Regardless of how hard a given pair of pince nez or Oxfords grip the bridge of your nose with their plaquettes, there is still a higher chance of their slipping off and tumbling to the ground than is the case with a pair of modern or antique eyeglasses with temples that hook behind the ears. The solution at the time was to include a ribbon loop on most sets of eyerims for this vintage eyewear. The ribbon loop, made out of metal, provided a place for the user to tie a ribbon or cord.
Black was the favored color for ribbons or cords thus secured to the vintage eyewear, though many people at the time expressed amazingly hostile opinions about the custom, viewing the effect as being rather classless. Today, quite the opposite effect is produced on the mind – a pair of good pince nez with a ribbon looks elegant, intellectual, perhaps even aristocratic.
The modern user is, of course, free to substitute any color of ribbon or cord, or even a fine chain to keep their pince nez in place. However, regardless of the exact aesthetic decision made, it is even more imperative now to use a ribbon to prevent the pince nez from falling to the ground and breaking. This vintage eyewear is no longer manufactured, so any given pair may be literally irreplaceable.
The ribbon loop found on vintage eyewear of the pince nez or Oxford variety may be mounted on either the right or left eyerim, though the right seems to be more typical. Some interesting facts that the collector or wearer of these glasses might want to keep in mind include:
Both rimmed and rimless pince nez included ribbon loops. In the case of rimmed vintage eyewear, the ribbon loop could either be molded into the eyerim – creating a one-piece version of pince nez, with a small, modest-looking loop resulting – or be a separate piece attached by a screw. Attached ribbon loops jutted out like a small handle from the lens, and were attached by a screw. They often had baroque, decorative forms or even surface engraving for greater attractiveness.
Rimless ribbon loops were all of the attached type, and had a metal cusp into which the lens was slipped. A hole had to be drilled in the lens, so that a screw could be passed through the cusp and lens to secure the ribbon loop to the glass. This is technically challenging today when safety glass must legally be used for all eyeglasses.
The ribbon could be attached to a lapel pin, a hair pin, a buttonhole, or simply tied around the neck, which was a solution favored by many male wearers of this vintage eyewear.
Several companies manufactured reels to accommodate the ribbon. These small, thick metal discs included a spring-loaded drum inside which would roll up the ribbon to the appropriate length, much like a telescoping dog leash or measuring tape in our own time. These gems of late 19th century craftsmanship are a truly unusual, memorable approach to the problem of storing the “security ribbon” for pince nez or Oxfords, and make a superb accessory for this kind of vintage eyewear as well as a highly distinctive way to handle the safety ribbon or cord that keeps one’s antique eyeglasses safe.