The ‘nerd’ glasses. You know what I mean: particular types of spectacles which, for time immemorial, indicate extreme cleverness, likely Dungeons and Dragons fandom, and – potentially – unfortunate problems with securing a prom date.
But there’s more to nerd glasses than meets the eye (get it?). In popular culture, while they often indicate all of the above, their bearer is also highly likely, after several humiliating incidents, to get the gorgeous girl, the fancy job, the sparkling social life, and everything else they’d been dreaming of. Only to discover that, actually, they were happier all along playing D&D with their big-hearted, authentic nerdy friends.
So just how did the nerd glasses – ideally with tape on the bridge of the nose – become part of the required costume of the anti-hero we all root for? How did they become…cool? Let’s find out.
The Origin of Nerd
Before we can think specifically about the evolution of taped nerd glasses, it’s helpful to consider the origin of the term ‘nerd’ itself. Interestingly, the word is thought to have made its first appearance in the Dr. Seuss book If I Ran the Zoo. In the story, a ‘nerd’ was one of the creatures in the titular zoo and was likely simply made up by Seuss as a nonsense word – however, the word was mentioned in a Newsweek article as one that was newly being used by teenagers, and quickly gained traction.
By the 1960s, the term had taken off, and its associations, such as the taped nerd glasses, too-short pants, and propensity for board games, had been firmly cemented in popular culture.
The Taped Nerd Glasses in Film
The rehabilitation of nerd glasses has been ongoing for decades. For example, Harry Potter’s trademark round specs boasted a tape repair in the first film in the series, which – sure – added to the character’s underdog status but did nothing to dent his cool credentials. Indeed, it’s Hermione who is the self-confessed ‘brain’ within the group of friends.
And long before this, Clark Kent boasted a classic pair of oversized, heavy-framed nerd glasses in Superman – and while it’s his alter ego that catches Lois’s attention, it’s Kent that the audience is really rooting for throughout the movie, even when his nerd glasses incorporate an adorable piece of tape on the bridge of the nose.
These types of glasses are often worn by characters on-screen for key reasons. As well as denoting smartness, they also suggest that the character isn’t too worried about outer appearances and isn’t bothered about trying to fit into the crowd – they’ve got more important things on their minds. These are important reasons that, as an audience, our sympathies are engaged with these underdog characters – the taped nerd glasses are a subtle reference to the fact that these aren’t shallow types, even if they’re little understood or even ostracized by others in the movie. And it’s why we’re there with them, cheering in their corner when it comes good for them at the end.
Today, nerd glasses have firmly entered the realm of geek chic. And while, unless making up a component of a Halloween costume or due to an unfortunate incident, they don’t tend to feature tape on the bridge of the nose, these specs are direct stylistic descendants of the classic taped nerd glasses worn by characters such as Eugene Felsnic in Grease. Have a look at GlassesUSA.com for some perfect examples to create your geek chic aesthetic.
Think thick-framed, oversized glasses in the class nerdy shapes: blocky rectangles, semi-rimless, or extra large round frames, and you’re in the right ballpark. Although black and brown colored frames will always be a safe choice to nail the geek chic look, animal prints and tortoiseshell can also work well.
These types of glasses are now seen everywhere, from the catwalks of the highest-end fashion houses to the trendiest evening hangouts. While it may not be a look that works for everyone, those who are keen to try it could go for a traditional nerdy frame that’s transparent for a more subtle version of the style.
The Rise of the Nerd
The nerd, a term which started off as a nonsense word for an imaginary creature in a fictional zoo, has now been fully rehabilitated: as a viewing public, we’re more interested in the taped nerd glasses-wearing Clark Kent than his perfectly-visioned alter-ego, as evidenced by the huge popularity of the origin TV series, Smallville. Not to mention the much-loved gang of dorky kids that gave Stranger Things its beating heart.
Nerdiness has now come full circle: whether you need to wear specs or not, if you want to be the coolest kid in the class, you’re more likely to be opting for large-frame, taped nerd glasses rather than a leather jacket. The revenge of the nerd is complete. It seems appropriate, therefore, to end with the words of Khan: ‘Do you know of the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish best served cold? It is very cold in space.’