The Birth of Fashion Eyewear

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Vernon and Irene Castle and The Birth of Fashion Eyewear

So the topography of the eyewear industry is changing. Sometimes people forget change offers opportunity. I wonder how many realize fashion eyewear as a category was born out of change and uncertainty. Let’s examine the history of modern fashion eyewear and do so from the beginning.

Back at the turn of the 20th Century women wore their hair long. A whole industry with deep roots existed worldwide to provide them with ornamental combs.

Then, just before WWI, women started cutting their hair short.

One of the first practitioners was Irene Castle, half of the most famous ballroom dance team in the world, with her husband Vernon. She pioneered flapper fashion in general.

This devastated the ornamental comb industry.

At this same time the burgeoning American film industry began relocating from the New York area to Hollywood. The relentless sun there made sunglasses de rigueur with cinema stars. Photos of them in sunglasses were regularly seen in fan magazines. This spurred a boom in the accessory’s popularity.

Former comb makers began switching production to eyewear, which turned out to be more lucrative than combs. The involvement of this new pool of manufacturers spurred further growth and innovation.

So it worked out nicely.