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Cat eye glasses

  • Vuarnet – On the Ski Slopes in the Age of Cat Eye Glasses

    Posted on January 15, 2013 by The Vintage Optical Shop

    Even at the height of popularity for cat eye glasses and other glamor eyewear, the need for practical eyeglasses was never far away. In previous centuries, eyeglasses were used only to correct vision, but in the twentieth century, spectacles took on many additional roles. This was partly due to the plethora of new materials and manufacturing techniques that the modern age brought onto the scene. Many kinds of vintage glasses simply could not have been made before plastics, for instance.

    Modern life and the explosive growth in different human activities also called out human ingenuity in making eyeglasses of diverse sorts. For instance, welders need protective eyewear that can shield their retinas from the intense glare of a welding arc. Early aviators and drivers, their faces exposed to air and debris moving at speeds humans had never encountered before, needed a way to protect these sensitive, prized organs from injury.

    cat eye glasses  Technological advance and the freedom from continuous labor also brought about new sports on a large scale, such as skiing. Vuarnet was an eyeglass company that was started by Jean Vuarnet, a famous French skier, in collaboration with two eyeglass executives. This firm was founded in 1960, in the midst of the cat eye glasses era. Its decades of success shows that more “serious” vintage eyeglasses were also a vibrant market at the time, since it catered to sporting enthusiasts rather than fashion plates.

     

    Using mid 20th century materials technology for rugged vintage eyewear

    Vuarnet glasses were made to be used in rugged conditions – on the frigid, windswept slopes of mountains, on board sailing boats, and other demanding areas. As such, their main focus was on providing reliable eye protection from glare and windblown particles, not looking good. This does not mean that Vuarnet glasses lack a certain stark beauty, but they are far less flamboyant than many contemporary glasses.

    The use of tinted lenses for different situations reaches back in eyeglass history well into the 19th century. From yellow tinted lenses used by hunters and soldiers for better visibility on cloudy days, to the dark blue lenses poets wore to simulate night and gain inspiration even at noon, the early tinted lenses were a varied and interesting lot.

    Vuarnet lenses were much more scientifically grounded, but were, ultimately, based on much the same principle. Different tints of lenses were offered for ordinary snow conditions, alpine areas, sailing, and general outdoors use.

    The frames were usually made out of nylon, so that they would bend and not break if dropped or thrown from the owner's face by an impact. This ensured that skiers and boaters would still have eye protection after an accident, and also ensured that fragments of broken frame would not be driven into their faces if they had the misfortune to land on a surface face-first. Use of modern materials like nylon for frames set Vuarnet's vintage eyeglasses apart from ordinary cat eye glasses, which would have shattered under the abuse Vuarnet sunglasses could shrug off.

    vintage cat eye glasses

    The strengths and weaknesses of “form before function”

    Practicality was the strength of Vuarnet vintage glasses, yet also paradoxically their weakness. In an age full of brilliant cat eye glasses and other extremely stylish designs, the glasses looked drab. The fact that they were sold only at ski resorts also limited their spread, though they were immensely popular in their own niche.

    The history of the Vuarnet brand shows that function alone isn't enough to guarantee success. The brand eventually flagged, and has only revived in recent years both because of a makeover and an aggressive advertising campaign to give it a rugged yet suave masculine image.


    This post was posted in Cat eye glasses

  • Neostyle Glasses in the Cat Eye Glasses Period

    Posted on March 16, 2013 by The Vintage Optical Shop

    Neostyle was a company founded in 1961, right at the height of cat eye glasses popularity. Though the French and Italians are probably the best known fashion designers, many other nations have produced outstanding vintage eyeglasses interesting to the collector and to those who enjoy wearing unusual, colorful glasses or “shades”. Germany, despite its stodgy and mechanistic stereotype, actually contributed many remarkable and sometimes outlandish designs to the history of 20th century eyewear.

                “Personality Eyewear” was the the title given to Neostyle vintage glasses by the company's founder, Walter Nufer, showing that from the start fashion and design were to be the centerpiece of the firm's efforts. Far from being dull and pedestrian, the company was launched with the idea of making spectacles that weren't just functional but also served as jewelry or artwork for the face.

    cat eye glasses         Most Neostyle designs of the time were sleek and heavily dependent on metal, though some frames were also made of Zyl or various plastics in striking colors such as pale aqua fading into darker green at one edge and silver at the other. Few of these designs were explicitly cat eye glasses, though some of those designed for women were narrow near the bridge and wider near the attachment of the temple, very subtly hinting at a cat's eye shape.

     

    Neostyle and “The King”

    Neostyle's most famous coup was drawing the notice of Elvis Presley, one of the defining figures of the later era of cat eye glasses. Though Elvis tended to flit from company to company and never showed the same dedication to one firm's products as John Lennon did to Algha's round eyerim spectacles, he made several famous purchases of Neostyle glasses that helped them to become fashionable in the United States, too.

    The Nautic 2 was the specific style of Neostyle sunglasses that Elvis favored, and that is now forever associated with him. These large quadrangular sunglasses have lenses with rounded corners and metal vintage frames, with a golden tint to the frames (and their very distinctive wide temples, which sprout from the midpoint of the eyerims' outer edge rather than the top corner) and brown lenses similar to many “tea shades” of the era.

    These are hardly cat eye glasses, yet they evoke the time period just as strongly. It is hardly surprising that Neostyle has relaunched the style today, pointing out their connection to Elvis – though collectors often prefer to hunt down one of the originals manufactured in the period when “the King” was in full song.

    cats eye glasses

    The revival of cat eye glasses

    Neostyle's history is interesting because during the main period when cat eye glasses were the most sought after fashion accessories, many of their vintage eye glasses had a stylish but distinctly 21st century look, as if they had somehow traveled back in time from a designer of the future.

    Today, however, the company has a range of “semi cat eye glasses” that strongly resemble the designs of the 1950s and 1960s, though in more subdued colors. Cat eye glasses from the 1950s and 1960s remain some of the most spectacular vintage eyewear to be created on the planet, but there is clearly plenty of appeal still left in the design, and it may well rise again. Companies such Neostyle keep it alive just as they contributed to the amazing variety of glasses sold at the height of the cat eye glasses era.


    This post was posted in Cat eye glasses

  • Ray Ban in the Era of Cat Eye Glasses

    Posted on April 5, 2013 by The Vintage Optical Shop

    The 1950s and 1960s saw the emergence of cat eye glasses and many other flashy styles that had never before been seen on Earth. The cat eye frames shape lends itself to many different fashion statements, unlike the rather sober round or oval designs that had appeared through most of history before then. Overwhelmingly worn by women during the period, vintage cat eye glasses could appear festive, playful, or sophisticated, depending on circumstances and other fashion choices. For these reasons, vintage eyeglasses of this kind are immensely popular today, too.

    Ray-Ban is a famous brand name, which belongs to the eyeglasses colossus Bausch & Lomb. The brand originated during the interwar period of the 1930s, when the focus was on producing sunglasses for fighter pilots. After World War II, Ray-Ban turned to stylish vintage eyeglasses instead, and made many sunglasses with the characteristic cat eye glasses outline.

    cat eye glasses   Indeed, the first Ray-Ban sunglasses to appear after the war were named “Fun Glasses”, and though they didn't have the full cat eye shape, they were tilted up at the outer corners. This was in 1948, so the era of cat's eye glasses was clearly advancing fast in the postwar world. Fun Glasses were described as the “gayest thing in sun glasses” at a time when the word “gay” had no implications beyond “festive and happy”. These brightly colored frames contrasted with the somber hues that wartime glasses had naturally sported.

    This is not to say that the line of more “serious” sunglasses was discontinued. Plain (though stylish) black-framed sunglasses were also manufactured by Ray-Ban, as they are to this day. General Douglas MacArthur was a fan of Ray-Bans and appears in many photographs wearing the glasses and smoking his well known corn cob pipe.

     

    Cats eye glasses in profusion from Ray-Ban

    One of the most famous vintage cat eye glasses designs at the time bearing the Ray-Ban stamp was the Candy Striper. Though it has faded into obscurity, this model once exemplified the whole positive, bubbly culture of the time and the sense of fun and chic that many designs simultaneously expressed. Though the construction was not as sophisticated as later glasses of this general type, the Candy Striper started the age of cat eye glasses with a bang.

    The Candy Striper is an ingenious design that makes use of the same principle as artistic scratchboard to produce a vivid pattern. The main part of the glasses – the two eyerims and the bridge, which form a single seamless unit – are layered together out of alternating slices of red and white plastic. This gives the edges a series of fine red and white stripes, with red on both the outside and inside faces of the eyerims.

    vintage black cat eye glasses    If this were the only decoration, the vintage glasses would be unremarkable. However, the top edge was cut away at a beveled angle to reveal alternating bands of red and white in a scalloped shape. Thus, the “brows” of these cats eye glasses are a rippling, brilliant swath of red and white curves and points. The principle is simple, but the effects are very striking.

    The temples are also wide, but made out of black plastic rather than red and white. The Candy Striper was an amazingly flamboyant, eye-catching design for its day, and it still evokes all the most exciting parts of the time when cat's eye glasses were a peacock-bright break with the past and the harbingers of a future that believed in success and progress.


    This post was posted in Cat eye glasses

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