1920s and 1930s glasses for both men and women comprised of small round frames made of tortoiseshell or metal. In terms of lenses, the 1920s were the beginning of tinted sunglasses as an accessory of fashion over function. Movie stars sunbathing were the first to promote the new trend, and slowly the public caught on to the convenience of shades with access to color tints ranging from dark grey to amber to even deep green in the 1930s. Today, wearing a 1920s or 30s costume in the sun requires for a pair of vintage round sunglasses.
Shop these new 1920s glasses frames and 1920s sunglasses for women and men to complete your vintage wardrobe. Most of these are also acceptable as 1930s glasses.
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1920s -1930s Glasses, Sunglasses
Men’s 1920s Glasses, Sunglasses
1920s Glasses & Sunglasses History
“For full dress, gold mounted rimless pince-nez are refinement itself and absolutely correct.” Antic Hay, 1923
Glasses in the 1920s continued to favor the round spectacle (with later shapes including octagon and oval) or the pince-nez style — rimless glasses that pinched the bridge of the nose instead of looping over the temple and ears. Pince-nez glasses were usually worn by older men who were used to the style but took off as a popular style. Indeed, 1927 even had President Coolidge replace his old black-rimmed spectacles in favor of the pince-nez with a gold nosepiece and a long black cord handing down one side.
There were guidelines for choosing a pair of glasses based on one’s face and features. Elderly white persons chose wine or gold frames, dark rims were best for large faces, light frames for small faces, low-set glasses for tall people and high-set glasses for short people.
Library frame glasses were rimless round glasses with a metal frame. They were popular in the Victorian Era, and made a reappearance in the early 20s as a subtle style of glasses suitable for those who had to wear them but didn’t want to look silly in the shell styles. Businessmen favored the library frame, as the round lens was large for maximum visibility.
Advances in plastics and tortoiseshell manufacturing increased the use of glasses. They were favored by women and men for daily use reading at home or dressing in sportier clothing. The thicker the frame, the more sporty it looked — thin round frame glasses were seen as more ladylike and less obstructive of vision. Some frames had matching earpieces while other had nickel metal earpieces. “For a semi-evening dress, shell rims with gold earpieces and gold nose-bride. ” Antic Hay, 1923
Xylonite was a synthetic early plastic that formed dark-rimmed glasses in the same styles as the tortoiseshell. Black was the most popular color, with deep shades of brown as an alternative. Comedian Harold Lloyd wore his dark-rimmed glasses as part of his “look.” Xylonite could also be used in thin frame spectacles, which was consequently a cheaper option for the lower classes. These thin frames were mostly round or octagon shaped.
Even a person who did not need to wear glasses unless reading would leave them on all day. Glasses were finally becoming fashionable, although 75 % of people surveyed said they did not look well in them.
Vintage round glasses in heavy tortoiseshell frames with large clear lenses were the signature style of the decade. The bridge rounded over the node with the arms protruding out of the center of the frame. The nose piece could be lined in cork for more comfort.
“A fashionable youth must now have his face carefully, plaster his hair back, leave of his hat, and protect his eyes with two aggressive lenses like automobile lamps- such is a synthetic portrait of the Americanized European.” Le Temps, quote in Literary Digest, June 1925
Metal frame glasses, especially in gold or steel, were an alternative to heavy shell frames. In the late 20s, white gold frames and rimless white gold earpiece eyeglasses were picking up momentum. Solid gold, rolled gold, and gold filled frames were the standard option in metal frames. Perfectly round was the best shape.
Crookes Sunglasses were developed by Sir William Crookes and sold by Bausch and Lomb, with special lenses available in light, medium and dark tints. They caught on quickly as a sporty set of shades for summer days, but were also promoted as winter wearable “to relieve the eyes from the glare of indoor lighting during the dull afternoons and long evenings of the winter season.”
In 1927, Bausch and Lomb enthusiastically concluded “there is hope that in the not too far distant future it may be possible to make glasses stylish and to sell them as jewelry. That is what we have got to come to.”
1920s Vintage Glasses and Sunglasses
1930s Glasses and Sunglasses
By the thirties, metal or gold and shell glasses were still in vogue. Pince-nez, rimless frames, bifocals, and even the monocle were also still being worn by older men, waiters, and some refined women. The Oxford glasses which pinched like the pince-nez but featured a top bar that extended to the center or outside of the frame became a popular variation.
The very round plastic or shell glasses also remained trendy in the early 30s. Rimless glasses in gold metal frames replaced most shell glasses for daytime use by the mid-30s. The perfectly round shape also relaxed into a slightly more oval or rounded octagon octagon appearance – rounded on top or bottom. The half-rim 1930s eyeglass were also increasing in popularity in the later years.
The eyewear trend of the 1930s involved the increasing use of sunglasses by everyone, not just the nearsighted.
New inventions in plastics made sunglasses especially popular in white or clear frames. They were filled with smoked grey, brown and green lenses. White sunglasses with green lenses were seen on many Hollywood stars in the 1930s, and the bridge moved up from the center to the top of the lens as the trend developed.
There was a brief trend for flower petal frame white sunglasses with stars as well. These were a cheap novelty item sold at beaches on the West Coast.
Rimless sunglasses in the aviator style became hugely popular in the mid to late 30s. This new aviator shape had a deep bottom gap around the nose and a wide top. The top frame would be filled in by clear plastic or held with a thin metal bridge over the nose piece.