Horn-rimmed glasses are a type of eyeglasses with frames made of horn, tortoise shell, or plastic that simulates either material. The name horn-rimmed glasses refer to their original material, which was horn or shell. These glasses began to be popular in the United States in the 1910s and 1920s, and have been a standard for many decades. Over time, the glasses changed appearance and meaning. Later, they were known as dark, heavy, and plastic framed glasses. An early plastic, celluloid, was dyed and molded to look like an animal horn.
Another characteristic is their lack of nose pads. This differentiates them from other glasses, making the profile of horn-rims appear unique. Sometimes saddle bridges are attached to distribute the weight of the glasses. These are placed on the sides and top of the frame's nose.
Currently, as of 2007, the definition of horn-rimmed glasses has become more flexible. They are commonly referred to as a pair of dark, plastic eyeglasses with frames that range in thickness from about 1/16" to 1/4". The dark colored plastic stands out, giving the appearance of thick frames.
originally made eyeglass wearing popular. In particular, he brought horn-rimmed
glasses to the mainstream — his glasses were plastic. In Europe
, frames were made from tortoise shell and were expensive. However, America made plastic framed glasses because it was less expensive than tortoise shell. Around this time, plastic frames began to be called "shell."
Lloyd donned his plastic horn-rims in 1917 when he starred in the short comedy film, Over the Fence. Oddly enough, the glasses contained no lens because of the reflection of the studio lights that would have resulted had glass been present. The purpose of the glasses was to differentiate Lloyd from the character he portrayed in the film. He could then go out in public without glasses and was unrecognizable. At this time, the horn-rimmed style was fresh. They were large enough to be dramatic without being over the top.
Lloyd wore glasses whenever he acted. He stated that "They make low-comedy clothes unnecessary, permit enough romantic appeal to catch the feminine eye, usually diverted from comedies, and they hold me down to no particular type or range of story. Lloyd's seventy-five cent pair of horn-rimmed glasses lasted him eighteen months. He patched them with common adhesives such as glue and chewing gum until he had to replace them. The look could have been the catalyst for society's image of a stereotypical "nerd", who wears thick, black-framed glasses held together with tape. Lloyd influenced young Americans to become consumers of these glasses.
The glasses continued to be popular through the 1930s, and enjoyed a renaissance in the 1950s when musician Buddy Holly wore a series of large, bulky square pairs on tour and on his album covers. This style-- dominantly in black, although also availible in varying shades of tortoiseshell-- remained popular from the late 1950s until the 1970s, when large, steel aviator frames became popular. Round horn-rimmed glasses came back into fashion in the 1980s, with tortoiseshell being fashionable amongst yuppies and a white variant being popular amongst New Wave musicians and New Wave fans.
Horn-rimmed glasses fell back out of fashion in the mid 1990s, but returned to popularity at the end of the decade and have remained fashionable since. Modern horn-rimmed glasses have tended to be thinner than in previous decades and are smaller vertically.
Some trend followers wear the glasses without prescriptive lenses, purely as a fashion statement. The glasses are often associated in mainstream culture with being "nerdy", but are popular in emo, punk, indie, hipster, goth, and generally counter-culture fashion. Hot Topic, a popular clothing chain which markets to various counter-cultures and alternative lifestyles, sells the frames without prescriptive lenses.
The glasses have also become part of geek culture and in some circles are an extension of the term ("geek glasses"), as the term "geek" is, in today's culture, now more of a compliment denoting extraordinary skill or knowledge in a certain area (books, music, movies).
Celebrities and Popular Culture
Many celebrities through the decades have been seen wearing horn-rimmed glasses. Many characters in popular culture have also worn them. The following is a time line of notable appearances:1910s/1920s/1930s/1940s
- Harold Lloyd wore them in all of his movies, from 1917s Over the Fence to 1947s The Sin of Harold Diddlebock.1950s
- Fidel Castro, former President of Cuba wore thick horn-rimmed glasses before and after the Cuban Revolution.
- Buddy Holly, a popular singer and songwriter of rock and roll music, was known for his thick horn-rimmed glasses.
- Eric Morecambe, English comedian, was famous for his horn-rimmed glasses, which he often used as a comedy prop.
- George Reeves' character Clark Kent in the original TV series Adventures of Superman wore horn-rims to conceal his Superman identity. Most later actors who played the role of Superman did the same afterwards.
- Urho Kekkonen, president of Finland.
- Roy Orbison, popular musician, wore a pair of lightly tinted horn-rimmed glasses; although often believed to be sunglasses (a belief often accompanied by the mistaken assertion that Orbison was legally blind), they were in fact prescription eyeglasses
- Bill Cullen, American TV game show host and panelist.
- Tizzy was a one-panel comic by Kate Osann. Tizzy, the title character, was a teen-aged American girl who wore horn-rimmed glasses with triangular lenses. Tizzy cartoons first appeared in Collier's magazine, and were syndicated by NEA after Collier's folded. The cartoons were in color in Collier's, but black and white in syndication. In the color cartoons, Tizzy's hair was red (rendered as black when these cartoons were reprinted in the first Tizzy paperback book), and the temples of her glasses were clearly visible. In the black and white syndicated cartoons, her hair was blonde, and the temples were seen very rarely. Instead, the black frame around the triangular lenses seemed to be floating in front of her eyes, or resting on her nose alone.
- Actress Lee Remick wore horn-rimmed glasses in her role as Laura Manion during the courtroom scenes of the Otto Preminger movie Anatomy of a Murder(1959).
- After buying contact lenses, American Senator Barry Goldwater continued wearing horn-rimmed eyeglasses without lenses because the public could not recognize him without the glasses.
- Michael Caine wore horn-rims by Oliver Goldsmith, both off and on-screen in such 1960s film classics as The Ipcress File and Funeral in Berlin.
- The Beatles' Paul McCartney and John Lennon were spotted wearing horn-rims on and off during the 1960s.
- Greek superstar chanteuse Nana Mouskouri - still performing and recording and still wearing horn-rimmed specs.
- Film director, writer, and actor Woody Allen.
- Tim Horton of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
- Bill Bixby, actor/director.
- Actress Nancy Kulp wore horn-rimmed glasses in her role as Miss Jane Hathaway in The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971).1970s
- Elvis Costello, a British musician, singer, and songwriter of the "pub rock" genre, was later known for punk rock and new wave music.
- Ronnie Corbett, of The Two Ronnies wore horn-rimmed glasses throughout the 1970s.
- Salvador Allende, Chilean president. His horn-rimmed glasses were a trademark of his.
- Actress Jan Smithers wore horn-rimmed glasses in her role as Bailey Quarters in WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-1982).
- Bill Gates wore the trend on the cover of the April 16, 1984 issue of Time magazine.
- Corey Feldman's character Teddy Duchamp in the 1986 film Stand by Me.
- Dana Carvey's character The Church Lady.
- Actress Veronica Hamel sometimes wore horn-rimmed reading glasses in her role as Joyce Davenport in Hill Street Blues (1981-1987).
- Actress Diane Keaton wore horn-rimmed glasses in her role as J.C. Wiatt in the movie Baby Boom (1987).
- Charlie Sheen's character Rick "The Wild Thing" Vaughn in the 1989 film Major League
- Comedian Greg Proops wore horn-rimmed glasses in his appearances on Whose Line Is It Anyway, continuing through the '90s. He frequently mentions the resemblance they give him to Buddy Holly.1990s
- Cartoonist Gary Larson illustrates characters wearing horn-rims in the San Francisco Chronicle comic strip "The Far Side".
- Comedian Drew Carey of The Drew Carey Show continues to wear horn-rims after having corrective laser eye surgery.
- Patrick Bateman, a main character and narrator of the Bret Easton Ellis novel American Psycho, wore them. Oliver Peoples is the brand that is referenced.
- In the 1990s, many types of 1960s fashion trends reemerged, including bellbottom pants, brightly colored clothing, and platform shoes. With this, Mike Myers played Austin Powers in the Austin Powers series of films, wearing another popular 60s trend, the horn-rims. Michael Caine made an appearance in the third film, Goldmember wearing his iconic horn-rims and playing Austin's father Nigel Powers.
- Percy Weasley and various other characters in the fictional novel series Harry Potter are depicted as wearing horn-rimmed glasses.
- Rivers Cuomo, front man of the rock band Weezer, is identified by his horn-rims.
- Graham Coxon from the British band Blur could always be seen wearing horn-rimmed glasses from the band's start in 1990 to the present.
- Singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb prominently wears horn-rimmed glasses at all times, including record covers, live concerts, and her music videos.
- Jose Pasillas, Drummer of Alternative metal Band Incubus was known for wearing Horn-rims during the S.C.I.E.N.C.E. and Make Yourself era of the band and can be seen wearing them in photoshoots and Live performances.
- Omar Rodriguez Lopez, Guitarist of Progressive rock band The Mars Volta and Formerly of Post-hardcore band At The Drive In has known for his horn rimmed glasses worn during the At The Drive in and Early Mars Volta Years.
- Actress Julia Sawalha wore horn-rimmed glasses in her role as Saffron Monsoon in Absolutely Fabulous (1992).
- Chris Collingwood, lead singer of Fountains of Wayne used to wear horn-rimmed glasses before Stacy's Mom was released, and began to wear them again shortly afterwards.2000s
- Anne Hathaway's character Mia in the movie The Princess Diaries wore them before her makeover.
- Tina Fey, who was a writer on Saturday Night Live, is now on the show 30 Rock.
- Actor Paul Marcarelli, the "Test Man" for Verizon Wireless commercials, is famous for the phrase, "Can you hear me now? Good."
- Tim Armstrong of punk band Rancid is seen wearing horn-rimmed glasses in the music video "Let me go".
- Jack Coleman's character Noah Bennet on the show Heroes is often referred to as "the man with the horn-rimmed glasses", but actually wears browline glasses.
- Adam Savage, of the Discovery Channel TV show MythBusters, wears horn-rimmed glasses. He can be seen in one episode using a piece of gum and a stick to retrieve one of the temples that fell off into a hole.
- Joe Maddon, manager of Major League Baseball's Tampa Bay Rays.
- George Pettit, one of the three vocalists in the Canadian hardcore band "Alexisonfire", wears horn-rimmed glasses whenever he's not on stage performing.
- Johnny Depp is often seen with black horn-rimmed glasses. He is seen when his character in Secret Window wears them, but he also wears them in real life.
- Constantine Maroulis wears black horn-rimmed glasses while appearing in the fifth season of American Idol, one year after the season he participated when he did not wear glasses. Later, he is seen wearing the same glasses.
- Katharine McPhee wears black horn-rimmed reading glasses in some of her video blogs.
- America Ferrera's character in the television series Ugly Betty, Betty Suarez, wears red horn-rimmed glasses.
- Stephen Merchant wears black horn-rimmed glasses. He admits that if he were ever in a fight, the other person need only remove his glasses to win.
- Johnny Knoxville of Jackass has appeared in several skits wearing horn-rimmed glasses.
- The Tenth Doctor from Doctor Who, portrayed by David Tennant, often wears tortoise shell reading glasses.
- Alexandra Cabot, Stephanie March's character in the television series "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and its short lived spin-off "Conviction", wears horn-rimmed glasses, although she is seen without them in various scenes taking place within the SVU precinct.
- Mikey Way, the bassist of the band My Chemical Romance, used to wear horn-rimmed glasses, but got LASIK surgery and no longer needs them.
- Matthew Caws, the leader of the band Nada Surf.
- Paul Banks, the lead singer of Interpol, can be seen wearing horn-rimmed glasses in several interviews, live performances and in the C'mere video using a pair of Cazal's.
- Actress Mary McDonnell wears horn-rimmed glasses in her role as President Laura Roslin in Battlestar Galactica (reimagining) (2003- ).
- Actress Dianne Wiest wore horn-rimmed glasses in her role as New York County District Attorney Nora Lewin in Law & Order (2000-2002).
- Actress Kyra Sedgwick wears horn-rimmed reading glasses in her role as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson in The Closer.
- Taryn Southern wears horn-rimmed galsses in part of her youtube video hott4hill.
- Actress Laura San Giacomo wears horn-rimmed glasses in her role as Rhetta Rodriguez in Saving Grace (TV series).
- Matthew Wilson's character Harry in Cyberchase is depicted as a nerd and wears black horn-rimmed glasses.
- Anthony Kiedis has been seen wearing horn-rimmed glasses.
- Miss Prunelly, the "schoolmarm" in the comic strip Snuffy Smith, wears horn-rimmed glasses.