A big part of my job as a dispensing optician is to use a famous name to paint a picture of a period for my client. Sometimes just a name can summon up an era more glamorous and sophisticated than our own, as well as the eyewear associated with it. Such a name is Jackie O.
Just whisper it, Jackie O. What do you see? A girl in a dream world of opulence and wealth, the equal of presidents and magnates; the Princess Diana of the 60s, her head wrapped in a Hermès scarf, waving from the deck of a yacht; glancing out from the back of a limousine in New York in the 60s, its imperial heyday; the girl in the drawing room of the White House, the interiors of which she redesigned; the queen of Mykonos, a queen wearing big round sunglasses, the Jackie Os.
Of course, Jackie was first the wife of another wearer of iconic frames we can’t overlook in the style history of eyewear, JFK, but it was after she married Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis in 1968 that she became an eyewear legend. And among the legends of eyewear, it’s no doubt unique to have married first one wearer of iconic eyewear, then another. Unique, too, for both Onassis to have named after them iconic pieces of eyewear: the Ona and the Jackie O.
Aristotle liked to show off his accessories. He asked his friend, the French designer Françoise Pinton to design a pair of glasses just for him. The result was the Ona, made from real tortoiseshell with gold hinges (rumour has it that Onassis would fly Pinton in his private jet from Paris to Skorpios, his private island, just to have his Ona’s hinges tightened). I will sometimes have someone come into the shop and ask me to make them a pair of glasses like Aristotle Onassis’, which I can, of course. This is rare, though. Very few people still desire the look of Aristotle Onassis, want to wrap themselves up in his style and swagger. This we cannot say for Jackie. If Aristotle was the King of Mykonos, she was more than his Queen. She was a goddess and still the indelible fashion icon, the undying star of eyewear.
Pinton also designed the signature Jackie O’s, the big round glasses that were originally meant to protect her eyes from the flashbulb-glare of the paparazzi cameras that bombarded her every time she swished out of doors (another example in the history of eyewear fashion where a trend starts with a practical purpose rather than an aesthetic gesture). Like Grace Kelly’s [link] upswept cat’s-eyes, the Jackie O was a sensation, a fashion earthquake. Every woman in the world wanted the big round dark glasses that would make her look a little like Jackie O. Everyone wanted to bask in that aura, come under that spell that she cast, the trend that she set. This trend is a shockwave that we keep on riding. We’re still riding it now. On Mykonos, where the Onassis played and so do I, there is a little beach club and bar called Jackie O, the owners of which are always asking me to design for them a range of eyewear based on the Ona and the Jackie O.
The Jackie O is the most iconic piece of eyewear in history worn by one of the most iconic people in history. That’s why when I whisper her name, everybody knows where I am going to take them when I place those frames upon the bridge of their nose.