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ISSUE 117 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 5/7/2004

Eyewear trend transforms geek into chic

By Jean Mullins
Executive Editor

Friday, May 7, 2004

Nerd glasses. You see them everywhere these days. If you look around St. Olaf on any given day, you may be surprised by the number of people sporting these -- dare we say chic -- vintage glasses. But what are nerd glasses exactly?

General consensus points to several characteristics that set them apart. The most important factor is the thick plastic rims and more horizontal, rather than vertical look. They are more likely to be classified as nerd glasses if they are brightly colored and square or triangular in shape. Tortoise-shell and round-shaped glasses are sometimes considered nerd glasses, as well.

People may cite icons such as Buddy Holly, Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo (who can forget his tribute to the late Buddy Holly and his unique look?) and Drew Carey for their contribution to the nerd glasses trend.

I have been a nerd glasses wearer for about five to six years now. I have had three different versions. I really like them because they express personality and they are decorative. "This is not to say that all who wear nerd glasses have the same personality, but it does say something about one's personality," John Davis `07 said.

The irony of nerd glasses may indeed be their indifference to fashion -- they are utilitarian (after all, they're the type of glasses the United States Armed Forces distributes to recruits), and, if truly nerdy, may be duct-taped at the bridge.

But in spite of their practicality, they are a hot commodity; a trend evident everywhere, worn by those hoping to make a bit of a bold, curious fashion statement with their eyewear. These are certainly not the wire-rim glasses that seem transparent on the face; they are thick and obvious facial accessories.

As Joey Paulsen `07 said, "I'm trying to pose as a nerd, so people won't think I am one. "

The reasons that people choose these nerd glasses are varied. The first is to make a fashion statement. Many people wear them to look smart or just different. "I'm kind of a nerd anyway," Paulsen said when describing his choice to buy this particular style of eyewear.

Amy Trowbridge `05 asserted that nerd glasses are funkalicious, bold and advance the world of fashion.

Ben Henry-Moreland `07 attributes his purchase of nerd glasses to an Elvis Costello kick in his junior year of high school and says that his glasses give the message, I'm too lazy to wear contacts.

Other reasons cited for getting nerd glasses are metal allergies and the fact that they fit any face shape. The glasses are comfortable and you can hide behind them, said Jennifer Bynes `07.

According to Bynes, the resurrection of nerd glasses from the '60s started in Europe. Many will remember nerd glasses from pictures of their parents. Perhaps some parents and grandparents still sport these glasses, much to the horror and embarrassment of family members. But no longer. When Italian spectacle makers began to re-sell them in 1999, a new trend was born. The trend then traveled through Europe before hitting the U.S. market.

"I love my nerd glasses because the styles from the '50s and '60s are back in style. They are very hipster," John Morrow `07 said.

Recently, the nerd glasses trend has been connected to the growing following of emotional or Emo music.

Though many nerd-glass wearers do not subscribe to the Emo movement, they comment that a large numbers of Emo listeners have nerd glasses.

The question arises: Are these glasses due more to the alternative music genre than to general fashion? If so, maybe they shouldn't be called nerd glasses. Should they perhaps be called Emo glasses? Indeed, nerd glasses can be associated with many trends, not just nerds.

Trowbridge suggests that we adopt a more politically correct, all-inclusive name, like nontraditional or alternative glasses. Regardless of name attributed, wearers of these hip glasses seem more than happy to sing their praises.

Most people, like Henry-Moreland, said that they had received more compliments than insults on their glasses. Trowbridge admitted, "I have made fun of people with nerd glasses in my days of yore. [I said things like], 'I saw those at the glasses store & in the trash can!'"

It looks like the days of insulting those with nerd glasses is gone for now, at least until fashionistas find a new trend.

I think that it is time to explore glasses shapes that have not yet been popularized, Trowbridge said. Perhaps a style deemed nerdy now will be the next big thing, like the nerd glasses fad of the moment. But for now, those who sport nerd glasses, we salute you.

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