Glasses are a necessary part of life for approximately 164 million adult-age Americans, and even someone who doesn’t need them for daily life can appreciate their cultural significance. Recently, many people have begun sporting glasses tattoos for various fashion-related and symbolic reasons.
This article will break down some of the history, meanings, and styles of glasses tattoos.
What is the History of Glasses Tattoos?
While people have been using certain types of stones and even gems to help shield their eyes or read better since ancient and medieval times, corrective lenses as we now know them weren’t invented until the late 13th or early 14th century.
Since then, they have become an important part of human culture, both as a necessity for people with poor vision and as a fashion statement for other people.
With the rise of aesthetic minimalism and the modern hipster subculture in recent years, glasses tattoos have become more popular and relevant. Indeed, with thick- and horn-rimmed eyewear frames becoming more popular and some people even wearing lens-free eyewear frames for the sake of appearances, there are many reasons why a tattoo fan might want to choose a glasses design.
What Do Glasses Tattoos Symbolize?
Eyeglasses provide needed visual correction for people who are either nearsighted or farsighted, especially as they age. In addition, sunglasses offer eye protection against the bright sun and other natural elements. Because of this, glasses tattoos can symbolize protection, correction, and a sense of vision.
Since they are linked to eyesight and vision, glasses can also represent seeing the world in a new and different way, or otherwise seeking to have a unique perspective on the world. Just like real lenses alter how a person physically views the world, a tattoo can symbolize viewing the world with a different mindset or from a distinctive emotional state.
It can be something of a cliché, but glasses are also typically associated with intelligence, a strong study ethic, and even wisdom and prudence. This may be because reading too much or at too close a distance is bad for eyesight and can lead to glasses, and the trait of being a heavy reader is often linked in the cultural imagination with intelligence and academic success.
Older people are often seen as possessing more wisdom and insight than people who are just starting out in life, and they often wear corrective lenses as their eyesight fails in latter years. Consequently, glasses can symbolize the wisdom that comes from having years of experience and age.
Moving in a different direction, more fashionable designs, as well as tattoos of sunglasses rather than eyeglasses, can suggest glamour and fun rather than intellectualism or studying. Put another way, someone may like a sunglasses tattoo design because it represents how much they like to party and have a good time.
What Do Glasses Tattoos Mean?
Apart from wanting to convey a sense of brainpower and mental understanding, someone may choose to get a glasses tattoo for several other reasons. For example, a person who needs to wear actual eyewear in regular life may wear a glasses tattoo as a form of irony.
Or, a wearer who knows someone who needs corrective lenses in order to function may get a glasses tattoo out of a sense of solidarity.
People may also choose to get a glasses tattoo in the memory of a loved one who regularly wore corrective lenses, such as a parent, grandparent, or, less commonly, a sibling. A dating or married couple may choose to each get a glasses tattoo to show that they’re two of a kind and that they match.
Glasses tattoos can also be fashion statements with little symbolical meaning. For example, someone who enjoys the hipster style may get such a tattoo for purely decorative purposes, without the tattoo having any additional significance beyond how cool it looks.
Where Do Glasses Tattoos Usually Go?
Glasses tattoos can have varying levels of complexity and detail, so such inking can be located almost anywhere on the body. The inner arm (especially the forearm-side of the wrist and the biceps area) is a popular spot for this kind of tattoo.
Tattoos with glasses designs can also be featured on the side of a person’s foot, the back of the neck, and the calf or ankle area. It is not very common for this kind of tattoo to go on a person’s face, shoulder, back, or stomach.
Characteristics and Styles of Glasses Tattoos
Depending on what the tattoo wearer is going for, their glasses tattoo can be either very simple and minimalistic or very stylistic and artistic. In the middle of the spectrum, some tattoos are realistic and detailed, neither too purely geometric nor too over-the-top.
The most bare-bones styles of this kind of tattoo display only the basic outline of glasses. Blackwork ink works well for these types of designs because they don’t need color, and blackwork ink is great for highlighting geometric shapes and solid designs.
More stylistic or nonrealistic designs may use the outline of the glasses like a picture frame for whatever is going on inside the lenses. For example, a tattoo of sunglasses may use the frames of the glasses to outline a sandy beach scene occurring within the lenses of the glasses.
Somewhere in between the most minimalistic and the most stylistic tattoo designs lie the more realistic styles. Some glasses tattoos are so true to life that they display reflections of light on the lenses of the pictured glasses.
This video features 30 different relevant tattoos that range from geometric and minimalistic, to realistic and true-to-life, to outright stylistic and artistic.
Eyeglasses and sunglasses are essential parts of daily living for many people, and they can hold a lot of symbolic weight or significance for others as well. Glasses tattoos, which are often located on the inner arm or lower leg, can symbolize having a unique outlook, intelligence, studiousness, wisdom, and a sense of fashion.