How to Look at Glasses Frames

© Copyright 2021 Alicia Beggs-Holder, Ryerson University.

There’s an air of solemn commitment in choosing the right frames for your glasses. After all, this is the little accessory that will remain on your face, the first thing people might notice so it makes sense that you’d want to make a good impression. Your personality is exposed and laid bare.

Between circular or rectangular frames, the specific style’s enough to overwhelm you. Do you prefer full-rimmed or half? From the signature black that promises chic professionalism to vibrant colours and animal prints that insist on being playful, quirky and charismatic. Vanity is always in the forefront of glasses styles. The designs themselves hold no meaning but it’s with our interaction with them do they evolve into something more. Those clunky square-frames that block your face would deem you as a point-dexter; the smart and quick-witted “nerd”. When you think of a secretary, perhaps they’re wearing vintage, cat-eye glasses that are seen in old movies. The mental image most have for a pilot includes signature aviators. They might even be the star role in another’s private fantasy or a requirement for their future partner to have. We also know that the frames work symbiotically with the lenses—a matrimonial pair of functionality and vanity.

Brown and yellow patterned glasses on a wood counter
Fig. 1. Alicia Beggs-Holder; “Pattern Glasses”; 6 Feb 2021; Digital Photograph. ©Alicia Beggs-Holder.

There’s a partnership between the designer of the frames and its wearer, too. They take into consideration of the different shapes of faces and what would compliment them to their full effect. Clear, jelly-like nose pads that are detachable or ones that sit comfortably for those with low nose bridges. Small screws and hinges that allow movement while holding the entire piece together. The temples (that we’ve mistakenly called arms or legs) can curve behind your ears, stay straight or be swapped out with something beyond convention. The schematics of glasses frames can be considered character customization and we, as an ode it its designer, showcase their pièce de résistance.

As with all art, accidents will happen and frames can still be broken despite the careful deliberation on which ones suit you. In an instant, what was once sturdy can now bend and snap. The little scratches add character, the way the arms (because we’ll forget their intended names soon enough) come loose has a story behind it. Even the occasional screw falling at inopportune times are all a part of the process of owning glasses. They’re an experience. The simple motion of pushing the frames further up your nose when they’re slipping or needing to remove the stray eyelash and strand of hair that had gotten caught in the creases. The confusion of seeing three sets of numbers on the the left-side revealing something about your vision. The way they’re made of metal but feel weightless or made of a glossy plastic and somewhat weighted.

Your frames are unique and intricate.

The picture you see is of my most recent pair of glasses; I say recent because I’ve had three in total with different styles and colours. As I look at them, what had started as the observation of the design itself turned into the connection that they represent me in the material sense—a progression of age and the change of preferences. Glasses frames come to life through us, it holds specific memories and our aesthetic desire from the time we first bought them and how we might’ve changed currently.

But for whatever reason you may wear those frames, the most you want out of them is for this new pair to blend seamlessly with and be an extension of you.

Works Cited

Bartlett, Jamie. “What are the Parts of Glasses Called?.” Banton Frameworks, 13 Jan 2021,

Beggs-Holder, Alicia. “Pattern Glasses.” 6 Feb 2021, digital photograph.

Elkins, James. How to Use Your Eyes. New York: Routledge, 2000.

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.