Japanese Glassless Glasses
Per W. David MARX writing in Neojaponisme, the latest fashion statement in East and Southeast Asia is women wearing glasses minus the glass.
While the trend arguably originated in Japan, it has rapidly spread throughout the region with bespectacled lensless women now commonly appearing on the streets of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, and mainland China (particularly Shanghai, where one can purchase a pair for almost nothing on any street corner).
Most commonly, the frames are widely oversized and often thick. The colors tend toward dark brown or black rather than designer pastels or clear tones, vaguely reminiscent of Groucho Marx Halloween glasses and equally (un)stylish.
The glasses contain no glass or plastic lenses. Their sole connection to the act of vision is that they and the women wearing them are intended to be seen.
Of course, a similar trick is sometimes used in the West -- women adorning unneeded glasses as a more subtle fashion item. But those glasses contain powerless lenses that look normal and are meant to complement the face rather than overwhelm it, sort of like wearing an attractive pair of earrings. Asian lensless glasses seem different -- less like jewelry and more like a prop.
The trend is already huge and growing fast. But... why?
Nobody knows for sure, including the people wearing the frames, mostly teens or college students in their early twenties just following what they see in magazines and on their friends who are aping their friends who are aping their friends and so on.
Of course, there are a few theories. Beyond pure rebellion, one thought is that wearing the oversized fakes constitute a statement against the much smaller glasses that commonly smother today's myopic eyes.
| Especially in East Asia, anything that makes one's eyes appear smaller is considered best avoided.
Another suggestion is that wearing big glasses can make the face appear thinner, in essence slimming a wide face without requiring surgery, a hot cosmetic operation in many East Asian circles (not that those wearing such glasses seem to fall into this subgroup).
In any case, neither of these far-out explanations addresses the absence of lenses or their near comical size, which is integral to the new look.
Most likely, the trend is less an act of social defiance or physical camouflage and more an act of playful costume, like the Western hipster who squeezes herself into a pair of excruciatingly tight jeans and stilettos (although in the case of fake glasses, much more comfortable and fun).
The absence of actual lenses in the frames then makes more sense than their presence. After all, lenses are heavy, cost money, get smudged, and cause reflections.
In other words, wearing fake mega-glasses is being done to look and feel cool rather than to make a sociological statement or cosmetic change. Even if this far-away rage seems a bit out-there upon first hearing, don't be surprised to find a pair appearing very soon on your friend's face if not yours.
Not able to get enough of a good thing, what might be coming next? Here's one possibility...