Although designer styles like the pince-nez glasses saw popularity in the Victorian era, the 1950s was one of the first decades in which eyeglasses transcended their purely functional use to become a fashion accessory. Innovative shapes, bright colors, glitter and jewels, and bold looks were the new standard for eyeglass frames. Women now had a range of options to match their outfits, but men were not limited either.
There were many reasons glasses became the fashion standard they did in the 1950s. New plastic materials meant designers could leave behind the plain silver or gold frames of the past. Film and television were on the rise, depicting both celebrities and fictional characters in stylish glasses that designers rushed to produce and viewers quickly embraced.
1950s Eyeglass Frame Styles
The 1950s had a range of popular glasses styles. Some, like cat eye and horn rimmed glasses built on popularity from earlier decades, but reached a peak in the 1950s. The main eyeglass frame types from this period are:
- Cat Eye Glasses – These frames are rounded at the bottoms and sweep up at the corners. During the 1950s, the frames were narrow and at their most pointed. Colorful plastics, glitter, pearl inlays, and carved flowers became more popular as the decade progressed. Marilyn Monroe made cat eye glasses one of the most in demand women’s eyeglass styles after her characters wore them in movies.
- Horn Rimmed Glasses – Originally made out of animal horn, horn rimmed glasses experienced a resurgence in the 1950s with plastic frames. Horn rimmed glasses have frames that encircle the lens and are thicker than wire frames. They were primarily men’s glasses in the 1950s so black, brown, and tortoiseshell were the most common colors.
- Browline Glasses – Another men’s style, browline glasses have a top portion made of plastic. The remainder of the frames uses thin wire. The plastic tops imitate brows or draw attention to the browline. Men’s browline glasses usually had black or brown plastic and silver or gold wires, although Malcolm X was known for wearing browline glasses in many colors. Browline glasses could also be made for women in the cat eye style.
- Wayfarers – Ray-Ban released their first pair of Wayfarers in 1952, which were soon popularized in 1955 when James Dean wore them in Rebel Without a Cause. The original Wayfarer glasses had thick plastic frames and smaller lenses for a masculine look.
Throughout the following decades, 1950s glasses have gone in and out of popularity. Horn rimmed glasses have endured as a favorite style for eyeglasses while others have come back into the mainstream for their retro appeal.
While many glasses manufacturers have introduced modern frames that mimic the 1950s look, few can capture the vintage appeal of the original 1950s glasses. If you are looking for authentic cat eye glasses, browline glasses, or horn rimmed glasses, check out our inventory here on our website.