The history of cat-eye sunglasses is as fascinating as their shape. By representing the first explicitly feminine eyewear style, cat-eyes created a wave of change in an industry that was predominantly male-centric. During the early 1900s, when eyewear was all about ‘circle’ and ‘square’ shapes, which made the wearer look like a replica of Benjamin Franklin, the trailblazer Altina Schinasi had had enough!
While walking by an optician’s office, Madam Schinasi, who was an artist and a designer, took note of the dull, boring, and ‘made-for-male’ monocles, and decided to take matters into her own hands. Deriving inspiration from Venetian Harlequin masks, Schinasi designed frames made for women, and breathed new life into a dying craft.
First introduced in the 1930s, cat-eye sunglasses and glasses reached their peak popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, and saw a much-deserved revival during the 2010s. From celebs such as Marilyn Monroe to Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber’s sunglasses, various pioneering women have embraced cat-eyes throughout history and immortalised these iconic eyewear shapes.
1. Marilyn Monroe’s Cat-eye Glasses from the 1950s
During the 1950s, cat-eye sunglasses and glasses entered the mainstream, and became incredibly popular. They marked a new era of chic and sophistication for women. The cat-eye frames of the 1950s were narrow and pointed, and widely worn by A-list celebs of the time, including the very iconic Marilyn Monroe!
Marilyn Monroe began donning cat-eye glasses in some of her most popular movies, such as ‘How to Marry a Millionaire,’ ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,’ etc. The cat-eyes of the 1950s had an overarching theme of playfulness and ingenuity, as abstract motifs, bling, and a design-conundrum were seen on these upswept eyeglasses.
Buy 1950’s Marilyn-inspired cat-eye glasses from Specscart. Our pick is the very exquisite GRACE CB1, whose upswept frames, black and rose-gold design, and contrasting details are sure to make you feel and look like the next ‘Hollywood bombshell.’
2. Audrey Hepburn’s Cat-eye Sunglasses from the 1960s
During the 1960s, cat-eye glasses saw a shift in their style and design. The erstwhile pointy and elongated silhouette was replaced by a larger, more oversized frame. The ever-exuberant Audrey Hepburn wore cat-eye shades in her iconic role as Holly GoLightly in Breakfast at Tiffany, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Hepburn was seen donning a pair of tortoiseshell cats-eyes multiple times in the movie. The 1960s style of cat-eyes was more accessible to a large cohort of women owing to the addition of tinted lenses.
Buy 1960s Audrey Hepburn-inspired cat-eye sunglasses from Specscart. Our pick is the very classy and timeless NICOLE 1. Available in an elegant black colour and optimally sized to suit different facial structures, these sunglasses are ‘old Hollywood glamour’ redefined!
3. Jackie O’s Cat-eye Sunglasses from the 1970s
The sartorial styles of the 1970s, epitomised by the likes of Cher and Diana Ross, also permeated into the arena of eyewear. As the world was grooving to ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen,’ and disco was taking over, the larger-than-life environment aptly reflected in cat-eye frames, which became bigger and more circular.
The ultimate 1970’s cat-eye sunglasses style icon has to be Jackie Onassis. She regularly flaunted dramatic and more rounded cat-eyes, and is rightfully known as the fashionista of her times.
Shop 1970s Jackie O-inspired Dramatic Cat-eye Sunglasses from Specscart. Our pick is the ever-so-stunning MILLIE 1. With an exquisite crystal grey colour and a classy cat-eye shape housed in an oversized silhouette, these glasses will, undoubtedly, help you dance, jive, and ‘have the time of your life.’
4. Lady Diana’s Cat-eye Sunglasses from the 1980s
The oversized trend of the 1970s seeped into the 1980s, and became all the more dramatic. Cat-eye frames during this decade started to show up in extremely large, face-shielding metal frames, something similar to the Bug-eyed Balenciagas of today’s times.
One of the most renowned figures who absolutely adored oversized cat-eye frames and became a ‘poster child’ for the eyeglasses was none other than Lady Diana. She could be seen wearing them on multiple occasions, and as it is obvious, the common Brits also followed her footsteps.
Buy 1980s Lady Diana-inspired Cateye Sunglasses from Specscart. Our pick is the NICOLE 4. Available in a duo-toned frame and multiple tint colours, these cat-eye frames are elegance personified.
5. Lisa Loeb’s Cat-eye Glasses from the 1990s
Yes, yes, we know! Our blog is about cat-eye sunglasses and not glasses, but any list talking about the celebs who made cat-eyes popular is incomplete without Lisa Loeb. The 1990s saw a mild dip in the popularity of cat-eyes, but one celebrity thrusted these upswept eyewear into the mainstream imagination, again. For some people, Lisa Loeb will eternally remain the cat-eye glasses-wearing crush they first heard in Reality Bites in 1994.
Of course, Lisa Loeb rose to fame as a singer and because of her widely popular song - Stay (I Miss You), but she is probably the most well-known for her cat-eye glasses. The rage has been so immense that Loeb even started her own eyewear brand.
Buy 1990s Lisa Loeb-inspired Cateye Sunglasses from Specscart. Our pick is the EYERONICA. These classic black cat-eye shades exemplify elegance and sophistication, and will surely ‘STAY’ as a cult-classic in your vanity for years to come.
6. Cat-eye Sunglasses of the 2000s - The Decorated Revival
While the period between 1970s to 2000s was arduous and undulating for cat-eye glasses, with their popularity oscillating between highs and lows, the 2010s witnessed a massive revival of these feline-inspired frames.
A-list celebs like Emily Ratajkowski, Bella Hadid, and Paris Hilton began donning cat-eye glasses in their off duty and red carpet looks. In 2023, cat-eye glasses are an absolutely raging runway trend. Thick-framed cat-eye shades in bold colours are everywhere, and everyone is embracing these rambunctious pairs with style, pzazz, and excitement.
Buy stylish and contemporary cat-eye sunglasses from Specscart. Our pick is the ever-so-fine DOVILE. These trendy triangle-shaped shades in whitish-grey colour are sure to make you look and feel like a modern diva!Wrapping It Up
Eyeglasses frames come and go, but some like cat-eye sunglasses have stood the test of time. Altina Schinasi’s invention has been loved, revamped, and reinvented in a plethora of ways, and as an eyewear brand, it is an absolute delight to be a part of that history and carry forward the tradition. So, here is to revolution, reimagination, and innovation!Sources of images in collage