Last week I received a coupon in the mail from my favorite eyewear store, SEE Eyewear, which could save both a friend and myself a hundred bucks each. The propaganda from SEE, an ostensibly vintage black and white photo of two elderly women sitting under old-fashioned hair salon dryers, but wearing fashionable spectacles printed in bright colors, made me think of the saying by writer Dorothy Parker, "Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses."
Being a lesbian, I don't at all care about whether men find my glasses a turn off or not. Being a lesbian in a monogamous relationship, I do care that my girlfriend digs my glasses (and I dig hers as well).
I've been wearing stylish (and, on the occasion, not-so-fashionable) specs since my mid-20s. Initially, I was too vain to wear my glasses every day, but when I became unable to read street signs even while standing on a corner, it was apparent that I had better start donning my corrective lenses every damn day or I would lose my way in a city where the streets were, at the time, unfamiliar to me.
That coupon I received prompted me to check out what's what with glasses today. I found online eyewear outlets catering to the young, hip, and stylish consumer and offering discount prices are the au courant authorities on what is currently considered the ultimate contemporary fashion statement: vintage, oversized frames.
Warby Parker, which, according to its website, "was conceived as an alternative to the overpriced and bland eyewear available today," is the modern standard-bearer of "accessible" eyewear. Lookmatic, Eyefly and Classic Specs’ are some of W-P's many competitors, all catering to a similar educated, bookish crowd who wants to look geeky and nerdy yet chic and stylish all at the same time, even if they don't need prescription lenses.
I also scoured the web for blogs glorifying females wearing spectacles and found the following sampling of sites:
GirlsWithGlasses.com "proved that geek is chic by being the first site to feature all-original pics of fun and fashionable four-eyed femmes." There is also Hot Girls With Glasses, which seems to have stopped short in August and is also half a wet dream for admirers of women wearing spectacles. There is also The Girls With Glasses where "ELIZA Magazine editor Summer Bellessa and Singer/Songwriter Brooke White join forces to bring you The Girls With Glasses Show...an online variety show full of fashion, entertainment and heart."
After more not-too-extensive online research, I discovered almost all references to lesbians wearing glasses were (straight male) porn related. I also found a 1943 article from TIME Magazine entitled, "Science: Glasses and Passes" stating, among other things, "It has now been scientifically indicated that men definitely prefer girls, as well as men, who wear glasses." The article goes on to report: "Psychologist George R. Thornton of Purdue University photographed 20 men & women with glasses and without. Then he paired the pictures and tried them on 200 judges. The subjects made a better impression wearing glasses than bareface."
A more recent "response" to Dorothy Parker, attributed to an American television commercial (about what I am not sure), was "...but do girls who wear glasses make passes at men?" This is mostly moot for lesbians; possibly a cute riposte for bisexual women; for queer women who prefer dating transmen, perhaps an interesting inquiry into the myopic vision of a society obsessed with cultural binaries; and, for all of us, a larger question about the cultural "gaze" in our male-dominated, Anglo-centric society.
STEPHANIE SCHROEDER is a journalist who has been a Contributing Editor at Curve Magazine since 2005. She is a mental illness awareness activist and advocate for social and economic justice. A keen cultural observer and unrepentant news junkie, Schroeder's appetite for odd juxtapositions and interesting contradictions inform all of her writing. See more at stephanieschroeder.com.