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Rimless Glasses: Eyewear's Hardest Worker

Rimless Glasses: Eyewear's Hardest Worker

It’s like you never noticed them, then they’re everywhere. They were there at the 2007 launch of the iPhone; Mr Steve Jobs was bobbing along knowingly behind his trademark pair. They were there on catwalks and in the lookbooks, from Twiggy to Gigi, adding a nudge of quiet, determined sophistication to otherwise brash centerfolds. And yeah, Jennifer Aniston’s had a pair since forever, how on earth did you miss those?

"They’re not in-your-face, but they’re still very much on it, a part of it." 

And that’s the thing with rimless glasses. They blend in with the background, but they’re still somehow a focal point. They’re not in-your-face, but they’re still very much on it, a part of it. But while they’re probably eyewear’s hardest worker, they’ve never quite got the buzz they deserve. In fact, does anyone even know when the whole rimless thing got started?

Rimles glasses Teddy roosevelt

No, that’s not your mate’s trendy Dad’s latest LinkedIn profile pic. It’s American president, Theodore Roosevelt sporting a pair of rather spiffing rimless pince-nez frames...

Thanks to the relatively current cohort of techies and super-celebs sporting rimless frames, you’d be forgiven for thinking the style was a recent invention. In actual fact, you couldn’t be much further from the truth. Invented all the way back in the 1880s by Austrian, Johann Friedrich Voigtländer, rimless eyewear’s first incarnation was as a monocle. Eventually making its way onto pince-nez style glasses - they’re the ones without temples that literally pinched your nose - rimless eyewear was seen as a revelation in inconspicuous specs. In those days, believe it or not, wearing glasses was nothing to be proud of. Shock, horror.

By the start of the 1920s, though, times had changed. People were starting to think differently about glasses, and that was most probably thanks to the rise of the rimless frame. With the likes of well-loved American president, Teddy Roosevelt making rimless pince-nez glasses an essential part of his presidential regalia, the rimless look was officially in. As the three piece, the templed style of eyewear we’re more familiar with today, burst onto the scene, rimless specs remained up there with the best of them, traversing function up to fashion.

Garrett Leight PershingThe Pershing by Garrett Leight is a modern day take on the semi-rimless frame. Yum. 

Through the 30s to the 70s, the style was chopped and changed, evolving and moving with the times. Technology allowed for a load of new and exciting shapes for lenses like round, square, even weirder stuff like octagonal. It was sometime during this period that a new style of rimless frames cropped up as well. Now more commonly known as semi-rimless, the Shureset, and later the Rimway style frames experimented with partially securing the lens with wire or fine metal above it making the specs more sturdy and arguably more stylish.

"...that’s probably how they ended up as the perfect match for fast-living techies, politicians, mega business folk."

But, like leg warmers, hair, your Aunty Linda, and Black Lace’s school disco banger, Agadoo, it was the 80s when rimless frames got really big. Thanks to repeatedly being picked by Hollywood directors to paint characters as smart (think scientist, Blair in The Thing or baddy, Clarence Boddicker from Robocop), rimless and semi-rimless specs started to snowball in popularity off the screen too.

Manchester Garrett Leight

The Manchester by Garrett Leight

In the 21st century, the rimless got hi-tech. As eyewear manufacturing kept improving, rimless frames stayed pretty much at the forefront of the lightweight performance side of eyewear. New, futuristic-sounding materials like titanium-alloy, and complicated techniques like polycarbonate reinforcing, meant that rimless frames could be smaller, stronger, and much lighter than any others you could find - that’s probably how they ended up as the perfect match for fast-living techies, politicians, and mega business folk.

Today, the rimless has gone full circle... Well, semi-circle at least. The big, semi-rimless frames of the 80s are back and they look better than ever. LA’s resident eyewear genius, Garrett Leight has brought the Rimway style back with the likes of the Pershing. On frames like the Manchester, he’s gone fully optical Aviator, giving the semi-rimless frame a little of that double bridge magic.

Lindberg spirit - rimless glasses

The Lindberg Spirit collection are some of the tastiest, modern rimless frames around

On the fully rimless front, Danish masters, Lindberg are confidently Scandi. A favourite of the actual Danish Queen, the frames in the Lindberg Spirit collection are stripped-back and modernist showing off what rimless eyewear can do best. Made by bending titanium, the frames don't feature screws, rivets or welds making them incredibly light-weight but still nice and tough. Good work Lindberg!

So is it about time eyewear's hardest worker got a little more recognition? We think so. Shop our favourite rimless and semi-rimless frames below and, if seeing things in real life is more your thing, why not head to our Manchester HQ? Here's how to find us.