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Glasses Fashion through the Decades

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Throughout each decade many styles and trends shifted in all areas of fashion, including eyewear. Let’s uncover which ones were the most popular within each decade, beginning with the 1920’s, the decade where the first pair of eyeglasses with a nosepiece was released!


Yes, you read correctly! Before the roaring 20’s, eye glasses did not have a nose piece or nose pad! Though the pre 1920’s eyeglass fashion held up by saddle bridges on the nose did not go away throughout the 20’s, the ones that we see as common today gained popularity and had influence on the evolution of eyeglass fashion! Octagon shaped glasses made their introduction in the earlier decades of the century. Saddle bridge glasses are an example of eyeglass fashion that remained in popularity across decades. These were a sought out style through sometime in the 50’s!


You would be correct to imagine that as we roll into each decade, previous decades will have influence over the evolving styles! In the earlier 30’s, shell glass and white and gold filled glasses which were popular in the 20’s were still well sought out! In older male fashion you would still see styles such as bifocals, rimless frames and monocles. Some women donned these fashions as well, however, this was generally of the higher class trends! The styles of the 30’s did have a higher bridge than in the 20’s while the frames were constructed in a thinner metal design with pearl nose pads. As the decade progressed, octagon shaped glasses became very popular, not a style we see as often these days! Oxford glasses also were introduced into fashion. Like the monocle, these attached with a chain, however with two lenses that held on by pinching on the nose. Wouldn’t you love to see these amazing trends make their way back into modern day fashion?


Styles such as the shell frame glasses found their way into the 40’s trends and this is when the timeless beloved cat’s eye frame was introduced into fashion! Most frames were unisex styles with trends changing after WWII (enter the cat eye frame in female fashion!). White gold thin frames still remained a coveted style with a greater variety of shapes than what we saw in the 30’s, when round was the most popular shape. It wasn’t until the last half of the decade that newer styles began to be presented, with designs reaching their pique development in the early 50’s, when the frames created in the late 40’s really began to take storm!


With styles from the late 40’s gaining momentum in the 50’s, we began to see plastic black or tortoise-shell frames, like the ones worn by Buddy Holly, in the Ray Ban Wayfarer style. Cat eye glasses for the ladies began to be offered in an array of colors and embellishments, such as rhinestones and these were the most popular style! With eyeglasses and sunglasses turning into a trend, people wore them whether needed or not. Lenses were offered in a variety of unsual shapes such as heart and triangles; something we still find for holidays and novelties, but no longer a typical part of everyday fashion. This is also the decade where horn rimmed “nerd” glasses were introduced and became extremely popular among men!


This is the decade that two major additions were presented in eye fashion! That would be the contact lens and the first line of high profile designer glasses, albeit at the end of the decade in 1969, by Christian Dior. In terms of frames, large hexagonal shaped frames and lenses were popular, while shapes and sizes were offered in a wider range. During this decade you would find people wearing either very small rectangular shaped frames, which we still see today, or large frames in either a round shape or the hexagonal shape previously mentioned. Simple solid colored frames were the preferred go to during these times and the decade’s signature look could be described as retro fad, with granny style glasses likely being the most memorable trend of the 60’s!


Dior opened the door of which other high fashion designers entered. Designers such as Halston, Diane Von Furstenberg and Yves Saint Laurent began contributing to eye glass fashion and the looks became more flamboyant. Bolder styles were popular and it was common to see shiny gold accents and embellishments, curved and wavy temples, pastels and gradient or tinted lenses that came in colors to coordinate with eye make-up. Oversized glasses were all the rage and the styles complimented the era of the Disco Dance life! Tortoise shell print frames still remained a fashion, however, faux, unlike the genuine shell used in previous decades.


The decade is which the visible designer logo became popular…and never left! Yes, the 80s are responsible for this style that we still see today across all fashion accessories! Though we still saw some looks from the 40’s and 50’s trending, this decade introduced bolder looks than it’s predecessors by introducing bold colors! The 80’s styles were brighter, edgier and bigger! These looks simmered down as the decade began to wane, and more sleek looks began to be introduced in addition to a reevaluation of the materials used in the construction of performance and sports eye glasses. Titanium lenses were found to provide a stronger and lighter frame for the more active. The 80’s heading into the 90’s saw designers such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Giorgio Armani contributing to the aforementioned sleek looks that have become classics that never go out of style due to their cleaner and more refined appearance.


Aside from the sleek looks the latter part of the 80’s introduced to fashion in the 90’s, this decade did not lack in creative designs for the avant-garde at heart! The 90’s brought us asymmetrical rims, artsy designs on the arm of the frame and frames with intricate designs that we had never seen before! Many styles from previous decades became part of a fashion rotation or inspiration and we still saw many people wearing thick bold frames, shell print and solid colored frames while still donning other styles such as the round or rectangular thin metal framed glasses. Ray Ban brand remained popular, as did the round lensed reflective mirrored look in sunglasses.

In the following decades, which leads us to current day, many eye glass frames and styles are recycled versions of the past with new colors and patterns. Creative evolvement is more usual over evolvement of structure or construction. While we may not see styles such as the monocle used in fashion aside from cosplay, the 1900’s was truly the era of eyeglass development. Some styles have trended more than others over the past 20 year and each season we are presented with new options in colors and styles such as glitter frames, ombre and gradient colored frames like we have seen in 2021. Slight changes have been made to shapes of lenses and there is always something new to see, however, styles worn have become more of an individual preference over trend with most retailers offering a large variety of styles and colors to their customers!