More on Monocles

For reasons of space and tone, a few paragraphs were trimmed from my little mini-trend piece on monocles in the New York Times. These involve the wearability of one-lens eyepieces, my experience testing one out, and a little history of New York Times trend pieces on monocles. Here are the “extras:”

There have been at least three previous trend stories about monocles in the New York Times since 1900. In 1902 it was “Rise and Fall of the Monocle.” The year 1941 brought “More Monocles are Worn,” noting that since the war American sales were up 50 percent although the total number sold was “not large,”  Filed from the United Kingdom in 1970, “By Jove, The Monocle Has Returned,” featured an optician opining “If your face doesn’t fit, you can look a fool. If your face fits, you can look elegant.” 

I wore one for a week, hoping to achieve elegant. Much admired at a house concert in Williamsburg and a bar in the East Village, it was not easy to keep in place, which is why most monocles come with a neck lanyard. Typically, there are two semi-circles of metal, called “galleries,” protruding from the back of the frame, to help the face grip the monocle. I can report that keeping one’s expression deadpan and cheekbone raised is key. Thus the sideways smirk and humorless look in old photos of monocle-wearers such as the British statesman Joseph Chamberlain, the sculptor Lady Troubridge and the movie maker Fritz Lang. (What perennial New Yorker cover dandy Eustace Tilley is holding between eye and butterfly is  not a monocle but a “quizzing glass,” distinct because of its handle and its being held away from the face.

Trend forecaster Martin Raymond admitted that this one is so weird it may be a sign that the larger global trend of the New Gent is waning. Waxed mustaches and perfectly tucked shirts are one thing. Monocles and brass telescopes are another.

“It means,” he said, “it’s fragmenting and becoming too arch for most people to buy into.”

Tagged: #monocles