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What are Pince-nez Glasses?

Angie Garcia

Written By:

Angie Garcia

Updated: 12 June 2024 •  
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Have you ever heard of pince-nez? While they may not be your typical glasses, they’re worth knowing about.
For centuries, pince-nez glasses have been an enduring symbol of style and elegance, with a fascinating history encompassing their curious name and sleek design.
If you’re intrigued to discover more about this unique eyewear, read on!

What we know about the past of pince-nez

multiple pairs of pince-nez glasses

The use of pince-nez reached their peak popularity in the late 19th century. Source: 20/20

Pince-nez have a rich history that dates back to the 19th century.
These glasses were invented in France and were initially popular among aristocrats and intellectuals.
The name “pince-nez” is derived from the French words “pincer” (to pinch) and “nez” (nose).
The name fits the glasses since they “pinch” the nose bridge, and there’s no need for temple arms or earpieces.
theodore Roosevelt wearing a pair of pince-nez glasses

Former US President Theodore Roosevelt was an avid fan of pince-nez. Source: History Channel

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, pince-nez became a popular fashion accessory among men and women.
Famous figures such as Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Mahatma Gandhi loved these glasses.
As time passed, pince-nez evolved, introducing various shapes, sizes, and materials.
This included horns, metal, and tortoise shells, among others.
Despite their decline in popularity, pince-nez still hold a special place in the hearts of many fashion enthusiasts and history buffs.
Today, these glasses have experienced a resurgence in popularity among those who appreciate their vintage aesthetic and unique charm.

The different variants of pince-nez

C-bridge or spring bridge

c-bridge or spring bridge pince-nez

The adjustable and removable design of pince-nez makes them convenient for all nose sizes. Source: Southampton History Museum

One of the most common types is the C-bridge or spring bridge pince-nez.
This spring-like mechanism allows the glasses to clip onto the nose without needing earpieces.
Its adjustable design makes it effortless to fit various nose sizes, and you can remove them quickly.
However, some people find that the spring can be uncomfortable or cause irritation to the skin.
Frequent flexing caused the bridges to wear out and lose their tension, leading to frequent breakage.

N-bridge or hard bridge

n-bridge or hard bridge pince-nez

The N-bridge/hard bridge pince-nez have a solid bridge that rests directly on the nose. Source: Science Museum Group

Another type of pince-nez is the N-bridge or hard bridge pince-nez. Its bridge was often made of metal or hard plastic.
The rigid bridge provides more stability and durability, making it a popular choice for active people who need their glasses to stay in place for extended periods.
It’s often considered more stable and secure than the C-bridge, but it can be more challenging to adjust and may only fit some nose shapes comfortably.

Modern alternatives to pince-nez

Although pince-nez are no longer widely produced, modern alternatives offer similar styles and functionality.
One popular option is the semi-rimless frame, which features a thin, minimalist design that rests on the bridge of the nose without earpieces.
Another option is the rimless frame, which features lenses attached directly to the bridge and temples, giving the illusion of floating lenses.
At Mouqy, we offer several modern alternatives that pay homage to the classic design of pince-nez.
The Brilliant frames exudes a modern take on the classic pince-nez style with its semi-rimless design crafted from gold metal.

It exudes a refined aura that is both sophisticated and fashion-forward.
The thin metal temples and rimless frames of the Innocent frames resemble the style of pince-nez.

This design ensures that the glasses are lightweight and low-profile, so they won’t overpower your face.
The Occasion is a perfect choice if you’re looking for statement-making yet classic eyewear, the Occasion is an ideal choice.

Its full-rim “between the frames” design reminiscent of pince-nez and a sleek gold-black blend offers a modern take on a vintage style.

How do people wear pince-nez?

closeup of a face with a pair of pince-nez on

Wearing pince-nez can take some getting used to, especially if you’re used to traditional glasses with earpieces. Source: Flickr

To properly wear pince-nez glasses, start by holding the glasses with both hands by the bridge or the top rim. Next;

  • Put the glasses on your nose and align the top edge with the bridge of your nose.

  • Adjust the fit of the glasses by gently pressing the nose pads against the sides of your nose. Make sure the glasses sit comfortably and securely on your nose without slipping.

  • Adjust the glasses’ angle by slightly tilting the top rim forward or backward until the lenses sit in front of your eyes.

Once done, try moving your head and ensuring the glasses stay in place without feeling too tight or uncomfortable.
If the glasses feel too tight, gently adjust the nose pads or angle to relieve pressure.
If the glasses feel too loose, bend the bridge inward or outward to fit better.
Avoid wearing pince-nez for extended periods if they cause discomfort or strain on your nose.

Embrace the enduring appeal of Pince-Nez glasses

a pair of pince-nez glasses

Pince-nez glasses remain a beloved classic among vintage enthusiasts and those who appreciate their unique style. Source: Etsy

Pince-nez glasses have a rich and fascinating history that dates back centuries.
Their unique design and popularity among notable figures like Teddy Roosevelt and Mahatma Gandhi have contributed to their enduring appeal.
The lack of earpieces and reliance on nose pads to keep the glasses in place is a distinctive feature that sets them apart from other eyewear styles, and this adds to their appeal for those who value their simplicity and elegance.
Properly wearing and adjusting them can significantly enhance the comfort and functionality of your glasses.
Even though they are not as widely used today as they once were, the pince-nez remain a staple among those fond of vintage style.

Angie Garcia

Written by:

Angie Garcia

Angie is a Manila-based writer who specializes in wellness and lifestyle topics. She likes trying out new workouts and drinking coffee when not writing.

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