It's Time to Step Up Your Glasses Game

It's Time to Step Up Your Glasses Game

Tye Sheridan as Cyclops, Sailor Moon’s Melvin Butlers, Peridot of the Crystal Gems, Morpheus, and They Live’s Roddy Piper.
Tye Sheridan as Cyclops, Sailor Moon’s Melvin Butlers, Peridot of the Crystal Gems, Morpheus, and They Live’s Roddy Piper.
Screenshot: 20th Century Studios, TV Tokyo, Cartoon Network, Warner Bros., Universal

Now that we’ve more or less figured out how to wear glasses and protective masks at the same time without fogging up said glasses, now’s as good a time as any for taking some inspiration from genre’s greatest bespectacled characters to step one’s glasses game up. Personality glasses people: this is your time.

Charles Pulliam-Moore is an NYC-based culture critic whose work centers on fandom, pop culture, politics, race, and sexuality. He still thinks Cyclops made a few valid points.

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Morpheus, The Matrix

Morpheus, The Matrix

Morpheus having a conversation with Neo.
Morpheus having a conversation with Neo.
Screenshot: Warner Bros.

Though Laurence Fishburne apparently won’t be donning Morpheus’ signature pince-nez again for Warner Bros. upcoming fourth Matrix film for some reason, the look will still be a striking, if risky fashion statement to make even after the movie debuts on HBO Max later this year

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Batou, Ghost in the Shell

Batou, Ghost in the Shell

Batou greeting someone.
Batou greeting someone.
Screenshot: Animax

The cybernetic eyes Ghost in the Shell’s Batou sports aren’t the most technologically advanced in the world, and they don’t offer anywhere near as many handy advantages as more updated models. But what they lack in cutting edge modernity, they make up for in relative minimalism if you’re willing to look past their inhuman appearance and consider them more like high-fashion eye guards. Or sleep aids, your pick.

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Cyclops, X-Men

Cyclops, X-Men

Tye Sheridan wearing the one good Cyclops costume Fox ever put into a live action movie.
Tye Sheridan wearing the one good Cyclops costume Fox ever put into a live action movie.
Screenshot: 20th Century Studios

Scott Summers’ eyewear is both an integral part of his superhero costume and a bold fashion statement that he sports out in public even in his civilian guise. Functional as Cyclops’ visor is, both it and Scott’s ruby quartz glasses are also significant because of how they immediately draw attention to his being a mutant that would would otherwise go unnoticed were he able to control his powers. Advanced as the tech coming out of Xavier’s has become over the years, Scott could easily choose to hide his mutancy and enjoy the privileges that come with doing so, but with his red shades, he’s making his reality clear to anyone who sees him, which is a choice you’ve got to respect.

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Melvin Butlers, Sailor Moon

Melvin Butlers, Sailor Moon

Melvin, perplexed.
Melvin, perplexed.
Screenshot: Toei Animation

Sailor Moon regular Melvin Butler’s coke bottle glasses are part of a long-established nerdy character archetype in anime, and there isn’t anything particularly special about them aside from their trademark swirls and overall effect of making the wearer vaguely resemble an insect.

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Garnet, Steven Universe

Garnet, Steven Universe

Garnet being fresh.
Garnet being fresh.
Screenshot: Cartoon Network

It’s unclear whether Garnet’s sunglasses are merely an aesthetic choice Ruby and Sapphire decide to create while fusing, or if the accessory (which she sometimes removes and can be broken) serves some sort of more important purpose involving her ability to see the future. In either case, the shades are categorically fresh, with the one caveat being that one can only pull them off by never questioning whether or not they can. The moment doubt creeps in, the entire look runs the risk of falling apart.

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Peridot, Steven Universe Future

Peridot, Steven Universe Future

Peridot in the thrall of television.
Peridot in the thrall of television.
Screenshot: Cartoon Network

Peridot’s glasses are worth taking into consideration on their own because, while they’re obviously an homage to Garnet’s, they’re also a clear reflection of Peridot’s personality and understanding that her desire to be like Garnet didn’t mean she had to fully imitate her sense of style. Glasses like these do come with the risk of giving off the impression that the wearer’s into Bad Bunny, but depending on one’s taste, this can be considered a feature rather than a bug.

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Geordi La Forge, Star Trek: The Next Generation

Geordi La Forge, Star Trek: The Next Generation

Geordi LaForge reading Twitter.
Geordi LaForge reading Twitter.
Screenshot: CBS

Though Geordi La Forge has since traded his VISOR for implants to imbue him with vision, the visor itself is still a classic choice that one could get away with in the right circumstances. Of course, wearing a visor in public is certain to draw the sorts of attention to one’s self that likely isn’t wanted right now, and one’s like Geordi’s are just as likely to make it more difficult to see than to help.

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Quattro Bajeena, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam

Quattro Bajeena, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam

Cha—sorry, QUATTRO—goes out in search of a good burger, as all good mech pilots do.
Cha—sorry, QUATTRO—goes out in search of a good burger, as all good mech pilots do.
Screenshot: Sunrise

For the discerning spacenoids, Quattro—actually former Zeon ace from Mobile Suit Gundam, Char Aznable—had a taste for eyewear so good, people were so drawn to it they basically let it slide that one of the most famous figures of the One Year War was managing to wander around letting people think he was a man named Quattro Bajeena and not one of the best bastards to ever pilot a giant robot. Solid commitment to a look, right there.

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Nada, They Live

Nada, They Live

John Nada not believing the truth his eye are telling him.
John Nada not believing the truth his eye are telling him.
Screenshot: Universal

Rather than making a fuss about finding a pair of sunglasses that exactly resemble Roddy Piper’s hero in They Live, in 2021 this particular look is more about one’s intent to recognize and engage with the reality being presented to them. You shouldn’t need a pair of glasses to help you see when the people promising to do right by you are actively planning your doom, but if that’s what it takes, so be it.

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Gendo Ikari, Neon Genesis Evangelion

Gendo Ikari, Neon Genesis Evangelion

A father waiting for his child to figure out how to open an existential can with an unstable can opener.
A father waiting for his child to figure out how to open an existential can with an unstable can opener.
Screenshot: Gainax

At the same time that a pair of glasses can better a person’s vision, they can also serve as invaluable tools in helping them emphasize the points they’re making to others. When Gendo Ikari fixes his dead-eyed gaze upon a person in Neon Genesis Evangelion, if his withering words and sociopathic tone don’t arrest the listener, the way he emphasizes his points by knowingly using his glasses to flash light at people make his intentions clear. Pulling off a Gendo-style visual assault is more difficult than it looks, and honestly doing it in person leads to people looking ridiculous more often than not. But it’s still something worth considering if severity’s more your style.

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Judge Doom, Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Judge Doom, Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Christopher Lloyd as the Judge.
Christopher Lloyd as the Judge.
Image: Touchstone

Sometimes your eyeballs are so goddamn alarming in appearance you have to wear tinted lenses just so you can go about your everyday business of menacing everyone in Toontown—only removing your eyewear when you really, really, really need to shake someone into submission.

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Doc Brown, Back to the Future Part II

Doc Brown, Back to the Future Part II

Christopher Lloyd (again) as Doc Brown (with Michael J. Fox as Marty).
Christopher Lloyd (again) as Doc Brown (with Michael J. Fox as Marty).
Image: Universal

Where he’s going, he doesn’t need roads...but super-cool sunglasses can help anyone, even a time-traveling mad scientist, blend into the super-futuristic world of 2015.

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Sarah Connor, Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Sarah Connor, Terminator 2: Judgment Day

The glasses are by “artisanal Japanese eyewear” company Matsuda, which re-released them in 2015 for $1,500 a pair.
The glasses are by “artisanal Japanese eyewear” company Matsuda, which re-released them in 2015 for $1,500 a pair.
Image: Carolco Pictures

You thought we were going to say Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator sunglasses for this one, but no—Linda Hamilton’s iconic Sarah Connor shades exist not to cover up an exposed red cyborg eyeball, but to enhance the stone-cold fashion sense of one of the greatest action-movie heroes around. The vague steampunk feel of her sunglasses meshes nicely with Judgment Day’s “looming apocalypse” theme, too.

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Agents J and K, Men in Black

Agents J and K, Men in Black

Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in Men in Black.
Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in Men in Black.
Image: Sony Pictures

Presumably, the sunglasses worn as part of the standard Men in Black uniform do block out the sun, in addition to adding a bit of anonymity to the agent who’s wearing them. But the alien investigators really need to keep a pair on hand at all times in case they need to neuralyze a member of the public who’s unwittingly witnessed some kind of extraterrestrial activity on Earth.


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Charles Pulliam-Moore is an NYC-based culture critic whose work centers on fandom, pop culture, politics, race, and sexuality. He still thinks Cyclops made a few valid points.

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