The Washington Post (pre-1997 Fulltext) – Washington, D.C.
Author: Henry Allen
Date: Dec 16, 1991
Start Page: d.01
Text Word Count: 2958
Men’s glasses got sexy in their own right in the ’50s, when intellect, alienation and flaws became sexy in men. The tortured James Dean was seen in glasses. Sunglasses came out at night on hipsters. Buddy Holly wore black plastic rims that said screw you, I wear glasses, I don’t care if you think I’m handsome or not. Those who were young then will recall the teen-homicidal cult figure Charles Starkweather, who wore wire-rimmed glasses way before they were fashionable.
By paring away peripheral vision, small glasses convey earnest intensity. When framed in wire they convey industry and fierce modesty – in the ’60s the wire was a rejection of plastic, the anathema-material. One thinks of granny glasses, John Lennon’s English steel-rimmed health-service glasses, and gold-filled P3-lens 1969 sincerity glasses. They hinted at Depression-era poverty, which the children of the ’60s felt guilty for missing. They suggested willful naivete, that foundation stone of left-wing radicalism. By seeming antique, they seemed “natural,” which was the opposite of “plastic.”
There are: Big-Guy glasses you see in Las Vegas lobbies; aviator glasses with the built-in frown of the brow bar; the Vaclav Havel capitalism-with-a-human-face glasses; the mad-moth spectacles on the late Miles Davis; Old-Gal butterflies with forked temples; Garrison Keillor good-boy glasses; Jackie O widow’s-tears sunglasses. Think of the meaning of big glasses on Sally Jessy Raphael, looking like she’s a little girl playing dress-up on a rainy day, and Sharon Pratt Kelly, looking innocent and wise at the same time. Where would these two women be without their glasses and their middle names?
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