Originally a progression from the pince-nez, half-eye glasses are worn on the tip of the nose to look down while maintaining long sight. More of a working tool than a pair of all-round spectacles, they almost always confer a middle-aged, stuffy look upon the wearer. I always encourage ladies to look saucily rather than sternly over the top of a pair of half-eyes, as people tend to find them intimidating rather than sexy. Half-eyes can be useful but are not particularly practical as they’re reading prescriptive.
Some of you may not think that the hinge in a pair of spectacles is important but this overlooked bit of kit is the first thing I inspect before I purchase a collection. They are very small things that amount to a big subject in eyewear. It wasn’t until the eighteenth century that spectacles had arms and thus needed a hinge. Before then, they just sat on the nose. The supremacy of the hinge lasted until the 1960s when it became an ambition of designers to create hinges without pins. By the mid-sixties, techniques had been invented that allowed hinges without pins. A hole is bored in to the acetate and then it is heated. A ball-shaped claw is then pushed into the hole, and as the acetate contracts, it shuts around the ball. This is less expensive than the traditional pin-joint, which is more expressive and suggests greater craftsmanship and integrity, the qualities I always look for and rely on. Another type of hinge is the spring hinge, which I avoid. They break easily and don’t last very long.
The Hinge is not to be confused with Doctor Evadne Hinge, musical artiste and half of female impersonator duo Hinge and Bracket who in the 1970s and 1980s was famous for her imperious half-moon, half-eye glasses. These were standard NHS acetate half-eyes. I sometimes supply these for period films and judges and barristers who want to lend themselves an eccentric demeanour.
In the history of cult eyewear, Easy Rider not only popularised Peter Fonda’s Captain America look encapsulated by his iconic Ray-Ban Olympians. Dennis Hopper sported a memorable set of frames in the movie, too. There’s now a small range of eyewear from Jacques Marie Mage dedicated to Hopper and available from The Eye Company.
Dennis Hopper wearing his iconic Ray-Ban Olympians
Michael Caine’s Harry Palmer may have been described in the trailer for Funeral in Berlin as possessing ‘horn rims, cockney wit and an iron fist’ but no one really knows what ‘horn rims’ are, or where the phrase comes from. It may be derived from buffalo horn, the most sumptuous materials used in the manufacture of eyewear and its staple material for centuries. It could come from the little pointy bumps at the edges of some frames. The latter really only describes the difference between acetate and metal frames. It’s a widely-used phrase, but it means absolutely nothing at all the more you think about it.
Michael Caine wearing ‘horn rim’ glasses
Hoet makes hi-tech, unbreakable, incredibly intricate titanium frames, 3-D printed and beloved by boys who want to affect a chilly technocratic grace. I don’t care if I sell hardly any of these. I just want them in my life. The Eye Company is the first shop in the UK to stock the Hoet range and first in the UK to present any 3-D printed products in metal. 3-D printing will soon become a revolution in how we make things, a great leap forward that will make the 19th-century industrial revolution look like a stutter-step. I’m certainly proud that we are in on it at the start.
3D printed, titanium, Hoet eyewear
Hoffman of Germany are premier manufacturers of buffalo horn. They have a factory high up in the mountains to house the humidors necessary to keep the horn at the right temperature. Buffalo horn is a beautiful material and was used to make spectacles for hundreds of years. While it’s true that many frames were also made from marine turtle shell, that isn’t allowed anymore. I believe that once you’ve tried buffalo horn, you’ll never retreat back to acetate frames. Our Buffalo horn frames are bespoke and made-to-measure. They’ll last a lifetime as they’re infinitely repairable, which you can’t say about acetate. They are the ultimate luxury in eyewear. I have several ranges in Bertie Hudson.
One of the largest producers and the great competitor of Essilor, part of the Luxottica empire, Hoya are by far my favourite manufacturers of lenses. I have to source the best products for my customers and as an independent, I’m free to make my own decisions. Hoya lenses are the best and I only work with the best. Always of a very high quality, Hoya makes the only anti-reflection lens coatings that are resistant to 100°. As well as the quality of the coatings, what also stands out is the state-of-the-art grinding technology. There’s no way for the everyman to detect the differences these processes lend to a pair of glasses, but I am here to see them for you and pass on what I see.