Ever since Benjamin Franklin invented the bifocals in 1779, eyewear has been an important part of people’s lives.
While once stigmatized for being unfashionable and perhaps unattractive to some, glasses have become an increasingly important and integral accessory in many people’s wardrobes. This has been at least partially due to the popularization of certain frame and lens styles that are characteristic of certain celebrities.
Here are some of the top celebrities and public figures that have popularized glasses through the years:
This historical figure invented bifocals, and no discussion of glasses would be complete without America’s most renowned renaissance man. Benjamin Franklin is known for his thin, O-shaped frames and bifocal lenses that he wore low on the brim of his nose.
Franklin’s design paved the way for many subsequent and more fashionable adaptations throughout history, and the class O frame remains a staple in contemporary eyewear. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman both wore similar styles of frames as well.
While Benjamin Franklin may have invented the bifocal, Coco Chanel invented the idea that glasses were fashionable accessories. Chanel was primarily known for her dresswear, perfumes, and bags, but her own need for corrective lenses led to her developing frames that were expressive and matched her smart and elegant sense of style.
Her black, cat-framed lenses, from which she drew inspiration from the designer of the style Altina Schinasi, became a signature look of Chanel’s later in her career.
The eccentric pop artist who was known for his commentary on American commercialization wore corrective eyewear on most occasions. Warhol possessed an art deco style that was characterized by a clean and crisp look that was absent of superfluity and excess, and his eyewear matched that style.
He wore different styles throughout his career, but they each typically contained clear frames with slightly tinted lenses. Warhol combined fashion with functionality, and his appearance matched his art.
John Lennon was another member of the oval frame family. In the latter half of his career, he was seldom seen in public without his classic thin, oval lenses. His lenses varied from clear to tinted, but he rarely strayed from his preferred oval frames, which complemented his smaller eyes and thin face.
John Lennon has certainly played a role in helping keep the oval frames in fashion throughout history, as they remain a staple in eyewear choices today.
Perhaps no other celebrity throughout history has utilized his need for corrective lenses as a springboard for a fashion statement quite like Elton John. When John burst onto the scene in the early 1960s, he brought with him a large and flamboyant style that was characterized by bold and in-your-face fashion statements. His colorful and loud style reflected his personality, and it was equally evident in his music.
The Rocket Man wore a wide range of different styles of frames during his performances, but his corrective eyewear typically consisted of larger, more angular frames that were slightly tinted to protect from light and sun exposure. This is a common preference for celebrities who are continually exposed to cameras and spotlights.
Arguably the greatest actress of her generation and certainly one of the best of all-time, three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep has worn corrective lenses since she was young. Streep has boldly opted for her glasses in favor of contacts at numerous awards appearances, providing inspiration to those who still don’t think glasses are cool.
Streep has varied the style that she wears, but she typically wears a larger, oval lens with a thin frame, providing her with a sophisticated appearance that reflects her underlying intelligence and complexity. Meryl Streep wears her glasses so elegantly that it is easy to forget she even has them on at times.
Spike Lee is another celebrity who is hard to imagine without his glasses. The diminutive director from Brooklyn with the big personality and provocatively themed films typically wears a wide range of styles. On any given New York Knicks game, you may see him wearing one of several different lens, frame, color, and size combinations.
He tends to primarily prefer a more oval-shaped and medium-sized frame that matches the size and shape of his face, but he is also known to vary widely from this and don anything from a purple O-shaped frame to a classic, thick, black, rectangular frame like the ones Malcom X was known for. It is difficult to imagine Spike Lee without a pair of glasses.
Zoe Saldana is one of the more contemporary celebrities who proudly brandishes their glasses wherever they go. Throughout her career, Saldana has been known for bucking trends and redefining what is and what can be fashionable.
Also varying her style from time to time, Saldana tends to fall back on her sleek and understated cat-eye frames. Zoe’s glasses add to her overall look of smart sophistication in most cases.
Though Rihanna has taken a break from her music career to focus on her multiple business ventures over the past several years, she remains one of the most unquestionably significant influencers in American culture today. Rihanna’s fashion style is as unpredictable and expressive as her music, and she tends to use a wide range of different combinations of makeup, contacts, and dress.
She does rely on corrective lenses. When she wears glasses in public, her characteristic look is a large, black, chic, cat-eye frame. Many women and men alike — both in the general public and in the entertainment industry — have sought to mimic Rhianna’s ultimately unmatchable style and fashion statements, including her use of eyewear.
Finding Your Style
If there’s a particular celebrity whose style you admire, identify the types of frames they wear. You can also look for celebrities who have a similar face shape and coloring to you, and try the eyeglass frames they tend to wear.
Since these celebrities often work with stylists, you can find them wearing the frame styles and colors that best complement their facial structure and features. You can replicate that once you identify celebrities with whom you share similarities.
Don’t be afraid to step outside the box and try frames that are outside your comfort zone. You may find your favorite glasses this way.
I’m Looking Through You: John Lennon’s Spectacles. (May 2019). The Beatles Story.
The Invention and Manufacture of Bifocals. (November–December 1990). Survey of Ophthalmology.
Meryl Streep’s One Weird Trick. (2022). The New York Times.
Mukta: Celebrating the Beauty of Pearls and the Bygone Era. (October 2021). The Business Standard.
Last Updated November 1, 2022
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