The Monocle — The One-Time Cool Accessory

The monocle glasses which seem out of fashion exuded wealth and confidence at the time...


'Tosin Adeoti

a year ago | 2 min read

"...the monocle he wore over his right eye..."

This phrase from The Last Kings of Shanghai reminded me of how enthralled I was with this one-eye lens at a point in time.

I had gone to see an optometrist with a buddy, and it was in his office that I noticed an image of a monocle on his wall.

A monocle is a type of corrective lens that is used to improve or correct vision in only one eye. A round lens with a wire ring around the circumference that can be fastened to a string or wire is used. To avoid losing the monocle, the other end of the thread is attached to the wearer's clothing.

I believe I first saw a monocle used by antiquarians to inspect engravings and antique engraved jewels in films set in the nineteenth century.

Victor Sassoon (see image), a wealthy Jew, operating in Shanghai does not complete his attire with a trendy monocle with his distinctive monocle, according to the book I'm reading. This demonstrates how capitalist the accessory was in the early 1900s.

It wasn't only for capitalists, though. The British statesman Joseph Chamberlain wore one. So did Woodrow Wilson, who served as President of the United States from 1913 to 1921. Otto von Bismarck, the founder and first chancellor of the German Empire, wore it as well. It was just cool to put one on.

Monocles are rarely worn nowadays, thanks to developments in optometry that allow for more accurate detection of refractive error, allowing for various strengths of glasses and contact lenses to be prescribed for each eye.

They simply went out of style, just like everything else. It also didn't help that t he members of the German High Command, as seen in their official photos, liked monocles by the time the First World War broke out in 1914, and wearing what the 'enemy' wore just didn't seem fashionable anymore for those living in the Allies.

Of course, the accessory has made occasional comebacks, such as in Madonna's 1989 "Express Yourself" music video, which was the most costly music video at the time, and in the tours taken by the eccentric British boxer, Chris Eubank in the 1990s. 

But then, who says it cannot make a proper comeback, for as they say "fashion trends are cyclical". Or isn't that Kevin Spacey looking à la mode in one?


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'Tosin Adeoti

Reader. Thinker. Entrepreneur (Founder at Email:







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