Eyewear in the 1920s

By oblyk,

It was the decade that followed World War I with groundbreaking inventions that turned the world upside down. It was the time of a fresh new approach to life and a yearning desire of breaking off old traditions and taboos. It was the Jazz Age with flappers dancing at the rhythm of the Charleston. It was a time of indulgence, hedonism and liberation. It was the Roaring 1920s, the Golden Age or the “Aneeé Folles” (Crazy Years) as the Frenchs used to call them.

It is in those years of turmoil that a totally unique new wave of style was born making an indelible mark that would define modern fashion and glamour forever.

As depicted by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald in his 1925 novel The Great Gatsby the twenties fashion was all about liberation, trying new things and having a whole lot of fun in the process. Women called “flappers” set a whole new style by adopting an uninhibited boyish look, bobbing their hair and flaunting their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behaviour. Corsets were abandoned for more comfortable clothes like knee-length skirts, dresses and trousers. Men also abandoned highly formal daily attire and began wearing shorter jackets and athletic clothing for the first time.

It is undeniable the tremendous changes that the 1920s have brought to the Western society. No industry was immune to disruption and eyewear as well was profoundly affected.

As a matter of fact the late 1920s mark the introduction of Sunglasses as a fashion accessory before their widespread popularization in the late 1930s. Until then tinted lenses eyeglasses were purely used as practical safety devices and designed to protect the eyes from excessive sun glare. However in the late 1920s, with the introduction of new mundane activities such as beach sunbathing, sunglasses emerged to become an accessory adopted as a fashion statement.

The iconic eyewear style of the 1920s up to the mid 1930s was predominantly characterised by small size frames of round, oval and octagonal shapes with sunglasses mounting lenses in dark green and grey tints as shown in the movie The Great Gatsby.

Round metal frames had absolutely no style differentiation between the sexes, which was why this look became so popular with the liberated women of that time.

Another iconic 1920s eyewear frame is the horn-rimmed style. While keeping with the round lens shape, this frame is small and close-set to the face. The horn-rimmed effect added a little edge to simple reading glasses and transformed an everyday frame into something rather special for the liberated fashion lovers during the turn of the century.

Here are 8 icons of the twenties from different walks of life that best represent the 1920s eyewear style and still inspire our style of today.

Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald

He was the “Flapper King” and author of the decade’s most symbolic novel “The Great Gatsby”. She was an enigmatic woman of beauty and high spirits who pioneered the iconic Flapper style. Together as a couple they became the emblem of the Jazz Age and pioneers of the very early round sunglasses.


Marlene Dietrich

A legend of inaccessible magnitude with her own image, acting skills, magnificent voice and natural attractiveness. She was known for her androgynous outfits and was one of the first women to wear sunglasses.


Mahatma Ghandi

The godfather of nonviolence and leader of the Indian independence movement against British rule. Although it wasn’t certainly wearing glasses as a fashion accessory his minimal round optical frames have become one of the most iconic and timeless pieces of eyewear ever.


Sigmund Freud

The founder of psychoanalysis and one the most influential thinker of the twentieth century. His round glasses were arguably the most recognisable element of his idiosyncratic look that is almost impossible imaging him without them. He owned multiple pairs in celluloid and metal frame.


Harold Lloyd

One of the most popular and influential comedians of the silent film era and arguably the godfather of the “Nerd Look”. Wearing thin horn rims round frames, he was known for his bespectacled “Glasses” character: a resourceful, success-seeking go-getter who was perfectly in tune with the spirit of the 1920s.


Le Corbusier

The pioneer of modern architecture and one of the greatest architects of all time. His trademark look wearing black horn rim round glasses has become as iconic as his work defining what many consider “The architect look”.


Leslie Howard

One of the most noticeable style icons and actors of the period, Leslie used to wear black horn-rimmed glasses.


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