It is a truth universally acknowledged, that nerds
wear glasses. Usually ugly, unflattering glasses. There are several types of glasses that are signifiers of deeply-entrenched nerd-dom:
- Chunky black plastic (tape on the bridge optional), sometimes chunky tortoiseshell plastic instead — as worn by the classic Hollywood Nerd
- Coke-bottle glasses so thick they're opaque — have their own page at Opaque Nerd Glasses
- Unflatteringly large glasses poorly proportioned to the wearer's face — often with thin frames; in live-action these have the advantage that they don't block the wearer's face
- Old-fashioned round hornrims — sign of an Absentminded Professor or academic-nerd
- Half-moon glasses — around the 50's, these were the eyewear of choice for the original nerds, although nowadays they're more of an old lady librarian style
- Browline glasses — A two-part frame with thick plastic upper frames and thin wire lower frames popular in the fifties and sixties. Most often seen on highly intelligent and well-read types, or people who like to think they are.
- "Cat-eye" glasses — once ultra-fashionable for women in the 50's, now usually restricted to lady nerds (and the occasional hipster) — unless they have rhinestones or are purple, in which case they are Impossibly Tacky Eyewear.
You may also be interested in the Glasses Tropes
Examples of thick-framed Nerd Glasses:
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- The core principle of the Clark Kent persona is, of course, the implausibility of Superman wearing dorky black nerd glasses.
Films — Live-Action
- Pacific Rim has Dr. Newton "Newt" Geiszler.
- From Russia with Love has Rosa Klebb wearing particularly hideous thick-framed and thick-lensed glasses in many scenes.
- Rick Vaughn, in Major League, was fitted with these, curing the vision problem that got him branded with the nickname "Wild Thing". Although the glasses didn't hurt his persona and still had fangirls (and, oddly, fanboys).
- Revenge of the Nerds: Nerd-in-denial Lewis Skolnick has thick black half-frame glasses.
- Arnie Cunningham from Christine wears thick black glasses; later on, they're broken by school bullies and fixed with the stereotypical white tape. Even later, however, after Christine has made him cool, he discards them altogether.
- Judy from '9 to 5'
- Janine from Ghostbusters.
- Doctor Who, with the Tenth Doctor's Purely Aesthetic Glasses.
- The Big Bang Theory: In a cast chockablock with Hollywood Nerds, Leonard is the only character to wear Nerd Glasses, in the "thick black plastic" variety.
- Interestingly, the Finnish name for it happens to be Rillit huurussa which literally means 'Frosted glasses'.
- Robbie from Victorious.
- Young Reid in Criminal Minds and adult Reid, too, in the earlier seasons.
- Stargate SG-1: Whenever Samantha Carter appears in an Alternate Universe scenario, she tends to have this. One dorky Alternate Timeline Daniel also had thick-framed nerd glasses, to contrast with the regular glasses the character wears, which were large-framed nerd glasses — but by this point in the series, Daniel had undergone enough character development to no longer be dorky, and to emphasize the extreme dorkiness of the alternate version they needed something different.
- Early in the run of the show, Adam Savage of Mythbusters wore large, chunky plastic glasses that even other members of the team called 'coke-bottle lenses'. He wears smaller frames in more recent seasons, but they're still thick, black plastic.
- The X-Files: The Doll Episode "Chinga" had a Sadist Teacher named Jane who slapped an autistic girl because she had a tantrum (true, she was a Creepy Child with a Perverse Puppet, but still) and would like to burn her mother. Jane's glasses exhibited nearly every feature of the Nerd Glasses: very unflattering, with thick coke-bottled lenses and strangely-shaped large chunky frames. Could she be more unlikeable?
- Sloane, the Hot Scoop in The Newsroom, occasionally wears thick-framed and unstylish glasses while dressed down to remind us that she's a nerd. While not wearing them, she's usually very fashionable.
- Elvis Costello, at least early in his career, when he seemed to be consciously projecting an awkward/Buddy Holly style.
- Buddy Holly chose thick, black frames for his glasses after deciding that he could not perform without them, so he'd better make them a part of his image.
- Rivers Cuomo of Weezer.
- John Frusciante, formerly of Red Hot Chili Peppers, never wore the glasses onstage with the band, but off stage and in most of other performances, they're almost always present.
- Jarvis Cocker alternated between these and contact lenses during Pulp's heyday. Nowdays, the specs are an integral part of his image.
- Morrissey, occasionally.
- Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo. You may notice that the band tends to dress identically, save Mark with his glasses/goggles; this is because he has been legally blind since a child and can't see much without them.
- Eridan from Homestuck, contributing to his Hipster appearance. You could make a case for John and Jake having this type of too, though to a lesser degree.
- Played with, with Gary of Ménage à 3. He's certainly a geek, if not much of a nerd, and he wears glasses with black plastic frames. But, in keeping with his general adorkable image, they're relatively neat and don't look too bad on him.
- Dexter's Laboratory: Dexter has thick framed glasses that double as Eye Glasses. He is also a Child Prodigy and Science Hero and owns a huge underground laboratory.
- Recess: Butt Monkey Gus Griswald is a stereotypical geek kid with high-water pants and thick-framed glasses.
- Rugrats and All Grown Up!: Chuckie has glasses with extremely thick frames, although as a preliterate child his nerdiness is primarily manifest in his visual appearance (Rummage Sale Reject and later braces) and more timid personality.
- Tina, the awkward oldest daughter of Bob Belcher of Bob's Burgers wears them.
- Jérémie Belpois, the Teen Genius and Mission Control from Code Lyoko. Not too thick, but noticeable.
- Velma on Scooby-Doo. She's just not Velma without them.
- As revealed via flashback Peter Parker from The Spectacular Spider-Man used to have these.
- Mort, Muriel, and Neil Goldman from Family Guy.
- Steve Smith of American Dad!! In the unaired pilot he had much nerdier looking round glasses, but for the main series they were retooled into rectangular black framed ones, resembling what are commonly known as emo or hipster glasses. He is mentioned as being far-sighted yet doesn't seem to have a problem seeing without them on the occasion that he breaks them. It is likely he exaggerates his condition because he feels smarter wearing them.
- New US military recruits who report to their respective boot camps are not allowed to wear any prescription eyewear they bring with them. Within the first week, they are prescribed a pair of durable yet unflattering thick brown specs called BC (birth control) glasses (or, alternately, BCDs, for BC Devices or BCG for Birth Control Goggles). So named because wearing them in public is the surest form of birth control known to man.
- Comedian Drew Carey, who did a hitch in the Marines, has made this type of glasses part of his public persona. Lampshaded in the (full) second opening of The Drew Carey Show, where Drew's glasses are broken and by his friend's advice he replaces them by going to the nearby Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and stealing Buddy Holly's.
- Adam Savage of MythBusters wears this style of glasses while filming, though he tends to wear more subdued glasses when off the set. Fridge Brilliance or Fan Wank: That particular style of glasses would also grant him some additional protection in the occasional event where something might explode.
- Mac Lesggy, host of the French science show E=m6, still wears thick-framed glasses, though they are now tamer than his once-iconic zebra-framed glasses.◊
Examples of large-framed glasses:
- Extraverted Nerd Steve Urkel from Family Matters.
- Bill from Freaks and Geeks wears them.
- Child Prodigy Galina on Daddy's Daughters wears giant glasses.
- Uncle Junior on The Sopranos wears these. Dominic Chianese, who played Junior, said that these glasses pretty much were Junior.
- Dr. Daniel Jackson, the Adventurer Archaeologist of Stargate SG-1, wears large wire-framed glasses. In fact, looking at how the use of Daniel's glasses changed over time is an interesting way to visualize his character development. His initial characterization was as a naive, dorky academic and the unfashionable hair and glasses emphasize this, but over time as the character toughens up, many of the "dorkiness markers" are dropped. By the last few seasons, Daniel apparently wears contacts 20-30% of the time, and finally in season 10 his glasses are replaced with more fashionable ones, which fits with the Badass Bookworm character type he has picked up.
- Holly from Lightning Made of Owls has this as her defining feature.
- Ruby of Sticky Dilly Buns is relatively subtle in her nerdiness, but her outsize round lenses are one sign. However, she's good-looking enough to make them at least a little bit adorkable.
Examples of round hornrims:
Films - Animated
- Andy Fletcher from Depeche Mode wore a pair during the band's early days: ◊
- Actor Harold Lloyd first helped popularize horn-rimmed glasses in America in the 1920s.
Examples of cat-eye glasses:
- As mentioned above, it's very popular in the 50s for women up to the early 70s. Many famous stars sported wearing these as well. Nowadays, they seemed to be restricted to women of bygone times along with dated hairstyles and fashion but the prevalence of hipsters (or those who have just recently discovered their appeal) are giving these style of glasses a comeback.
- Marilyn Monroe is the first star to come to mind when sporting your run of the mill 50s lady, glasses and all◊. But it's far from nerdy as far as she's concerned.
- Dame Edna's "face furniture"◊.