Bespectacled: 4 Iconic Glasses and the People Behind Them

For many who wear glasses, the frames become an extension of the self, enough that they become nearly unrecognizable without them. Let’s take a look at some people with iconic eyewear.
1. Woody Allen
Famed actor, writer, director, comedian, and jazz clarinetist, Woody Allen has been active in comedy and the film industry since the 1950s and has over 70 films to his name. A New York native, Woody Allen got his start writing gags for newspaper columns, and thanks to his great wit, he earned more than his parents before he even set off for college at NYU.
Aside from countless award nominations and his neurotic characters, Allen is best known for his trademark horn-rimmed frames. Thanks to his bad eyesight, he hasn’t switched those black plastic frames in over 50 years, and they’ve become a firm part of his persona, in and out of character.
2. Malcolm X
Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little, remains one of the most iconic African-Americans in history. Malcolm X had a troubled early life, living as an orphan and moving between foster homes, all culminating in his arrest for larceny and breaking and entering in 1946. In prison, he became a member of the Nation of Islam, eventually becoming a Muslim minister after his parole in 1952.
During his time with the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X advocated radical ideas, including black supremacy and the separation of blacks and whites as opposed to the more mainstream movement toward integration. X eventually converted to Sunni Islam and renounced his radical ideas, though he still pushed for Pan-Africanism, black self-determination, and a reconnection with African heritage. He became one of the loudest voices against racial inequality.
Malcolm X notably wore browline frame glasses, owning several pairs in various colors, from black to tortoise shell. While the style was popular through the 50s and 60s, no one else quite wore them as well as Malcolm X.
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr., Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is lauded as one of the greatest players in NBA history, holding the record for most career points, along with six titles, six MVP awards, and 19 All-Star appearances. Few basketball players, past or present, can match up to Kareem.
The only thing as well-known as Kareem’s patented sky hook is his goggles. Granted, his trademark goggles weren’t prescription, but that didn’t make them any less important. When playing for UCLA, Abdul-Jabbar suffered a scratched cornea. His cornea was scratched again during his pro career, thus leading to the goggles for extra protection.
4. Buddy Holly
An American singer-songwriter, Buddy Holly is heralded as the most influential force in rock and roll. He was one of the first to write, perform, and produce his own music and also developed the basic template for a band—drums, bass guitar, lead guitar, and rhythm guitar.
Holly was at first reluctant to wear his black frames as he felt they softened his otherwise rebellious image, but he actually had awful vision. Unfortunately, Holly didn’t have the convenience of less-obvious Soflens contact lenses—contacts weren’t prevalent at the time and started to gain mass appeal in the 60s, after his passing—but his glasses quickly became synonymous with his personal image.
The glasses don’t make the person, but they can certainly add to your outfit and your personality. Wear your specs with pride knowing that so many other influential people wore glasses before you.