An ode to eyewear design

Updated 4th January 2017
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An ode to eyewear design
Written by Dylan Jones
Dylan Jones is the Editor-In-Chief of GQ and the Chairman of London Fashion Week Men's
In hindsight I suppose it was unsurprising and perhaps somewhat inevitable that it was Elton John who really taught me about eyeglasses.
About fifteen years ago I found myself at the house in Windsor that Elton shares with his long term partner David Furnish. I was there to supervise a cover session for British GQ, and having got Elton to agree to the shoot, along with an interview, I wanted to make sure everything ran smoothly.
Plus, of course, I was desperate to see their house. Now, to say that the house was exquisite would be an understatement, although what I really loved was being shown Elton's wardrobe.
And along with the corridors of suits, the lines of shirts, the acres of shoes, and -- frankly -- the stationary pantechnicons of stage jewelry, what fascinated me most were the drawers and drawers of spectacles.

An 'extraordinary' collection of eyewear

Call them glasses, call them eyewear, call them what you will, but even then -- having already divested himself of hundreds of pairs in various sales -- Elton had a lot of them.
Spectacles he used for stagewear, for streetwear, and for wearing in makeshift photographic studies when being shot by illustrious Conde Nast men's magazines...
Elton John in 1974
Elton John in 1974 Credit: D. Morrison/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
In fact, having spent a good half an hour sifting through Elton's extraordinary collection, a collection made up of everything from vintage pieces to Art Deco gems, via punk and glam right up to the modern day -- I realized that the history of eyeglasses could be told through Elton's career.
To analyze his visual appeal is to look at a cavalcade of glasses which have been as important to his success as conical bras, say, were to Madonna's.
If you think of David Bowie, you think of Ziggy Stardust's red mullet; if you think of Elvis you think of his white rhinestone jumpsuit.
And if you think of Elton you no doubt think of one of the many pairs of outrageous glasses he has worn since he became famous.

Evolution of spectacles

You can see glasses that Elton John might have worn in the current exhibition at the Design Museum Holon in Israel.
The exhibition follows the development of eyeglasses from several different points of view: from the unique Claude Samuel Collection dating right back to the 17th century, to contemporary conceptual interpretations of eyeglasses by fifty Israeli designers highlighting the creative energy of the Israeli design scene. There is also a bit of virtual reality to bring things up to date.
Flannelette by Adi Zaffran Weisler
Flannelette by Adi Zaffran Weisler Credit: Ariel Benmoshe (Jacob Peres Office)
Unique pieces ranging from Elton John and John Lennon style eyeglasses to authentic Eskimo bone eyewear are shown alongside sketches of eyewear designs made by Claude's father from the Pierre Cardin Fashion House. This show gives you a glimpse of what lies behind behind lens, so to speak.
Speaking as someone who has needed to wear glasses since the age of ten, I know how important eyewear is.
Trans.form by Ohad Benit
Trans.form by Ohad Benit Credit: Ariel Benmoshe (Jacob Peres Office)
Not only does it act as a disguise, but it also has the innate ability to make you look smarter than you are, dumber than you are, or, if need be, to completely alter your personality.‎
Spectacles can make you look richer, they can make you look poorer, and in the case of Elton John, a man who has more experience in this area than anyone who has ever set foot in the eyewear section of a department store, can make you look like an international superstar.
One of a kind by Yasmin Vinograd
One of a kind by Yasmin Vinograd Credit: Design Museum Holon
Overview, an exhibition that traces the design evolution of eyewear, is currently on show at Design Museum Holon until April 29, 2017.