Extravagance is the name of the game where Oliver Goldsmith cat eye glasses and other eyewear are concerned. Each new year brought fresh developments that showed both the limits and the possibilities of combining human imagination and vintage eyewear. Eyewear is intriguing partly because it has to be functional – it must fit on a human face.
However, despite this unifying theme, there is clearly room for an immense variety of different designs within a few square inches of celluloid and steel. Some of Oliver Goldsmith's more memorable designs include:
The Cards cat eye glasses were festive glasses from the late 1950s, the period when flashy vintage eyeglasses was first becoming truly acceptable. These white-framed glasses featured inset card symbols – spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs – jutting up from the top of the eyerims, in red or black as appropriate to their suit. No doubt they were meant to convey the glamorous world of casinos, secret agents, and other exciting details of spy thrillers.
The Butterfly glasses show how far the form of vintage glasses can be altered to produce aesthetic effects. These frames were made in the shape of a butterfly with its wings spread. The main lenses are contained in the insect's forewings, while two small lenses fill in the hind wings to complete the visual effect. A pair of swallowtail “tails” are molded onto the lower eyerims. The sweeping, elegant wing outlines create a striking cat eye glasses effect.
The TV Screens are square eyerims fitted with tinted lenses to look like tiny television screens, and feature wire aerials mounted at the outer corners of the eyerims! These creations obviously need to be worn with care to avoid damaging them. They are also a good example of how the stylish can be combined with the whimsical.
The Hollywood model was a 1950s model that might be described as “cat eye glasses lite”. There is just enough of a tilt to the eyerims to give a look of feline elegance, while the dark material and applique metal “brows” complete the look of sophistication; a clear sign that vintage eyeglasses had entered a new age.
The Tennis Racket frames were first made in 1954, and were one of Oliver Goldsmith's foray into Op Art designs. Molded to look like crossed tennis rackets, one black and one white, these extremely large and striking glasses also feature a fine crisscross of lines over the lenses to make the resemblance to the strings of a real racket even closer. These are extremely popular vintage eyeglass frames, especially among collectors, and are probably among the most instantly recognizable of the tens of thousands of designs that have been made.
Several kinds of frames have featured animals, including an Op Art pieces with a black duck and a white duck molded as the eyerims. Another noted variant of back-to-back animals are a pair of rather comical looking hounds with floppy ears, produced in a reddish brown Zylonite that mimics the color of dachshunds.
Nearly equaling the Tennis Rackets design in fame is the pyramid design produced for Vidal Sassoon in 1966. These white glasses form a huge triangle with rounded corners that rises up in front of the forehead. The lenses are enormous and also triangular, though in this case the shape is a round-cornered obtuse triangle, not an equilateral one. The temples are mounted at the lower corners of the eyerims. These glasses are a far departure from the cat eye glasses of the 1960s, but show how much a design could be changed to match a single hairstyle!