While the eyewear choices of celebs and the Hollywood elite are well documented, causing an instant ripple effect of demand, you may be surprised to learn just how many politicians wore game-changing glasses. From eyewear that foiled an assassination attempt to specs specifically for playing cards, below are some of the most iconic eyeglasses ever worn by politicians over the years.
Winston Churchill – Windsor Eyeglasses
The British Prime Minister who led the nation through World War II, Winston Churchill, was one of the most well-known politicians in the world and remains an iconic cultural figure. As Churchill got older, he was regularly seen wearing a pair of Windsor glasses – the frames of these types of spectacles were typically made from real tortoiseshell at the time.
Churchill owned a number of very similar-looking round-framed glasses. To help him quickly differentiate one from the other, dots on the frames indicated what each was to be used for, such as card playing, reading, or giving speeches. A pair of glasses that Churchill owned at the time of his death was sold at auction for around $10,000 at auction in 2017.
For those looking for an authentic pair of Churchill-era round-framed eyeglasses, they can still be found, although tortoiseshell Windsor specs are much rarer, as they were made from fragile materials meaning that few have survived over the decades.
Ho Chi Minh Glasses
The revolutionary leader and president of Vietnam from 1945 to 1965, Ho Chi Minh, wore glasses with a plastic frame in a design similar to those of Tart Arnels and the Ray-Ban Wayfarer.
These types of frames from the time had a tendency to crack or warp, making it difficult to source a vintage pair in good condition. However, the style continues to be popular, so there are plenty of contemporary retro versions around.
Senator Barry Goldwater Eyewear
The Republic Senator’s glasses became so well-known that one of the pieces of memorabilia from his 1964 presidential run was a pin featuring an elephant (symbol of the Republican party) wearing the politician’s trademark thick, black-framed horn-rimmed glasses. During the course of his career in the Senate, Goldwater was often referred to as the ‘Grand Old Man of the Republican Party.’
In the 1950s and 60s, the plastic used in eyeglass frames was generally nowhere near as durable as it is now, which is why there are not many surviving vintage pairs from the era, despite their popularity during these decades.
Theodore Roosevelt – Pince Nez Specs
Theodore Roosevelt became president of the USA in 1901 and began to wear spectacles from about this time onwards – he was actually the first president to be photographed wearing eyeglasses.
The type of specs worn by Roosevelt was known as ‘Pince-Nez,’ which translates as ‘nose pinch’- exactly what they did to stay on the face. Pince-nez glasses had no arms, and the kind favored by the former president featured a spring bridge. The wearer needed to pull the lenses slightly and gently outward to put them on, and once in place, the spring bridge would retract to keep them in place.
The fact that Roosevelt needed to wear his glasses saved his life on one occasion. When he was subject to an assassination attempt in 1912, the president was carrying his steel glasses case (along with a copy of a speech) in his breast pocket. While the case didn’t completely stop the bullet, it slowed it sufficiently so that it penetrated the muscle of his chest without reaching the heart.
Malcolm X – Browline Glasses
Active through the 1950s and 1960s, browline eyeglasses have become so associated with this icon of the civil rights movement that they’re often known simply as ‘Malcolm X glasses.’
If you’d like to get hold of a pair of vintage-era browline glasses, then look for specs that incorporate a thick upper rim made of cellulose acetate or aluminum, which was typical of the time. This type of eyewear was the first time that wearers could add some customization to their eyewear, with a range of colors available.
Jackie Kennedy – Oversized Shades
And finally – the First Lady of the United States wasn’t just a powerful political figure but became a style icon. Her love of oversized shades began in the late 1960s and continued through the 1970s; she predominantly favored French designers such as Nina Ricci and Francois Pinton.
To get the look, opt for extra-large sunglasses with square or octagonal-shaped frames with black or tortoiseshell frames.