Conspicuously “Anonymous” Or Anonymously “Conspicuous”

An account of the irony of our specs
Photo Credits: Favored “Eye-guard” Designer: Francis De Lara
August 1, 2023

“Frames” to the windows to our soul, eyeglasses are also a window through which to see the world. They can impact the perception others have of us and even play a role in shaping our self-perception. But something else is quite intriguing about the phenomenon of spectacles. And that is their complete IRONY.

Do glasses have superpowers?

First case in point, studies support the stereotype that people wearing eyeglasses appear more intelligent, more trustworthy, and even more successful. As in, four eyes must be better than two. Either that or it’s assumed after having read so much, all that knowledge has now translated into power. However, IF the frames are obstructing its wearer’s eyes in a blatant manner, perception may transform into distrust (Oh dear!). As in: “What are those secret weapons they have on their face? Are they trying to capture my soul or something?” Here specifically, in the spirit of entertainment, I address the example of virtual goggles. Dr. Neil Handley, curator of the British Optical Association Museum, points out an irony, that “There (might sometimes be) a suspicion that is similar to wearing Google Glasses today.” I can only imagine attending a party and confronting a Google-goggle wearer and feeling an overwhelming sense of suspicion.

Alter(ed) Ego

Second case in point: Yes, glasses are cool. In the 1970s, glasses became a true fashion statement for the first time. And ever since, a slew of celebrities have made donning glasses, especially sunglasses, as the epitome of coolness. John Lennon, Elton John, Lady Gaga, Bono, Robert Downey Jr…. These are all examples of how a pair of shades magnify the “cool” in its wearer.

But wearing glasses might also be a way of presenting an alternate version of yourself – the version that cares less about what others think (or perhaps, the version that inconspicuously cares more). One example is Anna Wintour. She explained to CNN’s Christine Amanpour that she finds her sunglasses “useful because you avoid people knowing what you’re thinking about. They help me when I’m feeling a bit tired or sleepy. And maybe they’ve just become a crutch in part of who I am.” During a 60 Minutes interview, she again admitted that her sunglasses serve as a sort of “armor,” especially when sitting alongside the catwalk: “if I am bored out of my mind, nobody will notice.”

Another example is Karl Lagerfeld. The iconic designer revealed why he always wore sunglasses, and that it had nothing to do with fashion: “You hide behind your sunglasses because you don’t want to be observed. I don’t want everyone to be able to see my facial expressions.” But the irony in his and Ms. Wintour’s statements is obvious: wearing them will of course heighten how much one will be observed, especially if worn indoors. People will stare even more, as if staring will burn through those shades to finally perceive the expression behind those shielded eyes. Which is it, an inconspicuous or rather conspicuous tactic for more attention?

Andy Warhol, another habitual user of sunglasses indoors, was less confusing regarding his reason. His was a simpler, less ego-driven, “means of glamorous detachment.” He was almost never seen not wearing his very ‘New York’ glasses by Moscot la Miltzen, even inside Studio 54 or special events at the Factory.

Eyewear inequality

Third case in point: If someone not famous were to do the same as Ms. Wintour, Mr. Lagerfeld, or beloved Andy, what then? IRONICALLY, only the famous and typically fashion-, arts-, or film-related celebrities can pass this act as acceptable. For anyone else, keeping shades on for more than 30 seconds after stepping inside would have a dramatically opposite effect. Either it would demonstrate they are trying too hard to seem cool (clearly the antithesis of cool) OR it would blatantly make them out to be the most gauche and pretentious of company.

For some celebrities like Iris Apfel, a signature style of glasses can become a glorifying trait and the very symbol of their brand as an icon. However, for someone unfamous, glasses are more humanizing. By referencing imperfect vision, they make their wearer seem more approachable and personable.

Isn’t it ironic? Don’tcha think?

Conclusion: Viewing the world through a small piece of glass does affect our perception of the world, just as it affects the perception others have of us. Like filming or watching a movie, it’s all for the sake of the act.

I wear my sunglasses at night
So I can, so I can
Watch you weave then breathe your story lines
And I wear my sunglasses at night
So I can, so I can
Keep track of the visions in my eyes
While, she’s deceiving me
It cuts my security
Has she got control of me?
I turn to her and say
Don’t switch the blade on the guy in shades, oh no
Don’t masquerade with the guy in shades, oh no
I can’t believe it
‘Cause you’ve got it made with the guy in shades, oh no
I wear my sunglasses at night
So I can, so I can
Forget my name while you collect your claim
“I Wear My Sunglasses at Night,” Corey Hart


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