as horn rimmed glasses, and extended the top corner of the frames with a trapezoidal shape with a metal rivet where the temples connect to the frame.

The original 1952 frames were available in black and were popular for men. Bausch and Lomb had been known for the glasses designs for the military during the war, and carried that reputation with them for the new wayfarers. However, many men wore Ray-Ban Wayfarers and the other brands that copied the style.

The Ray-Ban Wayfarer shape remains in production and even experienced a resurgence in the 2010s, but the original 1950s Wayfarer represents a piece of quality and history that adds to any personal style.

Sunglasses in the 1950s

As eyeglasses became more of an accessory in the 1950s, so did sunglasses. They were far from the medical piece of earlier in the century and were now a fashion statement. All of the same frames used in prescription eyeglasses were also used for sunglasses during the decade.

Cat eye glasses were popular as sunglasses for women when they used tinted lenses. For men, Wayfarer sunglasses were popular, particularly after James Dean wore a pair in Rebel Without a Cause. Browline sunglasses were another option primarily for men at the time, but like most vintage eyeglass styles, many of the “for men” glasses of the era are very popular with women today as well.

Both men and women wore horn-rimmed sunglasses. Like eyeglasses, 1950s sunglasses for men tended to come in dark browns, blacks, silver, or gold while women’s sunglasses used bright colors. Grey and green lenses were the most common tints for sunglasses in the 1950s, although ambers and pinks were used on occasion as well.

Why Choose Eyeglasses Warehouse for Vintage 1950s Glasses?

1950s glasses are modern enough to fit into today’s styles but have a classic look that evokes a nostalgia for times past. And while many glasses companies are producing glasses and sunglasses in 1950s styles, few capture the true essence of the time.

That is why at Eyeglasses Warehouse, we reclaim authentic vintage glasses and restore them. Our 1950s glasses frames can then be fitted with your prescription lenses or tinted lenses for a pair of retro sunglasses. You may also choose to wear your vintage glasses with clear lenses for a unique accessory in your daily look or as part of a costume.

Each of the glasses we sell is restored with care to keep the original materials intact and protect delicate pieces. We are also constantly updating our selection of antique 1950s glasses as we find new pairs and recommend you check back frequently to find the perfect vintage glasses for your look.