Nerd Glasses: The Top 5 Famous Nerd Glasses in Film

Nerd glasses used to be the bane of a teenager’s existence. But strangely enough, they’re now back in style. No, not the frames with a crack in the lenses or the tape on the bridge – it’s that big, thick, and oversized pair of black “nerd glasses” that are coming back into style.

Nerd glasses used to be exactly that — a frame style exclusively for “nerds”, and no one was ever too keen on getting a pair. They were associated with the idea that nerds had book smarts but knew nothing about fashion or style. Yet just as the fashion landscape is continually changing, so is the conception of nerd glasses.

So why are they fashionable again? Or better yet, why even call them nerd glasses? The mere implication in calling this style of glasses “nerd glasses” is that there is something to do with intelligence and knowledge in wearing them. Maybe you want to look intelligent, skillful, or sophisticated in a way. Whatever the case, the perception behind nerd glasses has changed. The negative connotations associated with nerd glasses have almost dissipated and instead, there is a penchant for a combination of a smart yet stylish look.

While you might have in your head some generic idea of what nerd glasses might be, it doesn’t predicate that they’re always going to be a pair of dark, thick, oversized frames. We see nerd glasses being used in a variety of ways from ads in fashion catalogues to cartoon characters on the television. Movies are no exception; there are some timeless classics of nerd glasses captured on film and we’ll be going through some of the top five films that display what could be considered the epitome of nerd glasses and just why they can be categorized as such.

Harry Potter
It’s okay if you’re not a wizard – you can still wear these glasses. The pair of glasses that Harry Potter wears is probably not the contemporary type of nerd glasses that you might’ve expected, but they do go up pretty high on the list when it comes to nerd glasses. If you’re not sure what we’re talking about here, they’re a kind of Windsor-style glasses—a pair of very circular glasses with thin frames. They’re a very simplistic, classic type of glasses and can be even considered retro in their own way.

A lot of fairly iconic people have worn this classic pair of nerd glasses like Ernest Hemingway, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Hurt. Harry Potter glasses are perfect as nerd glasses because they exude a characteristic artistic sort of look. Think John Lennon and Groucho Marx—they both strike us as skillful masters of their crafts and as sophisticated, intellectual individuals, but not quite in a statesmanlike manner. At the same time, these glasses can be utilized in such a way to exhibit an atmosphere of education and refinement. Just wear a suit, tie, don these pair of nerd glasses, and you’re good to go.

Isn’t it a wonder how Superman’s perfect disguise is just a pair of glasses? Another classic of nerd glasses is the man of steel’s frames that he wears with his civilian disguise. There have been a couple Supermans before the well-renowned Christopher Reeves’ turn on the stage, and in all the past renditions of Superman, Clark Kent is fitted with wire frame glasses and subsequently with round tortoise glasses. The Clark Kent nerd glasses which were really popularized came with Christopher Reeves’ debut as the man of steel. In the 1978 version of Superman, Clark Kent wears the quintessential version of nerd glasses: they’re big, they’re round, and they’re oversized.

Of course the reason behind why the Clark Kent’s glasses in Superman is the epitome of nerd glasses is not only because of the style of the frames but also because of the character and portrayal of the dualism of Superman and Clark Kent. And if you see a classic scene when Clark Kent is taking Lois out for the night, we see that for a minute he’s Clark Kent—a bumbling, nervous, uptight guy with a nasal sort of voice which tends to be the stereotypical image of a nerd. As soon as he removes his glasses, he becomes Superman as his body loosens up, his voice deepens, and he straightens out his posture, standing tall. And it’s this sort of contrast which is captured extremely well in the nerd glasses.

Malcolm X
Wind the reels back to the 1950s and we’re in the midst of the civil rights movement. The film starring Denzel Washington entails a biographical epic of the leader from his early life and career. But more than the film, we’re interested in the glasses.

The nerd glasses portrayed on the screen in this film is a singularly iconic pair of browline glasses. They’re fittingly termed “browline” because the top portion being made of a plastic thicker than the wire-like bottom half looks like a pair of eyebrows and rest right in front of the eyebrows.

Like the other glasses listed so far, the frames in Malcolm X express a smart look; they perfectly exude a form of confidently determined intelligence. But the nerd glasses in Malcolm X don’t quite express a typical nerd vibe because of the boldness of the browlines. The browlines help to suggest a sort of aggressive intelligence. And as Malcolm X’s career was a bit controversial in terms of his activism and his philosophy, these nerd glasses fit rather well as an expression of dangerous brilliance.

American Psycho
So maybe not all of us are maniacally obsessed with trying to top our co-workers with bone colored business cards with Silian Rail lettering and subsequently secretly desiring to choke them when we can’t. Let’s be honest, Patrick Bateman is a little weird. But that doesn’t keep his frames from being one of the top nerd glasses to be featured on film. Kind of like Harry Potter, the glasses that Patrick Bateman adorns doesn’t quite strike us as the stereotypical kind of nerd glasses that we might be used to.

Patrick Bateman’s round tortoiseshell O’Malley glasses originally manufactured by Oliver Peoples exhibit a physical sense of smarts and style. In terms of form factor, they’re like the Windsors—they’re very circular which gives it an intelligent look, but they’re also thicker than the Windsors which provides them a little more leverage in terms of style. They also have more color, unlike the Harry Potter glasses which again, adds to their form value.

The O’Malleys are also considered nerd glasses in the sense that the glasses are associated with his extremely knowledgeable character. Despite being a sociopath, the movie portrays him as a smart, organized, and efficient person. He regurgitates what seems like a Wikipedia-esque monologue whenever he’s with guests and he appears to have a deep understanding of a multitude of topics ranging from investment to the music and discography of Huey Lewis and the News.

How to Marry a Millionaire
Can Marilyn Monroe be considered a nerd? From what we know of her, probably not. But that’s beside the point, as she plays a role in the film How to Marry a Millionaire which features her with a pair of nerd glasses. In this film and in many of the other films she starred in, the nerd glasses Marilyn Monroe dons is a pair of cat eye glasses.

These classic cat eye glasses that she wears throughout the film are quite pertinent as nerd glasses because of the way she treats the idea of wearing glasses throughout the film. Whenever she’s around someone, she frantically takes the glasses off hoping that no one takes notice of the fact that she needs glasses. She especially hates wearing glasses around men and the general idea is that people who wear glasses are not interested in love or being courted.

The association she makes between wearing glasses and romantic interest is what makes this another famous pair of nerd glasses in film. It goes back to this antiquated conception that somehow glasses are completely unappealing. But to be sure, modern cat eyeglasses exhibit the same sort of smart and stylish look that the other nerd glasses do.

As we’ve seen, “nerd glasses” doesn’t necessarily mean an unappealing look or eyewear. Modern fashion suggests that nerd glasses can exhibit intelligence without compromising style. The films we went through also don’t exactly present the typical nerd glasses we’re used to seeing, but they are the most relevant in terms of their functionality and style when speaking about nerd glasses. And while most of the films listed feature male protagonists wearing glasses, this doesn’t mean that the styles are limited strictly to just men. You will find that even though there are certain styles of glasses which specifically pertain to men and women, the upside of nerd glasses is that they don’t necessarily adhere to a particular group.