Men in Specs
In the 1950s, early rockers like Buddy Holly gave wearing glasses a cool factor, a sensibility that expanded during the 1960s, when it became hip to be “real” about one’s eyesight. John Lennon squinted through much of his time with the Beatles, until he finally donned a pair of wire-rimmed Windsor glasses. Wire-rimmed glasses became fashion de rigueur for optically-challenged hipsters in the late 1960s and early 1970s. During the same era, Elton John became intrinsically linked with his over-the-top eyewear.
In the mainstream media of the 1950s and 1960s, glasses were still being portrayed as decidedly un-cool, something worn by out-of-fashion intellectuals and nerds. All that Superman needed to do to hide his superhero identity was to throw on a pair of glasses, instantly transforming into “mild mannered” Clark Kent. That association of glasses with intellect and manners, however, helped businessman and politicians embrace the look as part of a professional persona.
In the United States, the image of Senator Barry Goldwater became so connected with his heavy, horn-rimmed glasses that he felt compelled to continue wearing the frames even after he began to wear contact lenses. Goldwater’s black-rimmed glasses may have been iconic, but they certainly were never considered sexy. For the most part, glasses continued to be viewed as something that only those oblivious to fashion would wear. Comedian Drew Carey continued to wear heavy glasses even after he had corrective surgery, so closely-associated were the glasses to his quirky, comedic image.
Yet in late-20th century youth sub-cultures, the geeky look was becoming chic. Many emo, punk and indie culture icons sported glasses, the nerdier the better. Nerdy was becoming not only hip, but sexy. It was not until the television show, Mad Men, however, that eyewear for men as a fashion statement reached full acceptance. The popularity of Mad Men has not only made wearing specs fashionable, it has transformed eyewear into a sexy fashion accessory.