Cats eye glasses were designed for one main purpose – to make a type of glasses that would look attractive when worn, besides being practical pieces of eyewear (or, with tinted lenses, serve as sunglasses – which, with their role of preventing damage to the eye from the searing glare of the summer sun, can be viewed as another type of practicality).
Though perhaps slightly politically incorrect by today’s standards, many advertisements of the time centered on how irresistible men would find a woman wearing these sophisticated glasses. Of course, it could also be argued that regardless of the twists and turns of political taboo, many people today choose glasses that they believe will make themselves more attractive to the opposite sex, even if the impulse is hidden under euphemisms like “looking your best” or “feeling confident”.
Be that as it may, designers and eyeglass companies were soon striving to make the most standout, glamorous, and eye-catching cats eye glasses possible for their eager, mostly female buyers. And, it must be said, many of these designs succeeded fully in their aim, producing some of the most unusual, seductive glasses in human history.
The use of plastic as the main material for vintage frames, which began in the 1940s and came to mostly dominate the market during the 1950s and 1960s, opened up a new decorative opportunity which had been missing for most of history – the ability to embed objects inside the material itself. With the use of transparent tinted plastic, objects mixed into the plastic during molding would remain visible through the eyerims and add an extra decorative touch.
Since cats eye glasses were aiming for an electrifying effect, one of the best materials for this was glitter. There are many surviving examples of cat eye glasses with glitter embedded in transparent tinted frames, producing a sparkling, scintillating effect.
This decoration is pleasing to the eye, gives an intriguing “insect in amber” look, and was extremely cheap for the manufacturer, since glitter is no more than flakes of metallic colored plastic which costs practically nothing to produce. Since most of the decorative effect came from the glitter, many such glasses are otherwise quite “plain” cats eye glasses, though glitter could also be combined with spectacular sculptural effects for redoubled glamor.
Metal laminated brows on cats eye glasses
A striking but still relatively conservative ornament for vintage cats eye glasses was the addition of metal laminated brows, a form of applique. In this case, a thin piece of metal is fitted to the upper part of Zylonite eyerims to provide a contrasting accent. The crisp, smooth, metallic arc of these brows contrasts coolly with the warmer, more organic look of the Zyl while remaining tastefully understated.
These brows may be made of aluminum (which gives an exceptional pale sheen when polished, and is, of course, rust-proof), steel, or alloys. Only luxury cats eye glasses would feature silver or gold brows. Metal laminated brows were usually attached with tiny rivets which were often disguised as part of the surface decoration. Raised flowers, leaves, floral shapes, or delicate geometric patterns are often found embossed into cat eye glasses’ brows.
Most brows were made in pairs, with a simple curved shape, or with the outer corners turning up in a flourish like those on a Renaissance Venetian carnival mask or the eyebrows of an elf from fantasy literature. Sometimes, however, a single “unibrow” was used, giving a somewhat less delicate but definitely noticeable look to vintage cats eye glasses.