Boys' Eye Glasses: Country Trends

Figure 1.--This photograph shows three American brother, we think about 1930. They both ear round wire-rim glasses. Also notice the hats. I'm not sure what these hats were called. They may have been sun hats. They could be worn with the brim up or down as cam be seen here. These wire rims were very common in America and Britain. We are less sure about other countries. Notice the ring the ine boy is wearing.

We have noted boys wearing variously styled eye glasses in different couuntries. Many eyglass styles were multi-national. This was especiallt the case until after World War II. The same was true for gender trends as well. Until after the War, boys and girls wore the sme styles of glasses. The time-line and popularity of the different styles, however, varied from country to country. And some styles did not appear in every country. There seem to be some differences between Europe and America than individual Europen country styles. These differences, however, did not appear until after the War. Here we do not yet have a large enough archive to develop notable countrt trends. We have begun to collect images to develop information on country trends.


America played an important role in the development of glasses in the 18th century when Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals. They were, however, mostly for older people. And as far as we know, America played no further role in eye glass technology until the mid-20th century. We are not sure about the eyeglass industry in the 19th century. We think glasses were most;y produced domesically, but we are not et sure about this. We see American children wearing mostly wire-frame eye glasses in the 19th century. We do not see many boys wearing glassess for portraits in the 19th century. Perhaps they removed their glasses for the portrait. But we think that gl;assess were probably not as common for children as is the case today. Many children, especially younger children, with vission problems probably went undiagnoed. This was especially the case in the early- and mid-19h century when many children did not attend school. That said, relative affluence and a strong public education system may have meant that more American children that needed glasses got them than was the case in much of Europe. We contiue to see mostly wire-frame glasses in the early 20th century. Boys and girls wore the same styles. We do not see differentited gender styls glasses until after World war II in the 1950s when plastic framesappeared in mny different styles. Suddenly very different styles became popular for boys and girls.


We mostly see English boys and girls wearing wire-frame glassess until after World war II. Both genders wore the same style without any gender differentiation. Even after the War, there was little differences in glasses for several years. This is because Brirain introduced the National Healthcare Service (NHS) after the War. The National Health paid for glasses, but not stylish frames. A reader has provided informnation on NHS glasses. One reader, Bill, remembers the glasses he wore as a liitle boy in Blackburn. Another British reader writes, "The wire framed glasses supplied free under the National Health Service continued right through the 1950s. I remember wearing them at age 10 in 1960 and beyond. I can't remember precisely when I progressed to NHS plastic frames. They were available in two styles: Pink or Brown! The wire frames were a 'one-size-fits-all' design which could easily be bent to fit any face and could easily be bent back into shape when they were (invariably) bent out of shape during normal play. I, like William, was called names for wearing them; but unlike William I hated it!"



We note Germany boys wearing round wire-frame glasses in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. There seems to be little change over this extended period in eye glass styling. These wire-frame glasses were the same style as worn throughout Europe and North America at the time. Most boys we see wearing glasses wear this style. Girls wore the same style. We do not begin to see other styles of glasses and gender differences until the 1950s. Our information at this time is very limited. We do not know, for example, if there were differences between East and West Germany. In the 1950s we begin to see destinctive styles.



We do not know much about eyeglasses in Japan. We do know that one of the misconceptions Americans had about the Japanese before World war II was that they had poor eyesight which meant tht they would not make effective soldies and pilots--a misconcepotion that was soon dispelled after Pearl Harbor. That said we do note quite a few Japanese school portraits beore and during the war with boys wearing glasses.



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Created: 12:17 AM 10/5/2008
Last updated: 6:34 AM 4/20/2012