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A pair of modern horn-rimmed glasses
Horn-rimmed glasses are a type of eyeglasses with frames made of horn, tortoise shell, or plastic that simulates either material. The name horn-rimmed glasses refer to their original material, which was horn or shell. These glasses began to be popular in the United Statesmarker in the 1910s and 1920s, and have been a standard for many decades. Over time, the glasses changed appearance and meaning. Later, they were known as dark, heavy, and plastic framed glasses. An early plastic, celluloid, was dyed and molded to look like an animal horn.

Another characteristic is their lack of nose pads. This differentiates them from other glasses, making the profile of horn-rims appear unique. Sometimes saddle bridges are attached to distribute the weight of the glasses. These are placed on the sides and top of the frame's nose.

Currently, , the definition of horn-rimmed glasses has become more flexible. They are commonly referred to as a pair of dark, plastic eyeglasses with frames that range in thickness from about 1/16" to 1/4". The dark colored plastic stands out, giving the appearance of thick frames.

History

Harold Lloyd originally made eyeglass wearing popular. In particular, he brought horn-rimmed glasses to the mainstream — his glasses were plastic. In Europe, frames were made from tortoise shell and were expensive. However, America made plastic framed glasses because it was less expensive than tortoise shell. Around this time, plastic frames began to be called "shell."

Lloyd donned his plastic horn-rims in 1917 when he starred in the short comedy film, Over the Fence. Oddly enough, the glasses contained no lens because of the reflection of the studio lights that would have resulted had glass been present. The purpose of the glasses was to differentiate Lloyd from the character he portrayed in the film. He could then go out in public without glasses and was unrecognizable. At this time, the horn-rimmed style was fresh. They were large enough to be dramatic without being over the top.

Lloyd wore glasses whenever he acted. He stated that "They make low-comedy clothes unnecessary, permit enough romantic appeal to catch the feminine eye, usually diverted from comedies, and they hold me down to no particular type or range of story." Lloyd's seventy-five cent pair of horn-rimmed glasses lasted him eighteen months. He patched them with common adhesives such as glue and chewing gum until he had to replace them. The look could have been the catalyst for society's image of a stereotypical "nerd", who wears thick, black-framed glasses held together with tape. Lloyd influenced young Americans to become consumers of these glasses.

The glasses continued to be popular through the 1930s, and enjoyed a renaissance in the 1950s when musician Buddy Holly wore a series of large, bulky square pairs on tour and on his album covers. This style-- dominantly in black, although also available in varying shades of tortoiseshell-- remained popular from the late 1950s until the 1970s, when large, steel aviator frames became popular. Round horn-rimmed glasses came back into fashion in the 1980s, with tortoiseshell being fashionable amongst intelligent, capital-driven entrepreneurs and a white variant being popular amongst New Wave musicians and New Wave fans. Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo has been known to wear Horn-rims.

Horn-rimmed glasses fell back out of fashion in the mid 1990s, but returned to popularity at the end of the decade and have remained fashionable since. Modern horn-rimmed glasses have tended to be thinner than in previous decades and are smaller vertically.

Some trend followers wear the glasses without prescriptive lenses, purely as a fashion statement. The glasses are often associated in mainstream culture with being "nerdy", but are popular in emo, punk, indie, hipster, goth, and generally counter-culture fashion. Hot Topic, a popular clothing chain which markets to various counter-cultures and alternative lifestyles, sells the frames without prescriptive lenses.

The glasses have also become part of geek culture and in some circles are an extension of the term ("geek glasses"), as the term "geek" is, in today's culture, now more of a compliment denoting extraordinary skill or knowledge in a certain area (books, music, movies).

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