The History of Shapes

By now you’ll know that the History of Eyewear goes back a long way, although it’s not necessarily very rich in artistic and aesthetic twists and turns… but from the mid-twentieth century, it’s a whole different ball game! Let’s revisit the legendary models of the last century together, those brought back to life by specialized restorers.

Most likely you already know everything there is to know about the different shapes: from the Panto models, through butterfly glasses and oversized frames, to aviator glasses, so now rediscover the iconic eyewear models with us and refine your vintage style!

The 1930s: Aviator glasses take off

If you saw a pilot in a film with a pair of rectangular glasses on their nose, you’d probably think something was wrong… and you’d be right! These famous glasses were originally designed to keep the sun out of pilots’ eyes. In the early 1930s, the US Air Force commissioned the New York optician Bausch & Lomb to design a pair of glasses that pilots could don and doff without having to take off their helmets or oxygen masks. Often characterized by a metallic double bridge, aviators have flat lenses at the nose, which give the face a strong, aerodynamic look.

That’s how aviator glasses came to be. When the US soldiers arrived as heroes at the end of the Second World War, there is no doubt that the mysterious, masculine frames dazzled the Europeans who they’d just saved. Marketed to the general public as soon as the war was over, aviator glasses were a huge success and spread like wildfire. The glasses are still popular today, and are worn by both men and women as sunglasses and optical glasses. It’s a staple design that will add the perfect touch of tradition to your vintage look.

Aviator glasses for men by the creator TAVAT© TAVAT – EDGE I frame

The 1940s: Fantastic Pantos

Clean lines, simple curves, and protruding hinges make Panto glasses a classic style among spectacles. Put simply, they are round or oval in shape and flattened on top. Nothing extravagant, and yet Panto eyewear has a special something, a deep vintage. The models were very widespread in artistic and enlightened circles in the 1940s. These glasses are made of plastic, and epitomized the creativity that the invention of this new material represented. Back then, to wear a pair of Panto glasses was to look to a future of new cultural horizons. To wear them today is to honor a time rich in ideals and take up the mantle of a culture of awareness and self-confidence. Fans of retro will find all the joy of an intelligent, simple, and vintage style in the Panto shape!

  • Golden Pantos style model by Gouv/AuGolden Pantos style model by Gouv/Au
  • Black and yellow frame by SilhouetteBlack and yellow frame by Silhouette
  • Pantos style 40's Lemtosh model by Moscot eyewear Pantos style 40's Lemtosh model by Moscot eyewear
  • Lemtosh vintage frame by the American brand MoscotLemtosh vintage frame by the American brand Moscot

The 1950s: Flutter by, Butterfly

Whether you call them butterfly glasses or cat-eye glasses, the effect is still the same: a stunning design, self-assured femininity, and sheer elegance. When the butterfly model entered the fashion market in the early 1950s, they were an instant hit. Worn by the celebrities of the day such as Marylin Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, cat-eye glasses quickly became the must-have eyewear. Some stylists will tell you that the slender shape of the frame’s upper edges lifts the face, while other experts will explain that it’s nothing more than a fashion phenomenon driven by actresses.

Anne et Valentin glasses model Fauvette© Anne & Valentin – Fauvette frame

Whatever your opinion, there’s something elevated, fierce, and feline about these almond-shaped spectacles, which imparts a classical, sensual energy to the wearer. A delicate addition to the eyebrows will hark back to the sober appearance and cultivated air of the secretaries of the time, while thick, shiny acetate rims will echo Hollywood glamor. By choosing a pair of butterfly glasses today, when gender stereotypes still persist, you will be reclaiming a vintage accessory and shaping it in your own way, transcending accepted conventions and playing on the exaggeration that is a key part of this type of eyewear. After all, in order to fly as it pleases, doesn’t the butterfly need to be open to a landscape of possibilities?

The 1960s: the excessiveness of oversized glasses

As the crowds grew at Rolling Stones and Beatles concerts, designers’ glasses also expanded out of all proportion. An iconic model, and one worn primarily by women, oversized glasses live up to their name. With their extra-large size, the spectacles practically become a mask, covering the eyebrows, extending past the cheekbones and bestowing an imposing appearance upon the face of anyone who wears them.

Although some stars have taken advantage of these frames to protect themselves from paparazzi, oversized glasses are far from a guaranteed way to avoid attention. The rims, which tend to be thick, shine brightly under spotlights or camera flashes. These typical sixties frames have become huge icons (literally!) thanks to stars like Jackie O, Diana Ross, Brigitte Bardot and even Françoise Hardy. Oversized models have made a comeback and continue to dazzle us.

  • Oversized woman<br />
glasses by the Japanese designer MatsudaOversized woman
    glasses by the Japanese designer Matsuda
  • Original oversized<br />
glasses by the designer SilhouetteOriginal oversized
    glasses by the designer Silhouette
  • <br />
Oversized vintage glasses by the French designer Nathalie Blanc
    Oversized vintage glasses by the French designer Nathalie Blanc

Featured image: Anne & Valentin – Slam frame

Discover more about vintage and retro eyeglasses history and the brands and opticians that brought them back!