For as long as I can remember fashion journalists and marketing people have been doing features on the latest styles in spectacles. Journos, frantic for a bit of copy in the mi-saison, go all gushy in their efforts to persuade us that wearing glasses is now the very epitome of cool. Dorothy Parker’s famous line about men not wearing passes at girls who wear glasses is invariably trotted out. We are assured that this aphorism is now out of date but the very mention of it suggests otherwise. Photos of stunningly beautiful models in heavy frames accompany these pieces. We know in our souls that the same lassies would sooner move to Tierra del Fuego than wear glasses permanently. According to Specsavers latest promotional spread John Rocha has created ‘a fabulous new collection of frames’. “Eyewear is now a desirable fashion accessory rather than just a necessity”, says John. A necessity, possibly. Desirable! I think not.
Let us distinguish here between the permanent spectacle wearer and the owner of reading or sunglasses . The advert talks of celebrities who wear glasses. Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep no less. Try googling those two ladies. No specs in sight. Nana Mouskouri and Darina Allen are celebs who wear glasses but I doubt if either of these would regard themselves as the last word in sex appeal. Diane Keaton is also mentioned. Yes, she wears glasses but why do I get the sense that the copywriter is flailing about for examples?
The permanent wearer is most likely a very short sighted person who has worn glasses from a young age and has suffered all the agony that that has involved. I know what I’m talking about here having been in ocular harness for over half a century. In fact I have resolved that the next person who tells me I look like Nana or Darina will get a bunch of fives. Nothing will ever make glasses chic. What kid relishes being called speccy four eyes? It is a brave young fellow who will risk the wisecracks of his mates by getting off with the girl who wears glasses. Dolores with the flat personality and the thin lips might be a lesser risk. I have heard Joanna Trollope speak of the ‘dark glamour of being fourteen’. There is little glamour, dark or otherwise, for the fourteen year old with glasses.
My concern is with the female wearer. A man with glasses has always been considered distinguished. Glasses are an item of hardware. They are not soft, not feminine. They make one look severe and nerdy. Nerdiness, in the past, was not a desirable female attribute. People hate nerds, particularly the female of the species. We have all those scenes in movies where the librarian removes her glasses, lets her hair loose and becomes instantly sexy.
‘Rocha has branched out from his usual muted palette to create an eyewear collection that is bright and attention-grabbing but still reflects the timeless elegance that has made him so popular over the past three decades.’
The last thing we want is glasses which are ‘attention – grabbing’. And as for ‘timeless elegance’? I’m reminded of Dorothy Parker again. She had a poodle called Cliché. John Rocha, I note, is photographed flanked by two gorgeous models but is not wearing spectacles himself. Rocha’s range is inspired by the colours of the South of France . Well, you don’t say. I dislike the term ‘patronising’, part of the jargon of trendy psychobabble, but here the word strikes just the right note. This Specsavers ad is patronising. Glasses as ‘a true fashion statement’ just will not wash.
‘Many of today’s most beautiful faces favour a chic pair of frames over fiddly contacts’ goes the text. This statement is all the more surprising given that Specsavers also sell contacts. The younger generation are fortunate in that they can wear the newer softer contacts, fiddly though they be. Who remembers the hard old plastic contacts of yesteryear? We siezed on them in our desperation to escape the tyranny of specs. They became impossible in smoky workplaces and places of entertainment. Smoke is composed of tiny particles which could get between the lens and the eye. The discomfort could be excruciating. Perhaps this is why I am such an enthusiast for the smoking ban and harbour such murderous thoughts about chain smokers. Nowadays I pass them puffing away in the cold outside hairdressing establishments and cafés and I think ‘Freeze feckers, freeze’.
But I digress. Younger people are lining up to have laser treatment and more power to them. Why not go for soft lenses or laser I hear you ask. Sadly these options are not there due to retinal occlusion of the right eye. In any case I’m beyond such vanities these days. Glasses and grannies go rather well together and I don’t have to go ‘clubbing’ on a Saturday night. Praise the Lord for that. Specsavers can have me as a customer without any need to persuade me that I am making a fashion statement. But, my fervent wish is to be spared these condescending ads and articles purporting to reassure us that our specs are at the cutting edge of fashion. We’ve heard that once too often.