20% OFF frame & lenses!

James Dean’s Glasses: An Up-Close Look

Updated: 20 June 2024 •  
share via facebook share via twitter share via linkedin share via email

While James Dean’s filmography may not have been the longest, the forever 24-year old star still remains to be one of Hollywood’s most influential icons today.
The remarkable actor’s legacy encompasses several aspects of pop culture: film, music, art, fashion, and our personal favorite – timeless eyewear trends.
Read on to learn more about the ‘rebel without a cause’ and how you can emulate his signature eyewear look.

Who was James Dean?

james dean in the east of eden

James in his first major film ‘East of Eden’. (image source).

Born in Indiana in 1931, James Byron Dean loved the arts growing up. He enjoyed music, knew how to play the violin, tap danced, and was a part of his school’s theater group in high school. The multitalented star also had a passion for racing before his acting career took off.
After his unforgettable portrayal as Cal in East of Eden, James rose to stardom, earning himself an Oscar nomination as well as the admiration of teenage audiences that longed for representation in the media.
The actor had a promising career ahead of him, but tragically passed due to a car accident — almost a month before ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ was released.
james dean as jim stark in the rebel without a cause

James Dean as Jim Stark, wearing his iconic red Harrington jacket from the film. (image source).

The film’s theme, which resonated with the youth of that time, was what cemented James as a cultural icon, with his gripping performance as a teenage juvenile delinquent making cinema history.
Shortly after the film’s release, teens all over America started sporting his clothing, hair, and even adopted some of his rebellious attitude.

James Dean Glasses: Timeless style & presence

The majority of James Dean’s looks have always leaned towards the casual side, but it was how he carried himself that made even the simplest of outfits—such as his signature white shirt and Levi’s 501 denim—look inimitably cool.
james dean in a white t shirt

James Dean in a slim fit white shirt and his favorite Levi’s 501 jeans. (image source).

In between takes and on his days off, James was often seen sporting a pair of acetate glasses in a tortoiseshell print, which softened his features and made the star look more approachable.
These legendary frames were called the Mansfield Square F770, and were made by the American eyewear manufacturer Universal Optical. The distinguished pair first went into production in the 40s and became the brand’s main product thanks to popular demand.
james dean wearing a pair of glasses posing for photos

James casually poses for a photo while wearing his famous specs. Image source.

The heritage model added intellectual charm to James’ classic ‘bad boy’ looks, and also provided a nice contrast to his more casual aesthetic. In hindsight, we think that James’ eyewear of choice complemented his stage persona and real life character to a T.
And while we never saw him wear his signature frames on screen, his glasses were so integrated into his public image that he will always be remembered as one of America’s biggest eyewear icons.
Apart from his charming appearance, James stood out not only because he had the qualities of a top Hollywood actor in the 50s, but because he also possessed a certain vulnerability which made him more relatable than the stars before him.
From his captivating gaze to the way he spoke, he displayed emotions in ways that no other male actor has ever done on screen, and it was this complexity that challenged the way masculinity was portrayed in cinema and inspired a new generation of actors from Johnny Depp to Nicolas Cage.

Did James Dean really need glasses?

Back in the day, glasses were viewed as something worn out of necessity, and not really for fashion’s sake. James probably had the same stance whenever he wore his glasses, as the star had extreme nearsightedness and had difficulty seeing objects more than an arm’s length away.
james dean wearing a pair of sunglasses in a ferrari

James Dean at the wheel of a 1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Series I Spider. (image source).

As a matter of fact, whenever it was particularly sunny outside, James would opt for clip-on sunglasses which he would place on top of his single vision lenses.

The James Dean Glasses Shape

james dean wearing a pair of glasses at the thalian ball

James Dean at the Thalian Ball wearing his signature glasses. (image source).

The young actor’s frame of choice was fully rimmed, and had a rounded silhouette with a structured top and a classic keyhole bridge. Now named after his initials, the JD glasses complemented his heart-shaped face perfectly, balancing out a more prominent forehead and pointier chin, as well as drawing more attention to his characteristic gaze.

Which icons wear James Dean glasses today?

JD and his favorite specs had a huge fanbase back then, and still do today. Here are some of Hollywood’s biggest stars rocking the iconic frames:

1. Johnny Depp

johnny deppy wearing a pair of james dean inspired glasses

Johnny Depp attends a press conference for Tim Burton’s ‘Corpse Bride’ (2005). (image source).

It’s no secret that James Dean is one of acting legend Johnny Depp’s biggest inspirations in the industry. Aside from his craft, Johnny Depp is also a fan of the JD shape, and had a huge influence in the frame’s revival in the 90s.

2. Ryan Gosling

ryan gosling wearing a pair of james dean inspired glasses

Ryan Gosling attends the Cinema For Peace Dinner during the 64th Cannes International Film Festival (2011). (image source).

Another household name who’s made tortoiseshell glasses his signature is Ryan Gosling. We think that the different tones in his frames are a nice complement to his complexion and hair color, while the rounded shape and keyhole bridge add polish and highbrow appeal.

3. Steve Carell

steve carell wearing a pair of james dean inspired glasses

Steve Carell attends the premiere of ‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues’ (2013). (image source).

Multi-hyphen Steve Carell is rarely seen without specs these days, and has graced several red carpets and award shows in tortoiseshell glasses.

4. Zooey Deschanel

zooey deschanel wearing a pair of james dean inspired glasses

Zooey Deschanel as Jess in ‘New Girl’. (image source).

Yup, girls look just as good in the JD shape too! Our favorite new girl Zooey Deschanel adds a touch of old school to her look with a retro-inspired pair.

Can I pull off tortoiseshell glasses?

The beauty of tortoiseshell glasses is that they look good on literally everyone. Its rich brown hue with flecks of amber and honey are extremely flattering on deeper skin tones, and add warmth to fairer complexions. Plus, it’s a timeless pattern that will always be fashionable, and is versatile enough to wear in both casual and formal occasions.
Sophisticated yet distinctive, tortoiseshell frames are a great option for those who find black frames too harsh, and make a fun choice for individuals who find solid colored frames a bit bland. They come in all shapes and sizes too, so you’re sure to find one that flatters your face shape and personal style perfectly.

How to best style tortoiseshell frames

One of the things we love about tortoiseshell frames is their ability to elevate any outfit regardless of color palette. If you’re a neutral lover, a classic tortoiseshell print can add more dimension to your outfits in an understated way. But if pastels or brights are more your speed, count on the earthy hues of tortoiseshell frames to bring polish and keep your look grounded.
As with any type of eyewear, it always pays to consider where you’ll be wearing them the most. For example, if you’ll frequently be wearing your glasses in the office, then a tortoiseshell frame with a subtle print will be a smart choice that’ll give some flair to your corporate outfits. But if you work in a creative industry or an office that isn’t really keen on dress codes, then we highly recommend exploring tortoiseshell frames in vibrant colorways and bolder prints to show off your unique style.

Channel James Dean glasses: Our top picks in Mouqy

Whether you’re looking to make a serious fashion statement with your glasses or are simply looking for a pair that goes with everything, look no further than these head-turning frames.

1. Aesthete

mouqy aesthete glasses frame

Mouqy’s aviator style Aesthete frames.

Modern meets retro in this edgy aviator style, with a fashion-forward double bridge that gives off a similar look as James’ iconic clip-on shades.

2. Mascot

mouqy mascot glasses frame

Mouqy’s clip-on Mascot shades.

Take cues from James Dean by opting for a pair of glasses that can easily transform into sunglasses for those extra sunny days.
If you want more of this, be sure to check out our clip-on collection.

3. April

mouqy april glasses frame

Mouqy’s retro style April eyeglasses.

This lightweight frame is both practical and incredibly chic, and will always look good no matter where you’re going.

4. Nori

mouqy nori glasses frame

Mouqy’s sophisticated Nori eyeglass frames.

If you prefer a more angular silhouette, then our Nori frames may be the pair for you. The temple details add a bit of edge, while the keyhole bridge gives a nod to the 1950s aesthetic.
Can’t get enough? Browse our keyhole bridge glasses collection for more!

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.

Frames in This Post