"You don't even need them! You just think they make you look a bit clever."
Usually, only people with vision problems
go to the trouble of getting a pair of glasses. But sometimes, we have a character who dons a pair of spectacles even though they have perfect eyesight. The Purely Aesthetic Glasses are just there to make the character look smart, sophisticated
, and/or cute
. However, whether they really do make the wearer smart, sophisticated, and cute is variable. Another possibility is wearing glasses as part of a disguise, to impersonate a glasses-wearing person or simply as a bit of facial concealment.
A sort of sister trope to Goggles Do Nothing
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- A McDonald's commercial shows two men, wearing glasses and sitting at an intellectual coffee shop, somehow found out that McDonald's also serves coffee. They immediately rebel against the pseudo-intellectual front they had been putting up to get their coffee, and yes, one of them was pulling this trope. The other one was not.
Anime & Manga
Comics — Books
- In the Marvel Universe, Jeanne-Marie Beaubier a.k.a. Aurora of the Canadian team Alpha Flight wore fake glasses when assuming the persona of a straight-laced schoolteacher.
- In the same universe, some versions of Spider-Man claim that Peter Parker never needed glasses at all, but his Aunt May feared he would strain his eyes by reading without them. They were broken in an early strip, and after that he has never worn them again. The gag shows up again every couple of years, where after seeing something supernatural/incredible, Peter will muse that maybe he needs to go back to wearing glasses.
- Clark Kent, of course, whose glasses mainly serve as his disguise. In some versions his glasses do have something special about them.
- The Phantom almost always wear glasses or shades whenever he's not wearing his regular mask and costume. The same goes for all predecessors down the line (as a Legacy Character, The Phantom has a 400 year long history) and as none have had particularly bad vision, they've just used fake glasses.
- Justified in-universe by a legend saying that "Whoever sees the eyes of the phantom must die". Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, as even the Phantom himself has wondered about how criminals who get a look under his mask tend to have fatal accidents shortly after.
- In DAYDverse, Terry Boot had these when he was younger, to appear intelligent so the Sorting Hat would put him in Ravenclaw.
- Eridan in Moiraillegiance is Science is a deconstruction; his glasses used to be this trope, but since he wore them practically all the time it actually screwed up his vision to the point where he's Blind Without 'Em. And all because Feferi said he looked cute wearing them.
Films — Live-Action
- Subversion: In Charade, Regina (Audrey Hepburn) accuses Peter (Cary Grant) of not needing the reading glasses he puts on. She pulls them from his face and dons them herself — then gets a shocked expression and quickly hands them back, saying quietly, "You need them." Evidently, the degree of correction in those lenses was something fierce.
- Played straight in High School Musical with Kelsi, completely averted with every other character in the movie.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Tricia "Trillian" MacMillan, in her first scene has a pair of glasses to flag her character as clued-in.
- In Gremlins 2: The New Batch, the smart gremlin obtains a set of glasses from an unknown source the moment it acquires intelligence.
- In (Untitled) (yes, that's its name, parentheses and all), gallery owner Madeleine Gray has a whole collection of fake glasses she wears to look more sophisticated and hip, and she tries her hardest to prevent anyone from discovering that they're just for show.
- Joe wears glasses as part of the wealthy bachelor disguise he puts on to seduce Sugar in Some Like It Hot.
- This tends to be common in porn. Few, if any, porn stars wear glasses, and if they do, it's only to either establish the theme of the scene (usually school or hospital settings) or to enhance the Money Shot (and in many cases the glasses are either lensless or removed a few minutes after the scene starts.)
- In A Fairly Odd Christmas, Crocker confessed he only wears glasses to look smart.
- Imzadi by Peter David. Mary Mac, a female Orion administrator of a Federation science post, dresses in a rather dowdy manner (loose fitting clothes, functional braids, and large glasses) to avoid being seen as just another Green-Skinned Space Babe. Ironically, glasses are rare in Picard's time (or even Kirk's), as future medicine has other means of correcting eyesight.
- Harriet the Spy wears a pair of lens-less frames as part of her spy gear and sometimes to school because she thinks they make her look smarter.
- In one essay in Scott Adams' book Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain!, he writes about how to appear smart. The first and most important tip he gives is to wear glasses, even if you don't need them.
- Referenced in Skinned. Due to everyone being a Designer Baby, flaws such as poor eyesight are a thing of the past. Lia mentions that there was once an old-fashioned glasses fad, though it passed.
- Several of the characters in American Psycho wear "nonprescription" name-brand glasses purely out of yuppie fashion.
- After her heel turn, Eve Torres regularly wore glasses, even though she never needed them before.
- Stacy Keibler, during her time as Miss Hancock in WCW. Whenever she started dancing, the glasses came off.
- Terri Runnels wore glasses when she was Alexandra York in WCW, as York was supposed to be a businesswoman/computer expert.
- GLOW girl Ashley Cartier used to have an advice segment called "Asking Ashley" where she wore glasses while reading letters from people. Hers were more aesthetic than anyone's - they were just frames, no lenses.
- Worn by a character who was cut from GURPS Discworld. Wilma is a hamster who was turned into a human, and now travels with a strange group of adventurers. Because she's so much smarter than she was as a hamster, she's convinced she's a genius. And because she's a genius, she should wear thick glasses. The fact said glasses impair her vision doesn't matter to her in the slightest.
- Charlie from the Street Fighter Alpha series is a well-educated individual (on top of being devilishly handsome) and can be seen removing his glasses before a fight. A bit of Capcom trivia reveals that the glasses are purely aesthetic, as his vision is just fine. Note that Charlie is an Air Force Pilot, and they have to have 20/20 vision.
- Emma plays this straight in Metal Gear Solid 2. When Raiden is about to escort her underwater, she takes off her glasses and he suggests for her to get contacts. Emma then admits that she can see perfectly fine and only wears the frames to look cuter. And because a guy she liked used to wear them. While it is never explicitly said, it is very clear that she wears them in Otacon's memory.
- In Final Fantasy Fables, Chocobo gains a pair of these while he's a Scholar. Most. Adorable. Nerdy bird. Ever.
- Mega Man Zero's Cerveau has glasses that are similar to Cyclops. But that didn't stop him from looking brainy.
- Scholars in Final Fantasy XI have two specially designed pieces of headgear that are mortarboards with built-in glasses. The lower-leveled one has Intelligence and augments their ability to regain MP. The higher leveled on has Mind (generally associated with wisdom in the game), elemental magic skill, and improves their spell-casting time. But the amazing thing is that the mortarboards can even make Elvaans look smart!
- They return in Final Fantasy XIV, again for the Scholar Class. The first one is given as part of a Job quest at around 45, the other is a recolor bought with end game currency. There's also various level one specs that are simply there to make your character look cute, they have no real stats attached to them, unlike the scholar glasses.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, most glasses do nothing, unless you take the "Four Eyes" trait, which raise your perception with glasses and lower it without. Fallout 3 averts this - any glasses you wear grant an additional point to damage resistance. In both games, the lucky shades also increase your luck by 1 along with the other effects. Non-unique glasses are weightless, so if you think your character would look better with them, you can wear them without needlessly weighing yourself down.
- Averted in Old World Blues with the unique glasses from Dr. Klein and Dr. Mobius, which increase your repair skill and your explosives skill respectively.
- Kenji from Katawa Shoujo claims to wear glasses solely for the effect. He's legally blind with or without them, and a compulsive liar to boot. As usual, it's hard to tell with him.
- In Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, Randall's unlockable profile reveals that he actually has excellent eyesight. The only reason why he wears glasses is to imitate a famous archaeologist he admires.
- Guild Wars: Eye of the North introduced three different models of spectacles for characters to wear, which are no different than your standard headgear.
- El Goonish Shive: Tedd's glasses, before their special abilities were revealed, could be called manly specs (stop laughing!), as he wore them to look less effeminate. However, the obvious side-effect was to make him more nerdy as well, an example of the trope.
- Ping from MegaTokyo does this once to try to get her classmates to like her. The plan fails, unfortunately.
- Sarin the Wizard of The Dragon Doctors wore a monocle in the first chapter (and ditches it right around the same time he gets permanently turned into a woman). It's later revealed in a flashback this was entirely an affectation; a kid said Sarin (a young, green-haired man wearing a grey hoodie) didn't look anything like a wizard. Sarin's response was to magically grow a (green) mustache, throw on a robe, and pop in a monocle, with the words, "Impaired vision equals smart!"
- Jyrras Gianna of Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures doesn't need glasses, and originally started wearing them on the suggestion of Dan, who told him that smart people usually wore glasses. They still serve a purpose, however, in somehow decreasing his cuteness, thus preventing people from slipping into diabetic shock whenever he makes Puppy-Dog Eyes...
- Sinfest: Monique donned them for a strip, to look intellectual.
- In one Penny Arcade strip, Gabe, tired of being a geek with perfect vision (other geeks call him "two-eyes"), gets "reverse laser surgery" so he'll need glasses.
- In Shortpacked!, Ultra-Car wears glasses after (s)he becomes a Gynoid. Apparently after years of looking at the world through headlights it's just what (s)he's used to.
- In an episode of Cow and Chicken, Cow immediately became smarter after she started wearing glasses. Chicken then started wearing glasses to try and become smarter — it failed, but he acted like he was much more intelligent.
- On Daria, noted ditzes Kevin and Brittany are convinced for one episode that glasses might make them smart. Brittany does say something intelligent and then declares, "Wow, these things really do work!" but Kevin gets a pair without lenses because he doesn't want to get too smart.
- In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer finds glasses and immediately starts acting smart, by quoting the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz after he got his diploma (and making the same mistake of referencing the wrong type of triangle). He does the same thing in one of the comics, when he buys Artie Ziff's glasses. Mind you Homer actually seems to be farsighted and has been shown wearing half moon spectacles while reading.
- It's been debated in Metalocalypse fandom whether or not Charles Foster Ofdensen's glasses are functional or just there to both accentuate his cleverness and make him seem more harmless than he really is (which isn't at all. He's the Badass Normal).
- On Jimmy Two-Shoes, during a Screw Learning, I Have Phlebotinum! plot, Beezy dons a pair of glasses even though he has perfect eyesight. Heloise apparently needs hers to read, but in one episode she puts them on before giving advice, probably to appear smarter.
- Later episodes of ReBoot had Dot adopt a pair while working as Mainframe's COMMAND.COM. In earlier episodes she would wear them inconsistently with the implication that she didn't need them, she just liked them.
- On Family Guy Brian tries to show Lauren Conrad how smart he is by taking out glasses to read. When she asks when he got reading glasses, he says he always wore them. She points out she knows they aren't real as she can see the Austin Powers logo.
- Connie from Steven Universe originally needed glasses, as of "Indirect Kiss", her vision was restored by Steven's healing spit. Not wanting to explain to her parents how her vision was magically healed, she pops out the lenses on her glasses and keeps wearing the frame.
- Drew Carey got laser surgery at some point, but started wearing a pair without lenses, because he looked weird without them. Not only that but he usually wears a specific style of glasses modeled after military-issue "Birth Control" glasses (so named because no one wearing them will ever get laid). This was lampshaded in one episode of The Drew Carey Show where he addresses the audience wearing a slimmer, more stylish pair that he usually wears off camera before switching to his familiar ones right before the show starts.
- Not long after taking over on The Price Is Right, he switched to a different, more stylish variant.
- For a brief time, "Weird Al" Yankovic wore these after he got laser surgery of his own, since his glasses were part of his iconic look. He quickly decided this was silly and simply altered his look instead.
- He still wears them to complement the fat suit whenever he performs "Fat", just because they help the mask stay on better.
- In his youth, Elton John played this trope straight when he started wearing glasses to copy his idol, Buddy Holly. Subverted, now that he can't see without them.
- This trope has its origins in Medieval and Renaissance Europe. Educated, relatively wealthy literate people were more likely to need (and be able to afford) glasses than the ignorant masses, or those who earned their fortune in other ways.
- Sadly believed to be played straight in real life by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, which executed any "intellectuals" in their attempt to bring Cambodia back to a self-sufficient agricultural community, including anyone who wore glasses.
- Stephen Harper started wearing glasses, seemingly for no reason other than to look smart. They don't help.
- Even people who don't need a vision correction (or only need a very minor correction, possibly unknown to themselves) are often advised to buy proper lenses anyway that correctly match the human eye and are of the same optical quality as lenses in prescription glasses. Because of the cost of those lenses some refuse and wear glasses with the demo lenses from the store still in the frame. Those lenses are often stamped with the name of the frame manufacturer on them, so as a result you can occasionally see people wearing aesthetic glasses whose lenses are half covered with a brand tag like Prada◊, Vogue◊, etc.
- Anytime an actor who doesn't need glasses plays a character who does. For example, Daniel Radcliffe, who has normal vision in real life, wears lensless glasses throughout the Harry Potter movies. Lenses, after all, create reflections and, if you're a cinematographer, reflections are the enemy. It's much easier to put your actor in lensless glasses and not constantly worry about whether the camera, studio lights, or crew members are being reflected.
- If you do use dummy lenses, the reflections seen off of the flat plates are much flashier than those from normal curved lenses. For an example see Ben Sisko's glasses in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Far Beyond the Stars"
- Zachary Quinto has taken to wearing thick-rimmed glasses when he's in the midst of filming the Star Trek films because they help him hide his shaved eyebrows.
- As of late, it seems to be somewhat fashionable to wear large, thick-rimmed glasses that may or may not even have lens with some outfits. People who wear these often aren't popular with those who are actually vision impaired. (Cheap frames for this purpose are sometimes sold under the name "attitude glasses.")
- It's not uncommon for people who have worn glasses all their life to choose to keep wearing glasses after getting eye surgery, because they like the look of glasses or feel that their face does not look "right" without glasses.
- Lampião, a famous Brazilian bandit, had his eye pierced by a cactus spine during a confrontation with the local police. The spine was removed, leaving him blind on the right eye, and he subsequently wore glasses to hide this from those who didn't know him. He also switched to firing his gun with his left hand to compensate.
- Commercials for brands and opticians also tend to use models wearing glasses wearing "windows" - lenses that don't refract light. This is the same thing as using Fake Food in commercials, as it lets the audience see the model's eyes but isn't actually portraying vision correcting glasses, which warp the light coming through them.
- And yes, there are people who find eyeglasses sexy. Pornography for this sort of fetish also use models wearing "windows".