Metal brows were not the only possibility that designers explored while making vintage cats eye glasses during the 1950s and 1960s – indeed, there are so many different patterns, combinations of materials, colors, and textures, and other variants on the brow idea that it would likely take several volumes to list them all. However, several broad categories emerged in the cat eyes glasses market, all of which, naturally, led to further advances in manufacturing and material technology.
Plastic laminate brows on cats eye glasses
An alternative to metal brows on cat eye eyewear was to layer a second piece of plastic onto the eyerims in the brow position – either two separate brows or a single unibrow strip extending from one side of the glasses to the other. Plastic laminates had several advantages to offset the fact that they are perhaps not quite as striking or high toned as the shimmering metal fittings on some glasses:
They can be made in any color or combination of colors without needing to be painted or enameled after production (though some do feature painting or enameling over part or all of their surface). For example, some cats eye glasses feature a standard reddish-brown tortoiseshell color for most of their Zylonite, but the plastic brows are made with a fine black and white marbled pattern reminiscent of exotic animal fur.
Plastic laminate is slightly lighter than metal laminate brows.
Metal appliques for cat eyes glasses
Metal appliques are small metal pieces added to cats eye glasses for decorative effect. They are similar to the metal “findings” used in costume jewelry, and are attached to the surface of the frames at strategic points. During the 1950s and 1960s, crescent moon shapes, stars, and other simple but eye-catching geometric shapes were used. These might be set among rhinestones, used to accent the outer end of a plastic laminate brow, or used in rows to produce a non-continuous suggestion of a brow.
The glamor and fashion scene of the 20th and 21st centuries make such heavy use of rhinestones that, in design terms, this might be best described as the “Age of the Rhinestone”. Rhinestones originated in Germany, cut from rock crystals obtained in the Rhine River valley. Today, they are manufactured glass crystal for the most part, with a metallic backing that causes them to sparkle and scintillate, providing an imitation of the multicolored “fire” that diamonds exhibit in low light.
Though first made in Germany at around the time of the American Revolution, rhinestones had become an essential part of the global fashion industry by the 1950s and 1960s, from America to the Soviet Union, from Japan to France to South America. It is no surprise, therefore, that they appear on many cat eyes glasses from the period.
Rhinestones could be used as an accent – perhaps with large and small rhinestones arranged geometrically to create a more detailed effect – or as the sole decoration of a pair of glasses. There are even rhinestone brows where the whole of each brow is made of closely arranged rhinestones embedded in the eyerims’ Zylonite. A few cats eye rhinestone unibrows also exist with a single stripe of rhinestones extending above both lenses.
More often, however, rhinestones are used in conjunction with other brow effects, adding both detail and a “finished” look, as well as some glitz and dazzle to an already chic pair of cats eye glasses.