Eye glasses have been helping us see since the 13th century with an interesting history beginning in Italy.
The First Glasses
Although it is not known who actually invented the first pair of glasses, it is believed glasses were invented in the mid to late 13th century. Glasses at that time were more like magnifying glasses, held in front of the face although some were perched and balanced on the nose. It was only scholars and monks who wore them at that early stage. It was the invention of the printing press in the mid-15th century that made glasses more popular as books became more widely available. This lead to the mass production of books and the introduction of affordable eye wear.
It wasn’t until the 1700’s that the glasses we recognize today were designed. The addition of hinged arms designed by James Ayscough made it easier to keep glasses in place and introduced a new line of glasses that were easy to wear and more fashionable. Bifocals were then invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1784 drastically improving people’s vision.
In the 1800’s glasses became associated with the aged and infirm. This made it an unattractive prospect to wear glasses especially for young ladies. This made the lorgnette a popular choice for women who could pull out the hand held glasses and use them only when necessary.
The Fashionable 1900’s
In the early 20th century the pince-nez were the glasses of fashion even though they had been introduced in the mid 1800’s. Their name was based on the way they were worn – pinching the bridge of the nose. They were designed in France and made their way to North American in the 1850’s.
In the 20th century wearing glasses became more acceptable and logical. More and more styles of affordable eye wear became available and in the 20’s actor Harold Lloyd was known for his trademark round tortoise shell glasses.
1930’s Sunglasses and Plastics
Sunglasses were introduced by manufacturer Foster Grant in the 1930’s. They were also worn by aviators in World War II. Sunglasses were marketed as a fashionable and practical item to protect from glare while looking good. Advancements in plastics also added to the fashionable element of glass frames.
Since the 50’s affordable eye wear has continued to see advancements in style and technology leading to the glasses we wear today.