It’s happened a few times now, enough to call it a phenomenon of sorts: a friend and I head to Firestone to study, find a quiet spot to embark on a 200-page reading due the next morning or reply to a few emails that have been eroding in my inbox for day, and hunker down. I unzip my backpack, unfold my laptop, unlock my academic toolbox (i.e. my pencil case), whip out a book … and then put on my glasses. Even for friends who’ve known me for quite some time, the shock is instantaneous.
“You wear glasses?” they inquire with a furrowed brow and wide eyes, as if pure electricity has spiraled down their spine.
I confirm that, yes, I do wear glasses now, and usually the conversation returns back to a silent dialogue of occasional stares and random thoughts. Until, at some point, I take off those tortoise-shell frames to rub my eyes and nose, and that friend puts them on.
In this critical moment, what follows is a reaction of either hysteria or outrage; either a fit of laughter resulting from the fact that my glasses don’t have a particularly high prescription, or a volcanic eruption of anger including a protest on my appropriation of glasses culture, coupled with accusations of my fraudulence as a wearer of spectacles (usually from someone with weak, severely astigmatic eyes).
Allow me to explain: In December, my optometrist said it would be a smart idea to wear glasses when looking at objects an arm’s-length away and closer in order to prevent the deterioration of my eyes. It’s this heavy amount of reading from a close distance that took a toll on my mom’s eyes during college and is something I would like to avoid. I’ll be honest and admit that, as the only non-eyewear-owner in my family, I always wanted a pair, so my doctor’s recommendation was a very willingly taken piece of advice.
The glasses also have blue light filters, which help prevent the suppression of melatonin secretion and shifting of circadian rhythms at night, according to Harvard Medical School.
It’s these blue light glasses specifically that I’ve started to see some of my friends wearing. And while I’ve recently been roped into that category, I don’t see that as a point of frustration since, technically, my glasses are for astigmatism; rather, when I’m accused of wearing glasses solely for blue light filters — what many refer to as “fake” glasses — I see it as an opportunity, a call to defend this newly targeted demographic of people.
To those who wear glasses (or don’t) and are upset about the trend of people wearing “fake” glasses now, I say this to you: calm down and find something else to get enraged about. I will make my case with two points.
Glasses have developed a secondary purpose and have transformed into — for some time now — an accessory in addition to not simply being a functional tool. Fashion has a tendency to erase or devalue function in favor of form. Look at the wristwatch, for example. What was once a pure utility to tell the time of day has been popularly diminished to a piece of decoration for the wrist, in an age where grabbing your phone from your right pocket is more instinctive and convenient than glancing at Roman numerals above your hand. What were at one point instruments with capabilities that assisted pilots and divers are now simply pieces in collections that are remembered for their intended use but not truly utilized as fully designed. This is all to say that articles of clothing and accessories can and have evolved not necessarily as intended, but through a desire for an aesthetic.
People want to wear glasses for a reason. The reality is, in our Western culture, wearing glasses connotes a greater sense of intelligence, dependability, industriousness, honesty, and sophistication compared to those who don’t, according to SUNY Oneonta’s Michael J. Brown’s overview of the literature on the subject. One study conducted by researchers from the University of Cologne and University of Groningen even found glasses to boost political candidates’ electoral success. However, the extent of perception doesn’t consist only of positives such as an increase in perceived intelligence: Brown’s report also described negative connotations of wearing glasses, such as the perception of less strength and being less socially and physically attractive.
What this research definitely concludes is that, regardless of why someone might want to wear “fake” glasses, perception matters. We all portray an image of ourselves. To those who already know us, this image is likely to be composed of our character, our actions, and our values, but to the unknown public we are constantly making first impressions. So, allow people the choice to portray a version of themselves they feel most comfortable with, and if it does not infringe on the rights of others, there is no harm.
Let people put what they want to put on their face. You can say you don’t care what other people think all you want, but at a very basic and often subconscious level, humans perceive things about other humans regarding their character. If people want to wear something that suggests a trait they believe to be positive, let them. Is it an egregious enough offense to be considered fraudulent or inauthentic? No, I don’t think it goes that deep.
And let me just say, for the record, I have 0.25 diopters of astigmatism, which is 0.25 more than I had before I started college.
Arman Badrei is a sophomore from Houston, Tex. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.