Glasses and Eyewear

Updated: April 17, 2024
Spectacles, glasses, eyewear, bifocals - all of these are ways to correct vision. And today, they also make a fashion statement!

If your vision is poor, you know how important glasses are to your life in these modern times. How would you drive a car if you weren't able to correct your vision? How would you be able to watch tv? But good vision has always been important and the earliest versions of eyewear show this: The first known version of glasses was circa 1290 in Italy. And in early America, Benjamin Franklin is credited as creating the first known bifocals - a boon to aging eyes!

As late as the 1930's, glasses - known then as "spectacles" - were considered medical devices. But they quickly became a fashion accessory as well. While at first the frames were almost clear, blending into the skin so as not to emphasize the need for glasses, by the 1970's they became bigger and the frames became bolder. Remember "cat eye" frames? Of course you do - they're becoming popular again. And, as poor vision and the need for glasses became more socially acceptable - rather than seen as a "disability", even people with good vision sometimes wear frames with clear lenses as fashion accessories. Now, even sunglasses are ubiquitous - allowing people who don't wear corrective lenses to play with frames!

Browse these old photos of people with glasses. You will see how much more noticeable the frames are today - and how frames have changed throughout time.
Share and discover the people and places from your past