Set the Mood with a Pair of Browline Glasses

Browline Vintage Glasses

Malcolm X and his famous style

The 50s seems an age of fashion do’s and don’ts: DO get a little flashy in those polkadots, DO listen to Rock ‘n’ Roll (against your parents wishes, of course), and DON’T leave the house without your poodle skirt, your leather jacket, or your browline glasses.

The style has been associated with cat ladies, old, snarly men, perhaps the flashy hipster style trying to flip everything fashionable we know from the past onto its head. But at one time, browlines were the only glasses to have. You wouldn’t be caught dead without them.

Previously, no technology was available which could design glasses with less than a full frame. However, with the technique called “drill mounting”, the lens was held in place with only half a rim, thus making lightweight, sleek glasses instantly fashionable.

What is So Special About Browline Glasses?

The famous distinctive frames consist of a broad, stark upper frame: originally made of plastic and stemming down to a thin metal beneath. The top imitates a thick, serious eyebrow. The style was invented by Shuron Ltd. vice-president, Jack Rohrbach in 1947. He allowed the glasses to be completely customizable with interchangeable bridges, wires, and “brows.” Therefore, in this age of blossoming individuality, people could identify their own size, fit and color of frames. The look exploded from its initial release: multiple companies began creating their own brand of browline eyewear.

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By the mid-fifties, there were six leading companies spitting out Browlines for the masses: Shuron, the original, Art-Craft Optical, Victory Optical, American Optical, and Bausch and Lomb. With fifty-percent of the population donning the frames, it seemed an unbeatable style. Celebrities began appearing with these serious brows: Malcolm X is famous for his browline style, as is Colonel Sanders — the Kentucky Fried Chicken man, Vince Lombardi, and a good passel of others.

Browline Glasses

Photo Credit: Tristan Bowers

But just as suddenly as the style grew to popularity, it was rejected. The browline-d poodle skirted generation grew up, had kids, and became the subject of refusal for the new generation — just as they had rejected the generation before them (just as we generally reject scrunchies and mysterious 80s and 90s wear).

The sixties and seventies became an age of the hippie clash movement. This culture opted for the thicker, plastic frames: frames allowing more individuality, more shapes and sizes. The browline glasses became association with a dead idea, a racist-behind-the-times generation, and many companies began to halt production. The browlines were seen as a “stand” against a new way, against a resurgence of fresh ideas. No one wanted to be associated with that.

Fortunately, the 80s brought a breath a fresh air to the style. After Bruce Willis famously donned the frames in sunglass form, Ray Ban created their own style called the “Clubmasters”: the original name of the men’s Art-Rim browlines from thirty years before. The sunglasses took off and became the third most popular frames of the decade.

The quiet growth of the style continued. The 2000’s brought a new television show “Mad Men”, which garnered a new view to the age of the browline glasses: the 50s and 60s generation was a sexy one, one taking risks, putting the past behind it. And the show has been hailed for its marvellous fashion, the way it uses color — the fact that it is a piece of moving, historic art. The men and women don time-appropriate browlines and “talk back” to the future generations of rejection. “We are cool. We are what is hip, what has always been hip,” they seem to assure us.

And the hipster subculture has embraced this sentiment. Browlines have been re-instituted into acceptable, young styles. Because the vintage look is blossoming right now — ringlet curls swirl from flat crowns, longer, polkadot dresses adorn young women — it is the right time for the resurgence.

Where to Find the Best Browline Frames?

Ray Ban Clubmaster GlassesIf you are searching for the perfect pair of browlines, a good place to start is Amazon website. It is easy to compare glasses in this medium and many websites selling prescription glasses have a much larger selection than what you might find in a shop.

Shuron Ltd, the principle creators of the style, never halted production and offers several different colors. But they wouldn’t be here, certainly, if not for the flipped sentiment, the remembrance and romanticism of glasses-past. The past seems sweeter, now. Fashion forward hipsters everywhere slip thick, plastic slots over their own expressive eyebrows, view the past through rose-tinted frames.