The 1940s were a transitional decade for eyeglass styles, starting with older, conservative styles in the first half of the decade, then branching out into new designs during the last half. A major turning point for eyeglass styles was World War II. After the war, styles began to change, with different frame types that would later reach their design plateau during the 1950s.
Early 1940s Eyeglasses
Wire frames were the most popular eyeglasses during the first half of the 1940s, many of which were carry-over designs from the 1930s. Round and slightly oval frames, especially gold-filled ones, were manufactured by Bausch & Lomb and the American Optical Co. for both men and women. Eyeglasses in the early 1940s were generally unisex designs, with very few style differences between men's and women's eyewear. A true distinction in styles would begin after WWII.
After WWII, styles changed. Although traditional wire frames with wrap-around earpieces continued to be big sellers, horn rims, solid plastic frames, cat eyes and combination glasses, with plastic tops and metal bottoms, began to appear. A major style development of 1940s eyeglasses were the wireless-bottom glasses, a metal frame at the top and no frame surrounding the lens bottoms. Also, lenses began to get larger, with many breaking the barriers of the round and oval-shaped designs.
After 1945, women's eyeglass styles started to become more identifiable, with frames being designed exclusively for women. Women were beginning to gain a sense of independence, and eyeglass styles were one of the many manifestations of outlook. The cat-eye frame design is the most notable eyeglass style for women in the 1940s that was uniquely their own, although the design began conservatively at first.
1940s Styles into the 1950s
The eyeglass styles that began in the 1940s exploded into the 1950s, with more daring designs and colors. Cat eyes, the most popular for women, were soon available in a variety of colors, many decorated with designs and rhinestones. The plastic frame also came of age for men, with the solid black and tortoise-shell plastic frames in the Ray-Ban Wayfarer style, notably worn by Buddy Holly.
A native of New Haven, Conn., Floyd Drake III began writing in 1984. His work has appeared in the "New Haven Register," Medford's "Mail-Tribune" and the "Ashland Daily Tidings." Drake studied journalism at Southern Connecticut State University. After working as a reporter in Oregon, he is now based back home in New Haven.