Last Updated on February 17, 2023 by Josh Wilkerson
When a celebrity wears any sort of fashion item, no matter how seemingly random, people will most likely attempt to copy that style. James Dean’s glasses and style was one of these examples, however, there was something more about his simple, yet unique style that has kept him in the books as one of the greatest style icons in history. The aura that he built around himself was one that many teenagers could relate to, and it was more of the message that his style gave that gives his name a permanent existence today.
The reason for James Dean’s glasses & sunglasses
Perhaps the most misunderstood people in this world are teenagers. That awkward stage where you still feel like a child, but are expected to act more like an adult can understandably be a confusing time. It’s also a wonder that anyone can pull off looking effortlessly good and manage to maintain style, while simultaneously dealing with the troubles of that age but iconic legend James Dean somehow managed to do so. James Dean was popular not only because he had impeccable style, but also because he was relatable. The one who defined and acted upon teenage angst, James Dean’s glasses style, along with his outfits was also effortless. Some may think he was trying to portray high fashion sense, but he was actually extremely near-sighted, and thus needed glasses in order to function in daily life.
James Dean’s glasses can be described as having a round shape, with a more structured top and a keyhole bridge for the nose. There were also small ledges on the tips of the frames that gave it more of a statement. These were perfect for his heart-shaped face, as the structured edges helped to shorten his forehead, and the rounded out bottoms took attention away from his longer chin. Although there is no particular name for James Dean’s glasses, that is what makes his specs unique. What is most interesting about James Dean’s glasses is the fact that by themselves, they seem rather innocent. However, the image he portrayed in the media, as well as in the few films that he starred in before his passing, was the exact opposite of innocent.
James Dean’s glasses in films
Before his tragic abrupt death at age 24, James Dean had only filmed three motion pictures, in which only one of them was released in theatres at the time. Giant, East of Eden, and Rebel Without A Cause were all movies that Dean was featured in, and were also all movies that were widely unrecognized or known until his tragic passing. However, his most famous film, Rebel Without A Cause, was released after his death and was viewed by many. Because he was so young, Dean attracted much attention from teenagers who were fascinated by the sudden death of a Hollywood actor. Viewers quickly picked up on his understated style, his rebellious aura, and his “good-looks” and charm, and he instantly rose to fame after his death. The character he created for himself spoke of teenage disillusionment and misunderstanding, as well as rebellion and androgynous thinking, and this is what attracted audiences to the romantic. During his time on set to film these movies, James Dean would often wear his glasses in between takes, as he could barely see without them. Though James Dean’s glasses weren’t featured as much in the movies he filmed, it was offset and through other means that we have many iconic images of him wearing his unique frames. James Dean’s glasses and clothing style particularly stand out, because of their high contrast to the message his character gave. He was all about rebellion and clearly separated himself from the rest of the world, however, James Dean’s glasses gave him a softness that made him have a more approachable demeanor. His somewhat nerdy looking glasses surrounded him with a more charming appeal that expressed sophistication and intelligence as well. In the documentary, James Dean, actor James Franco takes on the role of dean himself, and wears James Dean’s glasses constantly throughout, which more accurately represents the effect the glasses had on his character. James Dean also wore sunglasses, in the form of wayfarers. In contrast to the intelligent personality that his normal glasses gave him, his sunglasses only helped to boost his cool and mysterious demeanor. James Dean somehow managed to combine a hard, individualistic personality with the personality of an intellectualist and romantic, all of which greatly appealed to the public at the time, and which still appeals to our standards of fashion today.
How James Dean’s glasses style is seen today
James Dean’s glasses would not have had the same effect, without his easygoing, yet structured clothing style, and of course his classic good looks. There’s a reason why countless songs make references to him, including Madonna’s “Vogue,” Don McLean’s “American Pie,” and most recently, Taylor Swift’s “Style,” as his timeless style and character is still admired today. At first thought, James Dean’s style can be summarized as wearing a simple white t-shirt, a bomber jacket, and Levi jeans. Pair this with a cigarette in the mouth and a brick wall to lean on, and the classic James Dean look that has lasted through the decades is complete. This is the most common image of him that people remember, but there are countless other looks in which he embodies an intellectual side and many that feature James Dean’s glasses.
In one of his portrait shots, he sits on a chair with his feet casually resting on a table, and he wears a plain black sweater, brown-cuffed slacks, and old tennis shoes. James Dean’s glasses are the finishing touch on this otherwise simple, standard outfit, and with his hair groomed and polished he manages to embody the persona of an intelligent daydreamer. There are many pictures of him holding a book or writing, as this is what he also enjoyed doing. Most of these portraits feature and would not be complete without James Dean’s glasses and his simple, yet classic wardrobe consisting of black collared dress shirts, or casual t-shirts. He was also able to pull off making collared shirts underneath basic sweaters look sophisticated, yet still gave off that rebellious air. In times when James Dean had to attend fancy occasions or premiers, he is soon sporting a black suit and the same rounded glasses. James Dean’s glasses had a way of making him maintain his rebellious nature even in formal events.
In the end, no matter what he wore, he made basic clothing items seem classic and elegant. The casual effort was only encouraged by James Dean’s glasses, as they were a necessity for him, yet by simply wearing the soft, rounded frames, he popularized them as a highly sought after accessory. James Dean managed to pick the right frames for his rebellious, mysterious name, and these frames helped mold him into embodying the androgynous charisma he gave off at the time. James Dean’s glasses appeal to men and women, and as a result both genders are able to embody his style.
Wearing James Dean’s glasses today
Actors and celebrities today can still be seen wearing James Dean’s glasses and filtering their own personalities into the almost unattainable level of casual style he demonstrated. Celebrity Ryan Gosling has been seen wearing James Dean’s glasses, and though they do not carry the same reputation, the glasses had the same effect on Gosling. While James Dean’s glasses were able to give him a softer edge to his cool demeanor, Ryan Gosling’s attractiveness was boosted with the glasses and also made him more approachable. The effect of the frames revealed an intellectual nature to both men, which could ultimately be the reason why they are both highly acclaimed as two of the most attractive celebrities of their time.
Because of the timelessness of his style, looking like James Dean can easily be achieved today. The versatility of James Dean’s style allows him to be clearly recognized during Halloween, and can be easily regarded as normal if it wasn’t Halloween. James Dean’s glasses are an essential part of this aspect of his style, because by wearing them, you are able to filter his impact on the world in combination with your own particular style. He boasted an individualistic personality that was rebellious, yet intellectual and sensitive, and his style very much embodied this exact description.
James Dean truly did live out the saying, “live fast, die young.” He is a symbol of teenage angst and mystery as well as one of the greatest style icons to have ever lived. As Swift would put it, that “James Dean daydream look in [his] eyes,” is still desirable today. James Dean’s glasses are one of the keys to his classic look that still appears in trends and perhaps the best thing about his style is that it will always inspire, not only the fashion industry, but film, music, and art as well.