A good way to mark your hero as an intellectual is to stick him on the far side of a pair of Nerd Glasses. A good way to make your character as a badass is to kick some ass. We also all know that guys who wear glasses can never kick asses. It's contractually forbidden. Thus when an intellectual is about to kick ass, the first thing he has to do is take off his glasses. (See: Male version of Flung Clothing) For an additional humourous/intellectual touch, the characters may be shown taking especial care to put their glasses away in their pocket or in some other safe place, before commencing the violence.
Characters may also take their glasses off before kissing, because some guys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses (see Beautiful All Along and The Glasses Gotta Go). Also because a pair of specs might get in the way. (And TWO pairs certainly will.)
One strange side effect is that if a character does this enough times, they may stop wearing their glasses altogether. Rarely is the fact that the character may have needed the prescription in the first place brought up, it's usually Hand Waved that they eventually got contacts. While the loss usually represents the character taking a step forward in their attitudes, fans who are into that sort of thing can find it frustrating.
Given that such characters will at some point be shown to be Blind Without 'Em, it may seem strange that removing their glasses renders the characters into Action Heroes, rather than rendering them, well, blind, but it seems to work. May occasionally make sense if the hero willingly removes her/his glasses to limit her/his fighting prowess.
There are other, more practical reasons for this trope, of course; it is, after all, not a bad idea to remove your glasses before doing things where they might fly off or get broken, and preventing unwanted reflections from the lenses becomes troublesome during martial arts. And then there's the fact that keeping any easily shattered material near your eyes during a fight is a really bad idea (which is probably where the taboo against punching a man in glasses came from). And naturally, you might want to remove your glasses to fire your Eye Beams.
Note that it isn't enough just to have glasses, you have to have Nerd Glasses for this trope to apply. Some characters have Scary Shiny Glasses or Cool Shades, and they are most certainly not more powerful when The Glasses Come Off. Except of course, when the glasses are the distinguishing trait for the character, in which case, you should probably back off. Quickly.
For the B-movie version, see Glasses Pull. As the examples show, inversions in which a character becomes more badass when they put their Nerd Glasseson (because now they can actually see clearly to fight) are also common.
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Anime and Manga
In Bleach, the Big BadSosuke Aizen does this, wearing his glasses when appearing to be a good, kind person, and taking them off after revealing his evil machinations and heading off.
Also done by Nanao Ise when Mayuri decides to stand in for his daughter science experiment/devoted slave Nemu at a meeting of the Shinigami Women's Association and refuse to leave, even when subjected to the Scary Shiny Glasses. Judging by his face, he got the message. Of course, this was after the vice-captains meeting was invaded by Byakuya standing in for Renji, a thoroughly creepy experience Nanao clearly wasn't prepared to experience again.
Reversed in Witch Hunter Robin: again, while pyrokinetic Robin is certainly dangerous as is, she becomes quite a bit more effective in a fight after she's pressed into wearing glasses so she can, y'know, see to aim.
Then she discovers the true nature of her powers, becomes a deity, and takes them off.
Eda from Black Lagoon is rarely seen without her sunglasses, and is usually very easy-going and friendly. Once she takes the sunglasses off, however, all trace of her Hard-Drinking Party Girl persona vanishes as she goes into her stone-cold CIA mode. It's almost frightening how serious she is, and it makes you wonder about what she's really up to.
All during the Revolutionary Girl Utena TV series, Anthy wears glasses. However, at the end of the show when she gains the confidence to break away from her domineering brother and go search for Utena, she's no longer seen wearing the glasses. Given the nature of the show, her previous dependence on them was most likely just a symbol for the spiritual "blindness" she suffered while under the thumb of her brother and not indicative of any physical problem.
Interestingly, this is reversed with Mikage, who is unable to clearly perceive things after he loses his glasses.
As a point of fact, Mousse is arrogant enough to hardly ever wear his glasses, often putting them on top of his head. In the early manga, he'd swallow his pride and wear them when involved in serious combat (only to take them off afterward.) By the late manga, his fighting skills have improved to the point he doesn't really need glasses anymore, but he'll still mistake potted plants for people outside a battle.
Likewise, Trunks in GT. But they might be only for reading.
Gohan only becomes useless if you count GT, which was not made by the original author. In Z, he is either 2nd to his dad or sometimes 1st. Everyone except Goku is useless in GT though, except maybe Vegeta.
Inverted in Trigun. When Vash puts his glasses on, some serious butt is about to be kicked.
Note that the glasses in question are tinted, making them closer to Cool Shades than Nerd Glasses. Also, they are tinted yellow, which real sharpshooters wear for the contrast enhancement and improved depth perception.
Justified in Gunslinger Girl. Claes' handler's last request of her before quitting the Agency is to be kind and gentle whenever wearing her glasses. Considering she's a cybernetically-enhanced assassin, you can imagine how bad things will go for any Mooks nearby when she takes them off...
In a later manga story new girl Petra "borrows" them while Claes is in the bath. She regrets it immediately when Claes sees her wearing them. Fortunately, Claes goes back to normal once she has them back.
Fuu from Magic Knight Rayearth wears enormous glasses, but the last stage of her evolving armor (which elevates her to Magic Knight status) magically tucks them away and improves her eyesight. She even mentions this the first time she becomes a Magic Knight.
In Xxx HO Li C Watanuki seems to lose his glasses more and more often as the series starts getting more serious. He loses them entirely after an existential crisis linked to something major in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle. But then they come back after Yuuko vanishes and he decides that he will take over the shop until she returns, causing him to stop aging but be unable to leave until she returns.
In the Chinese/western manga Et Cetera, the villain of half of volume 2, Mr. Alternate, wears his monocle when being awesome and evil, and when he's pretending to be a train usher.
Actually, he always wears the monocle. After his Heel-Face Turn, when he's asleep, all the time. It's not just part of his train usher outfit. In fact, I don't think he's ever taken it off.
The first Big Bad of Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, Odin, wore glasses out of need. He also wore them as he fought. However, in a prolonged fight, after enough time had passed that Odin had learned the rhythm of his opponent's moves, he would remove his glasses and rely on that knowledge to launch his most powerful attack with perfect accuracy.
Subverted in Otogi Juushi Akazukin, when Shirayukihime has apparently been brainwashed she takes off her glasses to fight her friends. This is a clue to her friends that she's only pretending to be brainwashed because she can't fight as well without her glasses helping her see.
Averted in School Rumble where Hanai usually never takes his glasses off when fighting.
Chisame Hasegawa of Mahou Sensei Negima! does this to become her Cosplay Otaku Girl alter ego Chiu, or when she's being more serious than snarky. Otherwise she looks like a quiet girl with thick, perfectly round spectacles.
In more recent chapters, Negi tends to lose his glasses when things start to get serious. They also get blown off of his face every time he uses Magia Erebea.
Aozaki Toko from Kara no Kyoukai uses her glasses to quickly change personality. She is a nicer person with the glasses on. She says it is useful for business. Unlike many other examples here, she keeps putting them on and removing without much reason.
Subverted in Saiyuki Gaiden, when Tenpou is successfully fighting off a large number of opponents single-handedly with his katana...until his glasses are knocked off and stepped on. Upon hearing them break, Tenpou muses about how he can no longer see his opponents and prepares himself for the inevitable conclusion to the fight (it doesn't stop him from trying, anyway).
It should be noted that he did technically win the fight.
Played on by Saiyuki's Cho Hakkai: when he's ready to get dangerous, he takes off... not his monocle, but his silver earcuffs (they're the restraints on his youkai powers..)
Another inversion: Lady Une from Gundam Wing. When her glasses come off, she's practically Purity Sue, but when her glasses are on, you better run from her very fast.
No mention of Soubi from Loveless, who always removes his glasses before a battle by wordspell?
Played hilariously straight in K-On! Sawa-sensei is a kind, quiet, glasses-wearing school teacher who turns out to have been a heavy metal guitarist and singer a few years back when she attended the same high school she now teaches at. When Yui drops her guitar into Sawa-sensei's hands, she temporarily reverts back into her slightly-evil metalhead form, removing her glasses before she, utilizing incredibly high-level techniques, plays an insane, improvised guitar solo that would make Eddie Van Halen himself proud.
Yamaki of Digimon Tamers removes his glasses for the first time when he gives the Tamers a comm link just before they take off for the Digital World, completing his Heel-Face Turn. He then puts them right back on. He retains them for the rest of the series even though he's on the good side now, although he occasionally removes them (alternately, his eyes will become visible through the lenses) during particularly dramatic moments, often when he's defending the Tamers, or admitting that they're just going to have trust them.
Speaking of Digimon, as an inversion, if the leader has goggles, and he just put them on, shit just got real!... or there's a dust storm
Yoko's brief turn as a teacher in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is marked by her adopting a pair of glasses. She discards them when returning to her normal job: stone-cold badass.
While they didn't really come off as much as they did shatter into tons of little glass pieces, both Kamina and Simon do this in their final battles. Kamina, has his glasses broken when attacked by Thymilph, then proceeded to avenge his own death with the GIGA DRILL BREAK!!! For Simon, in the battle with the Anti-Spiral, when going in for the final charge, his glasses get broken before killing the Anti-Spiral with Lagann Impact (in the movie, Lagann throws him at the Anti-Spiral, Cannonball Attack-style, after his glasses are broken and Simon beats the Anti-Spiral in a fist fight).
The myopic Satellizer L. Bridget in Freezing takes off her glasses when she's about to fight. Justified, since activating her Pandora abilities apparently comes with the added bonus of correcting her vision.
When Chitose of Yuru-Yuri takes her glasses off, it's a sign the "Yuri Goggles" are about to come on, as her doing so is always followed by some romantic and/or erotic fantasy between Kyoko and Ayano. Which is then followed up by a nosebleed.
Chitose's twin, Chizuru, does the same thing, except that she drools at fantasies involving Ayano and Chitose.
Inverted for Natsumi in Nicoichi, who puts on glasses during work to conceal her usual bumbling nature and project a no-nonsense, professional demeanour.
Averted in Mnemosyne; MeganekkoAction Girl Rin actually needs her glasses, and while not quite Blind Without 'Em, is definitely at a disadvantage. Consequently, she keeps her glasses on while kicking ass, but it is something of a Running Gag that they end up getting broken anyway, and she has to get a new pair after each fight.
Hanji Zoe of Attack on Titan is shown without her glasses twice, both instances where she looses her eccentric quirky-ness and demonstrates just why she's a high ranking squad leader in the Survey Corps.
In K both Munakata Reisi and Fushimi Saruhiko get their glasses knocked off in their fight against Kuroh and Misaki respectively. Munakata when he loses focus for a second, helping Kuroh escape, and Saruhiko when he was a little slow on the dodge. Later Munakata takes them off to fight Suoh Mikoto and jokes how he is Blind Without Them though he really isn't.
In W Change, Tatsuya Fukama takes off his glasses whenever he assumes his role as the Kokushin heir. He also takes off his glasses when he prepares for a fight.
Clark Kent wears glasses when he's not being Superman, though he also puts on nebbish behavior and about four extra layers of clothing to make him look pudgy instead of muscled. Birthright has some fun with this when depicting Clark and his parents turning Clark Kent into a man nobody would ever think is Superman: his mother's first orders are "no t-shirts!"
Played with in Kingdom Come. Superman never wears his glasses throughout the entire comic, due to his status as a full-time hero at that point. At the end, when he retires from his work in trying to totally eliminate crime and rejoins society to work with rebuilding Kansas, Wonder Woman gives him his glasses back, signifying him becoming human again.
Peter Parker in the Spider-Man franchise started with glasses but eventually lost them as he grew up and developed more confidence in his civilian identity.
The 2002 Spider-Man film brought back the glasses as part of its dedication to doing things right, then disposed of them immediately when Peter's powers also fixed his eyesight. And in the sequel, Peter's confidence-linked loss of powers also brought back his poor vision. In both cases, the presence/absence of his powers is indicated to the audience by a first-person point of view showing the state of his vision relative to his glasses.
The interesting thing about how Peter learned he didn't need glasses in the comics was because of a boxing match. He agreed to a match with Flash Thompson, Flash got in one good blow that broke his glasses and Peter countered with a knock out. Once Pete realized the spider-bite fixed his vision, he really saw no need to buy a new pair or keep up the charade at that point.
Kitty Pryde of the X-Men needs glasses, but hates wearing them and rarely does so.
I suppose we should mention Cyclops while we're at it. Given that the glasses used to hold back his Eye Beams, taking them all the way off usually meant something was gonna get broke in a hurry.
Seldom demonstrated but awesome when it is: Cyke's visor, and shades as Scott Summers, are used to control the shape and strength of the blast even when he's actively using his powers. You don't fully understand until you see him take them off all the way and open his eyes fully. When that happens, "something" isn't gonna get broke - everything will get broke. For this reason, it's a weapon of last resort. However, if you absolutely have to get a Sentinel off your lawn, it'll get vaporized. And if Juggernaut's trying to destroy a dam, you'll actually push him back a little... but eventually get your ass kicked anyway. Still, it looked awesome.
Roffa in The Trigan Empire was a fighter pilot in Nerd Glasses (!). One day he took his glasses off to make a dramatically scowling gesture at the map and never put them on again. His geekiness decreased from then on too, in a few subsequent stories he seemed to have taken a level in badass.
Daniel aka Nite Owl of Watchmen usually wears his glasses but doesn't in his Nite Owl guise. A classic example is when he and Silk Spectre were mugged, Daniel took off his glasses before kicking the gang's ass.
A recurring character in Norwegian comics creator Christopher Nielsen's works is a small town bruiser only known by his nicknameHold Brillan ("hold my glasses") because he always tells one of his buddies to hold his glasses when he gets into a fight (which he does often). Subverted in the sense that he looks pretty intimidating even when he's wearing them.
Sweet, pacifistic nun Yumiko Takagi of Hellsing always wears glasses. Her alternate personality Yumie Takagi, a psychotic assassin for the Iscariot Order, never wears glasses. It is uncertain whether donning or removing the glasses triggers the personality change or if doing so is just the first act taken after the change takes place.
When Bruce Bannergets angry, the glasses come off. If he plans on getting angry, he'll take the glasses off ahead of time.
First, after John gets wings, he takes his glasses off to fly because he's terrified they'll fall off in mid-air. Eventually he ties them around his head. And eventually he gives them up altogether when he has his eyes permanently healed.
Second, Beagle John in New Zork City throws his glasses on the bed before leaving his hotel room to confront strangers. Vanity!
Third, Ringo very reluctantly removes his (opaque) glasses in the Hunter's world so it isn't obvious that he's using magic to see. And later the glasses turn into a living creature and scamper away from him.
Sweet, pacifistic nun Yumiko Takagi of Hellsing always wears glasses. Her alternate personality Yumie Takagi, a psychotic assassin for the Iscariot Order, never wears glasses. It is uncertain whether donning or removing the glasses triggers the personality change or if doing so is just the first act taken after the change takes place.
Star Trek Ii The Wrath Of Khan: Subverted when Kirk looks embarrassed having to put on his glasses to see the instrument panel in front of Spock and Saavak, but then played straight when he takes them off before making Khan's ship lower its shields.
Stuart Saves His Family. Subverted. When Stuart takes Mia's glasses off, she's less attractive and squinting, and says, "Let's put the glasses back on.
The moment when Brad Majors whips off his glasses while confronting Frank N. Furter early in The Rocky Horror Picture Show is clearly a subversion, as it does nothing for his hero status and only foreshadows his glasses-less state after being seduced by Frank later in the film.
In the movie L.A. Confidential, Ed Exley tends to take his glasses off when he assumes his "Action Policeman" persona. However, he drops the habit (and the persona) by the end of the movie, just in time for the final shootout.
Ed and Jack are about to bust some perps, both carrying shotguns. "I forgot my glasses!" "Your WHAT?! Well just don't shoot me, ok?"
Parodied in Spaceballs, wherein Dark Helmet opens his helmet numerous times, revealing that he's wearing glasses underneath (and that he's Rick Moranis).
Classic war movie The Dambusters has the Giles variant of this trope right in the final scene — as the characters mourn the deaths of the pilots, the commander removes his glasses to hide his tears.
Another classic war film, The Devils Brigade, has a clean-cut, unassuming Canadian nebbish taking off his glasses and neatly folding them and tucking them in his pocket just before demonstrating to the unruly American troops that he's actually their hand-to-hand combat instructor. JUDO'D! Later in a massive bar brawl, he repeats the move to great effect.
The protagonist of Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man has his glasses taken from him by his "spiritual guide", who remarks that "[perhaps] you will see better without them."
Inverted in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen film, where Allan Quatermain must put on his glasses to snipe people at long distance with his rifle because, well, he's gotten old and his eyes aren't what they used to be. At the end of the movie, he goes to do this again only to find his glasses have broken in the initial struggle, so Tom Sawyer has to take the shot.
In Pan's Labyrinth when Dr. Ferreiro dies. He admits to Vidal that he Mercy Killed a prisoner instead of keeping him alive for more Cold-Blooded Torture, and walks away. As expected, Vidal shoots him in the back, and he keeps going for a few more steps, during which time he takes off his glasses as if in surprise.
Played straight in Brick, which has Brendan take off his glasses before he gets into fights.
In Good Will Hunting Sean takes his glasses off before he grabs Will by the throat and chokes him, promising to kill him if he ever spoke ill of his deceased wife.
In the Indiana Jones saga, when he's not in a macho attire fighting nazis or looting ancient treasure sites, the title character is a calm bespectacled archeology college professor.
Sort of inverted in Buckaroo Banzai. We know Buckaroo is smart, but when he puts on his red-rimmed Nerd Glasses, he's really kicking the brain into overdrive (or showing off, since one of those times is a press conference). This is because of interference from the producers; they insisted that no action hero would wear glasses, despite director and co-creator W.D. Richter's desires. The compromise made between Richter and the producers was that Buckaroo could wear his glasses in three scenes in the film.
In the second ending of Clue, Mrs. Peacock dramatically removes her glasses upon being exposed as the murderer.
In the third ending, Mr. Green takes his glasses off just before shooting and killing the real Mr. Boddy, then revealing himself as an planted FBI agent.
A villainous example from Batman Begins - Dr. Crane removes his glasses before putting on his Scarecrow mask.
The Dark Knight, the bank manager removes his glasses before grabbing a sawed-off shotgun and attempting to stop the thieves from robbing the bank.
In the 1955 film Battle Cry, the bookworm Marion takes his glasses off after being pushed too far by the trouble-making Spanish Joe, and drops Joe with a single punch as Joe attempts to sucker punch him.
Subversion: In the Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett collaboration Good Omens, hapless Newton Pulsifer is described as even less handsome when he takes off his glasses, because he bumps into things and has to wear bandages.
In the same book, the demon Crowley is famous for never removing his sunglasses, regardless of the lighting. No reason is given (or needed). But near the end, when the organic waste is nearing the oscillating device, a group of hose-wielding humans accidentally knock off his shades. Cue slit-pupilled Menacing Stare and unholy wrath.
Another subversion: one Encyclopedia Brown story involved a snooty newcomer to the neighborhood trying to romance the detective's Action Girlsidekick Sally. To impress her, the newcomer fights with a bully who is rude to them on a date, putting his glasses away in his chest pocket before getting into a long, drawn out fight where the bully lands many punches on his chest. When he pulls out his glasses after the fight and they are fine, Encyclopedia points out to Sally that if the fight were real the glasses should have been broken considering all the punches the bully was landing in the chest area. She promptly lays out the would-be boyfriend herself.
The Machine Gunners has an instance of the practical use of this. Boddser Brown wears glasses, and Chas McGill insists he takes them off before the two start fighting, so Chas can't be blamed for breaking them.
Live Action TV
The Brady Bunch: Middle girl Jan gets glasses in the third-season episode "The Not-So-Rose-Colored Glasses" and wears them (for the most part) for the rest of Season 3, and much of the time in Season 4. She is seen with glasses exactly once in a Season 5, after which it appears Jan's astigmatism is cured.
On another episode, Marcia helps a girl become pretty. When her glasses are brought up, the girl mentions that she has contact lenses at home, but never wears them. How very convenient, but begs the question on how the girl's parents spent a large chunk of change on contacts for their daughter (this is the 1970's, after all), then simply let her not wear them. The same issue comes up in the film The Princess Diaries and is handled almost the same way.
Family Matters: Urkel, whenever he used the Transformation Chamber to change into suave ladies man Stefan Urquelle (in Seasons 5-7, after which Urquelle becomes a "permanent" character, thanks to Urkel's cloning accident). Also, whenever the nerd used the Transformation Chamber to change into any one of his other alter-egos, including Elvis Urkel and Bruce Lee Urkel.
Walker, Texas Ranger: C.D. Parker, but only when the bad guys removed them for him ... so they could beat him up.
The Dukes of Hazzard: In the 2005 TV remake/prequel The Beginning, Daisy Duke wears thick glasses (among other things, as she also wears large sweaters and baggy pants, and her hair in a bun; and is very shy and mousy). When she went to get a job at the Boar's Nest, she shed all of these things and became the babelicious babe the character came to be known for. (This is all non-canon to true Dukes fans, as Daisy was queen of the prom in high school according to the series' bible.)
Billy in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, though, interestingly, he doesn't stop needing glasses altogether until he stops having fight scenes in Power Rangers Zeo. He switched to contacts by that point. Behind the scenes, David Yost just got tired of wearing them around the time they shot the movie, in no small part because the chemical they used to prevent glare was starting to affect his vision.
Wesley Wyndam-Pryce in Angel, who first appeared in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series as the young bespectacled Watcher of Faith the Slayer, but in the Angel series gradually became more competent in combat capabilities, until he had turned into a tragic, ruthless and brooding anti-hero (without glasses). Understandable because his character was originally introduced as the bumbling, poncy, and less cool version of...
Rupert Giles, librarian, sorcerer and member of the Watchers' Council, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Giles admitted that he gained the nickname "Ripper" during his rebellious youth, when he had delved into black magics and demon summoning. Calling special attention to the trope, in the episode "The Gift", following a large heroic action sequence, Giles puts his glasses back on before he delivers a Coup de Grāce in cold blood, effectively refusing to be a hero as he commits a necessary but reprehensible act.
In the Sixth Season, Xander and Willow mention in passing that Giles's habit of taking off his glasses and cleaning them was both a silent signal that he disapproved of what the Scooby Gang were doing, whether this be goofing off or doing something morally grey, and also a way of averting his eyes in the latter case so he could claim to have no knowledge of what they were doing.
In Heroes, Mr. Bennet uses his glasses much like Giles, whipping them off or putting them back on every time he makes a big decision. His glasses are such an iconic part of his character that in the early days of season one, before his name was revealed, he was known to fans simply as HRG (Horn-Rimmed Glasses). And Sylar, a Serial Killer, doesn't need glasses — but in a Flashback, it's shown that he used to, and turning evil apparently improved his eyesight. However, Sylar is only seen wearing his glasses while working on a watch, implying that he is farsighted rather than nearsighted, which would explain why he does not have to wear them while kicking arse.
In recent episodes, Sylar's glasses seem to have become more symbolic. When he's wearing them he's Gabriel Grey, the nice watchmaker he used to be. When he takes them off, he's the evil Sylar.
Only after he stole Claire's power.
Daniel Jackson in Stargate SG-1, subverts this trope as he's been known to kick plenty of ass with his glasses on. Usually he only takes them off when he's thinking or particularly stressed out about a situation.
For added extra said glasses for his alternate universe counterpart have much thicker frames than he had at the start of the series just to hammer the point home.
Also subverted within the show, as on many occasions the team can be seen wearing eye protection when going into a firefight, including post-spectacles Daniel.
NCIS: At the end of an episode in which geeky coroner's assistant Jimmy Palmer has been fretting about being unable to do anything to stop a bad guy who shot at him, he gets his chance when he removes his glasses and then rams his car into the guy's truck with a maniacal grin.
In Battlestar Galactica, President Roslin is constantly taking off/putting on her glasses at every dramatic moment.
Romo Lampkin even steals her glasses during the Baltar trial for the purpose of making her look less intelligent/sympathetic.
Romo himself takes off his Sunglasses at Night for effect during his interview with Caprica Six.
Don't forget about Admiral Adama. Whenever he took off the glasses, he would end up doing rash things. It was only when he put the glasses back on that he started seeing things clearly.
In The Office, Michael takes a stand against the new boss Charles, who remains calm and professional until he has finally had enough. He takes his glasses off and prepares to throw Michael out of the building, causing Michael to flee in terror.
Eliot from Leverage tends to wear glasses every now and then, but mostly averts the trope by not always bothering to take them off when he's getting into a fight.
Parodied during a dream sequence of Leonards in The Big Bang Theory. Since the time machine he ordered blocks the stairs and the elevator is out of order, he opens the elevator door, whips his glasses off, swoops Penny off the floor and then, with her in his arm, lets himself down to the ground floor on the elevator cables.
In Jeeves and Wooster, Gussie Fink-Nottle (Grade A wimp,) has just been accosted by Roderick Spode (huge, violent, wannabe dictator prone to making threats about broken necks,) and shaken so violently that his glasses fall off. Spode then gets a Tap on the Head by someone else, and Gussie is caught standing over Spode's unconscious body. Gussie invokes this trope by lying that Spode saw him remove his glasses, and should have fled for the hills at that point.
A sad example in Mad Men: when Lane tries to commit a clearly carefully planned suicide, he takes off his glasses and decisively snaps them as if to say he won't be needing those anymore. But it goes wrong, and as an added kick in the teeth from the universe, he then has to make do with the broken pieces as he comes up with plan B.
In the 1979 miniseries version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, George Smiley (played by Alec Guinness) takes off his glasses and cleans them on his tie just once. Significantly, it's when he's springing a trap.
"In a Different Light" by Doug Stone is about an office worker who has a sexual fantasy about a female co-worker, who always comes to work wearing thick glasses, her hair in a bun and otherwise looking like a schoolmarm. He imagines her as a completely hot babe who has taken off her glasses, lets down her hair and either gets naked or wears a sexy dress. Even better — the whole thing comes true! "In a Different Light" became Stone's first No. 1 hit on the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart in the spring of 1991.
When Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson came back to the WWE in February 2011, after his triumphant entrance, he removed his sunglasses, referred to himself as "Dwayne", and thanked the fans for supporting him when he left the WWE to go to Hollywood and expressed his heartfelt appreciation...and then the sunglasses went back on and The Rock, The Most Electrifying Man in All Entertainment, was back.
One of the most beautiful Giles-style variants occurs in Metal Gear Solid 2. Otacon holds his dying sister in his arms. She reaches up to hold the side of his face, slightly lifting his glasses. They talk for a while, Otacon hiding his grief desperately, but then the glasses fall from her hand and clatter to the floor and she's gone, along with all of Otacon's attempts at stoicism; he bursts into tears. However, the next scene inverts the ass-kick variant, with him retrieving his glasses and putting them on when he realizes he has to go and save the hostages. Previously, the hydrophobic girl took her glasses off before facing her fear, with the subversion that she didn't actually need the glasses and only wore them to resemble her brother.
There's also the fact that this action comes right after the boss's line, "Humans can't possibly grasp the truth with their own hands" - the glasses are used to see through the Ominous Fog of the Midnight Channel and he doesn't need them anymore.
Funnily enough this is foreshadowed by the random encounter music. Specifically: "Yeah/Naked truth lies only if you realize/Appearing in nobody's eyes till they sterilize."
Not to mention that the ever so epic musical piece "Battlefield of Steel" playing in the background turns this into a Crowning Moment Of Awesome as well, especially if you think back and realize that they've been hinting ever so gently at this the entire time.
Guile's pre-fight intro in Street Fighter IV employs this, but it's only a mild form of this trope (he pulls off his aviator sunglasses and sticks them in his back pocket). His friend Charlie Nash in the Street Fighter Alpha series is the straighter example of the two, though.
Charlie is actually a subversion, because his glasses are purely cosmetic.
Shiki Tohno from Tsukihime is a crowning example of this. In the game (and spin-offs), he needs his glasses to see reality without the "lines of death" on all objects, which determine striking points to eliminate them from existence. Seeing the lines puts a lot of strain on him, so he keeps the glasses on all the time. Needless to say, he only takes off the glasses when he turns into a complete badass, represented as Shiki Nanaya. This change in personality is a result of his family heritage, as he is actually descended from a line of psychic monster killers. His blood boils when he detects supernatural threats like demons or vampires, causing him to lose control. A good example of this is when he cuts Arcuied Brunestud into a bunch of bloody chunks in the course of only a few seconds. She later has to use a massive amount of her power to restore herself, rendering her much more susceptible to the enemies in the series.
If he takes off his glasses, it means he IS going to kill you, no matter who you are, or how powerful you are. If there is a single way possible to kill you, he will cut you, and you will die. This is so much, that one bad ending is reached by taking off your glasses. Why? Because you're not SUPPOSED to fight seriously!
Another example from the Nasuverse is the subversion of the Servant "Rider", who usually wears thick, tinted glasses (replacing them with a piece of cloth wrapped around her eyes while fighting, maybe because it's more practical). In her case, it's because her true identity is the gorgon Medusa. When she takes off her glasses, people around her die horribly. Also, she has demonic snake eyes that look extremely unnerving from up-close (not that anyone who'd look at them care, being to busy as they'd be turning into statues).
On a lesser (or greater) extent, taking his glasses off only cause nearby women to think he's very hot without them.
TRON 2.0: In the analog world, Jet wears glasses. As soon as he hits Cyberspace, he's glasses-free and suffering no ill effects. The same thing happens when Alan gets zapped in.
Kanji, the protagonist's best friend and comic relief guy from Katawa Shoujo wears extremely thick round glasses (he's Blind Without Them - no, seriously, he's really legitimately blind. The game takes place in a school for the disabled). He's a crazy, filthy, foul-mouthed shut-in who spends most of his time ranting about conspiracy theories and mooching off his friends for pizza money - but in the one time he takes off his glasses (in a CG, nonetheless!) he instantly transforms into a sad looking bishonen, his wacky letimotif is replaced with a beautiful music piece and he tells a tragic story from his childhood... then he puts his glasses back on, and the magic is broken. Complete with a Record Scratch.
When Terry of KateModern removes his glasses, it's a sign that he's really ticked off.
Xandra from Neopets actually does this when she reveals to everyone her true evil self and then sends Faerieland crashing down onto Neopia to express how much she hates the Faeries and wants to destroy them one day.
Subversion: The Simpsons: "Worst Episode Ever". Milhouse takes off his glasses before attacking Bart, but puts them back on when he realizes that he can't see without them.
Family Guy: In the episode "Don't Make Me Over," she's-so-ugly Meg gets a makeover, which involves her shedding her glasses. (Meg becomes only bearable to look at, although it's played up as her becoming very attractive.) By episode's end, she decides she's happier being the girl that kissing reminds you of licking an ashtray, and reverts to her glasses-wearing, homely self.
Reversed in The Fairly OddParents, when a geeky and useless boy becomes King Arthur — a rippled Adonis and fighting machine — when he puts glasses on. After all, how good are you going to be at swordplay when you are blind?
"Transylvania 6-500": The cartoon short's villian, Count Von Count, is engaged in a battle of wits and "magic potion" one-upmanship with Bugs Bunny when he transforms himself into a bat (the animal); Bugs turns himself into a baseball bat, prompting Count to do the trope inversion ("You wouldn't hit a bat with glasses?"). Yes, Bugs would ... and does.
Done straight and to great effect in Gargoyles - faced with an invasion by several angry gargoyles, Owen Burnett calmly takes off his glasses, puts them in his pocket, and adopts a martial arts stance. The fact that he isn't remotely capable of fighting a gargoyle hand-to-hand (not as Owen, anyway) does not make the moment any less Bad Ass.
He does it again when everyone is fighting (and losing) against Oberon, before revealing his true identity.
Averted in Metalocalypse, as Charles does not remove his glasses to fight, though he does undo his necktie before he first fights the Metal Masked Assassin. (When he's blugeoned into unconsciousness by the Assassin the second time around, his glasses remain bent and broken on his face as he lies lifeless.)
Parodied with a hint of Ho Yay in Clone High, where JFK gives a makeover to Ghandi than completes it by taking of his glasses. JFK told Ghandi "Looks like an Angel."
Inverted by the title character of Daria in that The Glasses Came Back On after the visual restrictiveness of her specs when driving caused her to have an identity crisis.
Also inverted in the 1960s cartoon Fearless Fly. The housefly hero is a 98-milligram weakling, until he dons his square-rimmed glasses. Inevitably, in nearly every episode, he gets them knocked off at a crucial moment.
Played straight in the Magic School Bus's Dinosaur episode, where Arnold takes off his glasses and tucks them away in his shirt pocket to fight the T-Rex.
Recess plays this straight in a dream sequence when Miss Grotke's getting ready for a boxing match.
Also played straight in "Gus's Last Stand", when Gus (attempts) to fight Gelman.
Real-life example: Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair occasionally did this during Prime Minister's Question Time.
The queen of Denmark does this at the end of her annual New Year's speech, but only in order to deliver her Motto. Good thing, too, since she really does seem to be blind without them.
Dave Barry never appears with eyeglasses on the covers of his books, even though he admits to be Blind Without 'Em. He even joked about his yearbook photo, saying that the glasses instantly made him look like a Teacher's Pet geek.
Sometimes it really is a good idea to take glasses off if you're going to be getting into physical confrontation or a contact sport, because of the possibility of them being knocked off, lost, or damaged. But unlike what some non-glasses-wearing folks think, you needn't fear having breakable glass attached to your eyes, because modern glasses are made of shatterproof plastic.
Averted by Belgian heptathlete/high jumper Tia Hellebaut, who never takes off her glasses. Not even when winning Olympic gold.
Averted with race car drivers who put glasses on when getting into the car. Even if they wear contacts the rest of the time it is best not to have a contact drama in a race at 250km/h.
In contrast, "Weird Al" Yankovic built his career with his signature glasses and moustache. After he had LASIK surgery to correct severe myopia, he unveiled a new glasses-and-moustache-free look on the album "Running With Scissors".
Averted with many military personnel, who are often required to wear ballstic safety glasses on the battlefield, at the shooting range, or operating heavy machinery or power tools. They often pull double-duty as Cool Shades. If you actually need glasses to see, you can insert a set of corrective lenses inside the safety glasses.
Played straight during Basic Training. Recruits who need glasses are issued BCGs (Birth Control Glasses, so named because of their thick brown plastic frames and large plastic lenses supposedly being a detriment to sexual encounters). At a certain point in the training cycle, they are allowed to wear their civilian frams again, at which point the BCGs come off and are often never seen again.
Mike Royko, Chicago Tribune columnist, once wrote that he disapproved of contact lenses because anyone who wanted to start a fight would look silly trying to remove them, whereas taking off glasses looks cool.