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Buddy Holly Glasses: The First Rockstar In Specs

Updated: 20 May 2024 •  
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Before the rise of pop culture, it was rare to see a famous individual in glasses for reasons other than vision correction. That was, until an aspiring rock ‘n’ roll musician named Buddy Holly decided to make eyewear a part of his signature look, eventually paving the way for other music legends to create their own distinctive style.
Buddy Holly’s oversized black frames were inseparable from his image, and became just as iconic as his one-of-a-kind sound. Read on to find out more about the musician’s unique history with eyewear, and perhaps get a few eyewear style tips from the icon himself!

Who was Buddy Holly?

Buddy Holly wearing a pair of glasses posing for a photo in between rehearsals in 1958

Buddy Holly poses for a photo in between rehearsals (1958). (Credit: Pinterest).

Born in a small town in Lubbock in 1936, Charles Hardin Holley was fondly nicknamed Buddy by his mother, while his altered last name ‘Holly’ was actually the result of a misspelling on his first recording contract twenty years later.
As a part of a musically inclined family, Buddy learned how to play several instruments growing up, but ultimately decided to make guitar his forte after hearing his classmate play the instrument on a school bus. Shortly after, he started performing with his friend Bob Montgomery in various public venues within Lubbock.
Aside from being a natural born singer and guitarist, another known fact about Buddy Holly was that he had severe nearsightedness. With a vision of 20/800 on both eyes, he had difficulty reading even the first line of the eye chart.

Sticking to the status quo

Perhaps the most interesting part about Buddy Holly becoming an eyewear icon is that he really had no interest in becoming one, and was actually trying to hide his frames during the beginning of his music career.
buddy holly wearing a pair of glasses in the recording studio

Buddy Holly at a recording studio in 1956. (Credit: Pinterest).

Thinking that glasses wouldn’t suit the rock ‘n’ roll image he wanted to build, Buddy always wore the most inconspicuous glasses he could find, and even went as far as performing without them on stage. However, his stunt backfired when he dropped his guitar pick and needed to get down on his knees to find it.
Another alternative he explored was contact lenses, which he tried out for an audition in Tennessee. But unlike today’s lightweight contacts that you can easily apply and wear throughout the day, these 20th century ones were much larger in size and needed to be floated over the eye with saline solution. Moreover, the contacts could only be used for a couple of hours as they would eventually cloud up and need to be replaced.
Given the nature of the contact lenses, Buddy and his optometrist, Dr. Jesse Davis Armistead, devised a strategy in order for him to be able to perform glasses-free.
This involved Buddy applying his contacts only when the line had a couple of musicians left in front of him. However, due to an unexpected break, Buddy had to wait in line while wearing his contacts for a long time and was unable to see properly when it was his turn. He never tried contact lenses again ever since.

Breaking the mold with glasses

Realizing that glasses were pretty much his only option, Buddy decided to just own his unique look. After all, wearing glasses had no effect whatsoever on his ability to make music and perform. He once told his mom that ‘if people are going to like [him], they are just going to have to like [him] with glasses on’.
buddy holly and the crickets performing at the ed sullivan show in 1957

Buddy Holly & The Crickets perform his single ‘Peggy Sue’ at the Ed Sullivan Show (1957). (Credit: Pinterest).

Buddy started performing in subtle browline glasses during shows, but was eventually persuaded by his peers that if he was going to wear glasses on stage, he might as well make a bold statement with them. Thus began the search for what would be known today as the iconic ‘Buddy Holly Glasses’.

Buddy Holly Glasses – The industry shaking frame

buddy holly wearing his pair of signature eyeglasses

Buddy Holly wearing his signature glasses in a photoshoot in 1958. (Credit: Pinterest).

With the help of Dr. Armistead, Buddy was able to find the pair that would be his signature look throughout his career. Inspired by Phil Silvers on Sgt. Bilko, Dr. Armistead spotted the perfect frames for Buddy while on a vacation in Mexico. They were a thick pair of horn-rimmed Faosa glasses, which he thought complemented Buddy’s narrow face well and added more distinction to his overall look.
Thus, he brought home a tortoiseshell and black pair for Buddy to try. If you’re a fan of the 50s star, then you’d already know that Buddy went with the black frames and never looked back. He was said to have kept the tortoiseshell frames in his file, but unfortunately was never able to wear them on stage due to a plane accident that led to his untimely death.

His lost and now found glasses

Buddy’s glasses were buried in the snow during the tragic accident in 1959 and were found a couple of months later. Placed in an envelope, the frames were left in storage until 1980. The glasses were eventually given to his widow, Maria Elena Holly Diaz, after a court decision in 1981.
a pair of buddy holly original glasses frame

A photo of Buddy Holly’s original frames. (Credit: City of Lubbock).

Maria Elena held on to the frames for several years, but eventually decided to sell them to Civic Lubbock—the nonprofit organization that created the Buddy Holly Center—in 1998. Today, they’re displayed at the center of the exhibit near Buddy’s Fender Stratocaster guitar.

Making glasses the new norm

Despite his short career, Buddy Holly’s music left a permanent mark in the music scene, and influenced icons like John Lennon and Paul McCartney to play and write their own music. They later on revealed that their band’s name, The Beatles, was actually inspired from Buddy Holly’s band The Crickets.
Additionally, the concept of a rockstar wearing glasses also broke the stigma associated with eyewear, and made glasses more than just an optical solution, but a bold fashion accessory. John Lennon started wearing his glasses on stage too, while Elton John, who wanted to be like Buddy Holly, began sporting all kinds of unique frames during his performances.

Today’s stars in Buddy Holly glasses

Buddy’s black rimmed frames will always be a timeless staple, and has proven to be a tried-and-tested style that looks great on both men and women. Check out how these stars wear them:

1. Jeff Goldblum

jeff goldblum wearing a pair of buddy holly glasses

Jeff Goldblum at the Isle of Dogs premiere. (Credit: Google).

Jeff Goldblum has probably tried out every frame style in existence at this point, but these trapezoid-shaped black ones reminiscent of Buddy Holly’s original glasses are one of his best looks to date.

2. Adam Levine

adam levine wearing a pair of buddy holly glasses

Adam Levine on an episode of The Voice. (Credit: Pinterest).

Adam Levine’s angular frames on this episode of The Voice are equal parts studious and chic, and added polish to the judge’s look.

3. Kate Winslet

kate winslet wearing a pair of buddy holly glasses

Kate Winslet presents at the 88th Academy Awards. (Credit: Pinterest).

Kate Winslet looked incredible (and also very comfortable) as she introduced nominees for Best Picture in thick rimmed black frames.

Buddy Holly inspired glasses by Mouqy

Embrace your own individuality just like Buddy Holly with these frames from our Mouqy collection.
First off – our Dynamic frames are the black eyeglasses to wear for a sleek yet distinctive look.
mouqy dynamic frame

Mouqy’s classic black Dynamic eyeglasses.

Next – our Genius frame gets A+ in style and comfort.
mouqy genius frame

Mouqy’s modern and minimalistic Genius frames.

Next – this oversized cat eye is guaranteed to make you the talk of the town.
deluxe cat eye shiny black front view

Mouqy’s cat eye Deluxe eyewear.

Lastly – polished with a touch of retro – we have a good feeling you’ll love this one.
goody cat eye black gold front view

Mouqy’s go-to retro Goody pair.
Allysa Gatchalian
Allysa Gatchalian is a beauty, fashion and lifestyle writer based in Manila. She loves trying out new trends, discovering new k-dramas to watch, and sharing her favorite finds with friends.

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