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The world of fashion has a long and interesting past, but beyond just pants and jackets, accessories too have a lineage that’s worth exploring. When fashion and function collide, that’s where reading glasses fall into the mix, with a background that’s far more interesting than anyone ever thought possible. When it comes to frame styles, stylish reading glasses went through their own sets of trends just like any other clothing item, and if you wear a pair today, there is an immense amount of famous figures to thank for the evolution of eyewear as we know it. Let’s travel back in time and see just how far unique reading glasses have come!

Way Back When

One look at the world’s first known pair of reading glasses is enough to make anyone give thanks for the modern styles in today’s marketplace. Found in Italy in the late 1200s, a set of magnifying glasses were riveted together and needed to be held in front of one’s face to use them. Heavy to hold and rudimentary in design, only important and wealthy people used them this long ago. Once printing technology became more widespread and more and more people had the desire to read, eyewear became far easier to come by.

Still, only those who were wealthy donned these funky reading glasses and it served as a way to distinguish themselves from those who were of a lower socioeconomic status. Reading glasses became smaller and lighter, and each pair found was quite elegant and sophisticated compared to the early styles we know about. The idea to use temples, thus freeing one’s hands from holding the eyewear, still hadn’t come about yet, but people incorporated their reading glasses into jewelry and often wore them around their necks.

Giving Thanks To Ben Franklin

Most people picture the famous inventor with a half-frame pair of reading glasses perched upon his nose, but what many don’t realize is that he actually worked to better incorporate eyewear into people’s everyday lives. His claim to fame when it comes to stylish reading glasses was to actually cut two different pairs in half - one for far vision and one for near - and join them together to create the world’s first known pair of bifocals. Although they weren’t nearly as popular then as they are today, Mr. Franklin was one of the earliest recognizable famous figures to help spread the popularity of using glasses for seeing up close.

Delving Into Modern Times

As the idea of wearing glasses became more and more fashionable, people around the world began to look at celebrity eyewear and used it as a way to set trends. Those old enough to remember can think back to the days of Buddy Holly and note that his thick and chunky frames soon became the most popular item to have. Ladies gravitated toward cateye styles as Audrey Hepburn was the era’s style icon from head to toe. As time went on and styles shifted to smaller options, the once large frames that many saw on their favorite celebrities were soon replaced by small, round eyewear. Although it’s unclear whether he used them specifically for reading or not, no one can forget the impact that John Lennon made on the eyewear world. Soon after, it seemed as if everyone on television or in a magazine was wearing glasses whether they needed them or not! While most preferred to stick with the fashion of the decade, people like Elton John opted to push the boundaries of style and wore some of the most memorable eyewear we’ve ever seen.

Fun Reading Glasses And Their Names

It’s not just famous faces that have shaped the stylish reading glasses that we know of today, as historical figures and fashion designers alike have played their own role in the development of eyewear. Frames with a double bar across the bridge, also known as an aviator style, were first made popular after General Douglas MacArthur wore them during World War II. Although his frames were a sunglass version that was popular among military personnel, frame designers carried over this look into many of the stylish reading glasses we see today.

A lot of today’s optical trends feature very square-shaped frames, and while this style has been around for years, some might not know that French creator Pierre Cardin was responsible for several of the first popular frames with this silhouette. Cardin was known for bold and funky designs that spanned across clothing, accessories, and more, and it was thanks to his forward-thinking that so many of today’s reading glasses feature a strong and squared-off silhouette.

Although he may not have manufactured or worn them himself, rumor has it that Marco Polo also had a lot to do with some of the eyewear trends that most people enjoy in the 21st century. During his travels in China, he saw rectangular frames that were vastly different from the shapes he was used to encountering, and it’s a fair bet that he brought back his findings to his home country. Stylish reading glasses today that are rectangular in shape just might have their roots in early Chinese fashion - who would’ve thought!

Selecting Your Own Style

Taking a stroll down memory lane and uncovering some of the histories behind today’s reading glasses certainly offers some perspective when shopping for ourselves. The next time you see a cateye shape, you’ll likely picture Audrey Hepburn, and maybe even a more rounded pair could take your thoughts back to Italy in the 13th century. No matter what you associate with eyewear styles, it’s important to consider what you want to communicate when it comes to your own fun reading glasses. The next time you’re in the market for a new pair, explore the options at Gamma Ray Optix and think about what style you most resonate with. Perhaps you want something more traditional that pays homage to times gone by or you’re intrigued by the latest fashion finds - no matter what you choose, make sure to select something that you feel confident wearing. Discover a huge variety of styles now!