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Presidential Glasses: Eyewear that Remains Timeless

Shu Kie

Written By:

Shu Kie

Updated: 28 February 2024 •  
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The impact of eyeglasses in American history is pretty “spectacular.” Especially when we look at the glasses of US presidents!
 
Presidential glasses have been instrumental in helping leaders fulfill their duties, all the while bringing style and substance into perfect harmony.
 
They’ve even done their part in curbing bloodshed and conflict!
 
Today, we’ve pulled together a list of Presidents of the United States to see how eyeglasses have affected their lives as leaders of the free world.
 
We’ve even dropped in some tips and recommendations to help anyone get a similar look!

1. George Washington’s patriotic glasses (1789–1797)

George Washington portrait by Gilbert Stuart in 1821

A painting of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, 1821. Source: National Art Gallery

 
Spectacles were considered a sign of weakness during the incumbency of George Washington in the 18th century.
 
Yet, they paradoxically played a significant role in a spectacular historical event – the halting of the Newburgh Conspiracy.
 
That was a military coup plot by Continental Army officers to overthrow the government during the American Revolutionary War.
 
The first POTUS most likely did not expect that his eyeglasses would become a significant factor in stopping the coup.
 
Washington’s officers, who had never seen him wear spectacles, were overcome with pity and affection when he wore his glasses, and opened a letter before congress at his Newburgh address, and said;
 
“Gentlemen, you must pardon me, for I have grown not only gray but blind in the service of my country.”
 
Some men wept.
 
Washington left the hall, and the officers quickly declared their “unshakable confidence” in Washington and Congress.
 
So there was no military coup, and Congress eventually provided the army benefits.

 

2. Theodore Roosevelt iconic temple-free glasses (1901–1909)

portrait of Theodore Roosevelt with his signature pince-nez eyeglasses

Theodore Roosevelt wore his signature style Pince-Nez eyeglasses. Source: The White House

 

Teddy was famous for his signature style, the pince-nez eyeglasses.
 
These iconic round eyewear have no temples perched on his nose.
 
With this, the 26th POTUS showed that one could have style and substance in perfect harmony.

 
Teddy’s round glasses weren’t just a fashion statement.
 
It was born out of a traumatic event.
 
During a boxing sparring session in 1908, Teddy suffered a devastating blow that caused hemorrhaging and retinal detachment in his left eye, ultimately leading to blindness.
 
Despite losing his eyesight in one eye, Teddy didn’t let it dampen his adventurous spirit.
 
He boldly wore glasses for photographs, which weren’t typical for presidents then.
 
This act inspired many people to embrace their unique qualities and be proud of what makes them different.
 
Teddy’s glasses were so iconic that they can still be seen on Mount Rushmore, carved as a permanent part of his stone face.
 
If you seek to emulate these iconic style eyeglasses, try Mouqy’s round eyewear the Innocent.
 

 

3. Andrew Jackson’s portrait-enhancing glasses (1829–1837)

Portrait of Andrew Jackson wearing spectacles painted by Ralph Earl

A portrait of Andrew Jackson wearing spectacles by Ralph Earl. Source: The North Carolina Museum of Art

 

Andrew Jackson was among several other US presidents who relied on eyeglasses to aid in his vision.
 
The spectacles allowed him to read and write more efficiently and helped him to carry out his duties as the 7th POTUS.
 
Many saw Jackson with his iconic spectacles, an essential symbol of his persona and leadership.
 
His portraits often featured them, and he was not often seen without them.
 
His spectacles were among the most sought-after items when his personal belongings went under the hammer after his death.
 
The exact reason for Jackson’s visual impairment is unclear, but it is believed to have been caused by an infection or injury.[1]
 
Also known as “Old Hickory,” Jackson was estimated to have participated in between five and 100 duels.
 
Historians even suggested the president experienced lead and mercury poisoning following his therapeutic use of calomel (mercurous chloride) and sugar of lead (lead acetate).
 
Despite his vision problems, Jackson had a dynamic career, serving first in the military before joining politics.

 

 

4. Lyndon B. Johnson’s extensive eyewear collection (1963–1969)

President Lyndon Johnson pictured at the Honolulu Conference on the Vietnam War

Lyndon Johnson at the Honolulu Conference on the Vietnam War. Source: Wikimedia

 
President Lyndon B. Johnson, aka “LBJ,” was a legit eyewear enthusiast.
 
During his term in office, he revolutionized how glasses were worn by experimenting with bold styles and vibrant hues in the era of television.
 
Johnson has an extensive eyewear collection.[2]
 
The LBJ Presidential Library and Museum assembled at least 53 pairs of his eyeglasses at the University of Texas.
 
The 36th POTUS favored zyl sunglasses with purple lenses. Yet one pair in the museum’s collection even has a built-in transistor radio.
 
Johnson’s favorite oversized, square-framed glasses became his signature look and symbolized his confidence and style as an influential leader.
 
They also had the practical purpose of helping him look authoritative and in control on television.
 
Johnson’s innovative eyewear approach impacted fashion, inspiring people to experiment with their style.
 
President Johnson was the first U.S. President to wear contact lenses, starting in 1964.
 
If you want to try oversized, square-framed glasses, Mouqy’s NEAT NT901 specs are a good bet.
 

 

5. The Ronald Reagan transformation glasses (1981–1989)

President Ronald Reagan wearing glasses while working at his desk in the oval office

President Ronald Reagan wore glasses while working at his desk in the oval office. Source: Wikimedia

 

US President Ronald Reagan’s “life with eyeglasses” can be considered a success story.
 
The originally American actor-turned-politician had been nearsighted throughout his life, and as a child, he thought the world around him was a blur and not interesting.
 
The blue-eyed future commander-in-chief was, in fact, already 13 when he discovered, in his own words, “the gloriously sharply outlined world”!
 
This was after he tried on his mother’s spectacles while riding in his father Jack’s car.
 
His visual acuity was later measured at 20/200.
 
Once Reagan’s vision improved, he went through a remarkable transformation from a shy kid who kept to himself to a student body president, performer in school plays, accomplished swimmer, and varsity football player.
 
Since joining the military, Reagan preferred wearing classic aviator-style eyeglasses with gold frames and green lenses from AO Eyewear (formerly American Optical).
 
AO Eyewear manufactures army-issued protective GI glasses called Birth Control Glasses.
 
The 40th POTUS also began wearing contact lenses when he started his acting career.
 
If you want to go for a thick rectangle frame, Mouqy recommends the Nori frames.

 

 

6. Barack Obama rocks the raybans (2009–2017)

Portrait of President Barack Obama sporting his favorite sunglasses

President Barack Obama sporting his go-to glasses. Source: Esquire

 

Praised by the press for his dress sense, President Barack Obama valued simplicity with his go-to glasses.
 
The 44th POTUS is a lover of shades of different styles.
 
Among the politician’s favorites was the Ray-Ban 3217 with black frames and dark gray lenses, which gave him the appearance of a pilot or a character from The Matrix.
 
Back in 2016, during his visit to Cuba, Obama made a fashion statement by wearing Oliver Peoples designer shades, the OPLL Sun.
 
The sunglasses, which cost around $500 then, were simple yet fashionable, lacking logos or over-the-top trends.
 
For those who aim for simple sunglass fashion, check out Mouqy’s Mascot eyeglasses.
 

 
You can’t go wrong with a simple pair of snap-on shades.
 

Eyewear has brought impact and style through the ages

In retrospect, eyeglasses, as lifeless as they are, had a significant impact on the lives of past US presidents and the history of America.
 
The halting of the military coup plot, or the Newburgh Conspiracy, during the term of the first US president was a testament to this.
 
George Washington’s courage to use his spectacles for the first time in public was a pivotal component that made officers overcome with pity and affection, calling off the coup altogether.
 
The planned war could have made America self-destruct.
 
Spectacles in the 18th century meant aging, weakness, blindness, and infirmity.
 
The effect they had during Washington’s term, however, became positive in a paradoxical sense.
 

References

  • “Andrew Jackson’s Exposure to Mercury and Lead: Poisoned President?”, Deppisch LM, Centeno JA, Gemmel DJ, Torres NL. (1999)
  •  

  • “Sunglasses with Style: LBJ’s Collection Includes Unusual Shades”, UT News.
Shu Kie

Written by:

Shu Kie

Shu Kie is Mouqy’s certified optician with over 5 years of experience in the optical industry. She earned her certification from Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO).

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