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Geek glasses are much more than the quirky black, plastic spectacles that improve vision. This type of glasses is an incremental accessory for trendy geek fashion, also known as geek chic. Geek chic is similar to nerd chic, another popular fashion style for intelligent social miscreants. Simply defined, geek glasses or nerd glasses are thick, dark plastic glasses with no nose pads. Geek glasses are the descendants of the clunky glasses once issued to United States military personnel and horn-rimmed glasses.
Horn-rimmed glasses are so called because they were originally constructed of horn or tortoise shell material. Harold Lloyd, the slapstick comedian of silent films in the early 1920s, popularized the horn-rimmed glasses style. College students around the U.S. emulated Lloyd's corny and awkward-but-amiable style, even patching broken frames with tape or glue as Lloyd did. The style eventually subsided, but it experienced a renaissance in the 1950s when musician Buddy Holly donned the glasses.
Government-issue (GI) glasses were thick, homely spectacles prescribed to government and military personnel during basic training. Service members satirically named the unattractive glasses "birth control glasses" (BCGs). This was a result of their uncanny ability to repel members of the opposite sex.
Geeks initially adopted clunky, thick geek eyeglasses as a low-maintenance, inexpensive and antisocial prop for corrective vision and for their purposely unconventional counter culture. Before the rise of personal electronics and technology in popular culture, geeks were considered social misfits — extremely intelligent but obsessive and erratic. In return, geeks snubbed the populist thirst for fashion, refusing to conform to capricious conventional tastes. Geeks were noted for their simple, comfortable clothing and the signature geek glasses that required little maintenance. Geek glasses came full circle when popular culture embraced them and turned them into fashion accessories.
In the 1990s, geek chic flowed into popular culture as computer technology and the Internet flourished for the average, everyday user. Geek glasses are no longer the wide, large horn-rimmed plastic spectacles of Harold Lloyd and Buddy Holly but have been made slimmer and sleeker. Traditional geek glasses retain the thick plastic body and thick rectangular shape. True geek chic style pairs the bulky geek glasses with a T-shirt, blue jeans and simple sneakers. Duct tape on the nose piece adds additional geeky panache.
I kept my birth control prescription glasses from the Army as a spare set, but I now buy designer glasses whenever possible. I remember going into a eyewear store a few years ago and all of the younger customers kept asking for geek chic glasses. The same kind of nerd glasses that got a lot of us laughed out of the room were now the coolest thing going.
What I thought was even funnier were the prices on some of those nerd-inspired frames. We didn't choose that look on purpose back in the day. We needed cheap eyeglasses and that was the most basic design available. Modern geek chic frames can cost hundreds of dollars.
When I had to get my first pair of prescription glasses, I wasn't trying to be an eyewear fashion trend setter. I looked at all of the really cool designer glasses in the optometrist's store and hoped I'd get one of those. Instead, the salesman pulled out a small case and said these were the frames covered under my dad's company insurance.
They were all geek glasses, with thick plastic frames and the Buddy Holly horn-rim style. My only choice was brown or black. I chose brown because the frames didn't look quite as much like nerd glasses. I wore those frames for several years before the insurance policy started covering a few more fashionable frames.
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