Lenses should be like the prostate. You want to keep them as small as possible.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
[The Renaissance received a charming story from a young lady who is new to the world of pince-nez. She prefers to be known as Madame X. Many aspects of her story reminded me of my own challenges and joys. This post is a little longer than usual but definitely worth the read.]
My life has been transformed due to the wonder of internet shopping. I have amassed eleven pairs of wildly differing styles of eyeglasses. This never would have been possible on a student budget before competitive internet pricing. Caught in the fever of collecting unusual styles, I stumbled across galleries of antique eyewear and grew fascinated with the idea of wearing a pince-nez.
I found myself coveting them all, from the rimless finger-pieces, through the heavily-ornamented oxfords, the fantastic fun of the zyl frames to the sleek curve of hoop-springs. The photographs and stories on the Renaissance blog convinced me that I could actually wear a pince-nez. I began browsing eBay’s listings on a regular basis. Gorgeous mountings of all types slipped beyond my budget with distressing regularity.
Imagine my intense desire when a listing appeared for a lovely mounting – a warm gold color, with exactly the bridge shape I thought would flatter me, complete with an ear-chain and its original aluminum case engraved with my initials. I skyped my father in the US, wanting to persuade him that having them shipped there and having him forward them would be worth the hassle and postage. At first, he was unimpressed; “Another pince-nez,” he sighed. “What’s so special about this one?” I simply said, “Look closer. They have my name on them.” He said he couldn’t argue with that, and offered them as my Christmas present.
The pince-nez fit comfortably and securely even with the frankly alarmingly heavy glass lenses. The ear-chain turned out to flatter my face. I love asymmetry and I’m taken with the way the ear chain drapes and emphasizes the line of the cheekbone. As an astounding bonus, I discovered that the mounting is marked 14k.
I then visited my regular optician, sure he’d be able to glaze them. He’d been a great help to me over the years so I was unprepared for how vehemently he shot me down. The second I said “pince-nez” came a terse “I don’t do those”. Other places were equally discouraging. They told me my prescription was too strong to fit the mounting, or that they couldn’t possibly do a drill mounting in a thin enough lens.
I tried again once I got back to Europe. At the first optician I found, I cautiously asked if they’d be willing to take on a bit of a project. The optician was enthusiastic, asking half a dozen questions about where I had found such a thing, when they were worn, etc. After measurements and a quick discussion of coatings (and price!) she cheerfully wished me good-bye and told me they’d be done in a week. Success. The fit was secure and feather-light. Once I had them on, she turned to the back and called out “She’s here! She’s wearing them! You have to come and look!” “It certainly was a challenge, with that prescription,” the optician told me, “It took a lot of fiddling – but it was a pleasure to do something completely different.”
Since then, I’ve worn them quite frequently and had predominantly positive feedback. Reaction from friends and colleagues has also been positive; of course, my crowd is largely fellow literature and theatre students, so it’s perhaps a biased sample - here, pince-nez are mostly associated with Joyce or Yeats. Strangers don’t take much notice unless they’re also glasses-wearers, in which case they usually react with a flurry of questions. By far my favorite reaction, though, was from a young boy who was sitting opposite me on the bus; he stared quite intently for a while and then whispered urgently to his father, “that lady is doing magic”.
As a final comment, I’ve discovered a few unexpected bonuses of wearing pince-nez: I can see while doing my hair. Hairstyles no longer have to compensate for temples. Hats are more comfortable. Leaning or lying on my side is now possible with vision; this is marvelous for reading in bed, or comfortably watching television. There is nothing to clash or snag during hugs or kisses on the cheek. I can impersonate Munch’s “Scream”. All round, I’m deliriously happy with how everything turned out.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Sometimes everything comes together all at once. While searching for stamps with pince-nez I ran across John Bassett Moore on a $5 U.S. stamp from 1965. It is an unusual stamp in its stark appearance by being black & white. John Bassett Moore? I never heard of the man before this stamp and I have a fairly strong grasp of American history.
Last week I went to a stamp show in San Jose with my good friend Ken. He insisted on buying me the Moore stamp shown above (Scott 1295 for stamp collectors). Thanks Ken.
My other collecting interest is autographs of lesser known figures in American history. My favorite seller on eBay offered a John Bassett Moore autograph shown above. The item arrived yesterday and I'm very pleased with the fountain pen signature.
And there is the pince-nez aspect. Mr. Moore wore the rimless hoop spring variety pince-nez which was popular from about 1880 to 1910. A wonderful simple style which I wear (I alternate among three sets of glasses).
Who was John Bassett Moore? My first stop was Wikipedia. He was the foremost expert in the U.S. on international law in his time and the first American to serve on the Permanent Court of International Justice (1920-28). He was a graduate of the University of Virginia Law School in 1880 and served in the State Department as an assistant secretary of state. Mr. Moore became a professor of international law at Columbia University.
There is an excellent summary of his career on the Virginia Journal of International Law website. This short two page tribute to Mr. Moore also discusses his beliefs. He advocated U.S. neutrality in the 1930s. I found the following text in their tribute to be of particular interest today:
"His [Moore's] argument was essentially simple: that the “new” internationalism, in its efforts to guarantee peace, really did no more than guarantee that any future war would be a world war. He held that if you start out forcibly to maintain peace you will have to spend your blood and treasure on the job; and if you are not willing to do that, then you must mind your own business and maintain your own neutrality in every war that does not immediately concern you." (Vol. 1, Issue 2-5) [emphasis added]
The University of Virginia also has a student organization called the John Bassett Moore Society of International Law. He is well remembered in Virginia.
Monday, June 10, 2013
Pince-nez is alive and well in Greece, due in part to the efforts of Alexander. He sent the Renaissance a thoughtful email over the weekend and discussed his positive experience with pince-nez. Alexander describes himself as a thirty-six year old Athenian who is a published author/poet and art historian. As you can see, he wears the flexible guard style quite comfortably.
Alexander has a nice collection of flexible guard pince-nez and one Oxford as seen below. While the Oxford is rather heavy to wear, he does get a lot of wear from the flexible guard at home, teaching and leisurely walks. This type of pince-nez is not as stable on the nose as hoop springs or fingerpiece varieties, therefore not recommended for full-time use.
Readers are encouraged to submit their stories and/or photos for posting on this website. We depend on your input. Many thanks to Alexander for his story and pictures.
Saturday, December 29, 2012
Most of us would rate 2012 as a terrible year for tragic news events world wide and look forward to 2013 with some degree of guarded hope that things will be better.
We at the Pince-Nez Renaissance hope that this unique site/blog will continue to offer valuable, detailed information for those who are interested in wearing a pince-nez.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
We have often mentioned that a pince-nez should be stored in a sturdy, strong case when not in use. Since appropriate cases for this purpose are no longer made, one needs to look elsewhere. Few opticians have suitable cases, certainly the big optical chains don't. The best bet is eBAY. There are many eyeglass cases available on eBay, some are quite reasonable.
It is most important that a pince-nez sits securely in its case: the cover should not press down too tightly that it disturbs the bridge, nose guards or springs. Yet the case should not be so large that the pince-nez can move around freely when it is closed. If this happens, the pince-nez can be cushioned with an eyeglass cleaning cloth or piece of soft, cotton fabric.
The cases in the photo show that each one is the correct size for the pince-nez it holds. Naturally I believe that none can compare in quality and elegance to the gorgeous sterling silver pince-nez case shown on the January 14, 2012 post.
One must use extreme care with storing pince-nez with safety devices: chains, and cords can easily become entangled around springs, nose guards and bridge which can cause serious damage to a pince-nez. We hope this post makes a "strong case" for safe, proper pince-nez storage!
While sturdy cases are still made and like the antiques, metal based: the key word here is appropriate.... the modern variety are generally too large for a pince-nez.
Friday, March 16, 2012
The Entering Hyde Park sign has a wonderful caricature of FDR redolent of one of his classic poses: the jutting jaw, cigarette holder and his trademark rimless hoop spring pince-nez.
There are countless myths surrounding FDR. The most persistent one being that he wore a pince-nez to copy his distant cousin Theodore. FDR began wearing a rimless hoop spring pince-nez around 1901 while a Harvard student. He was not copying anyone, merely opting to be stylish and up to date with current fashion trends of the era.
The Roosevelt estate at Hyde Park, New York is a National Park and well worth a day's visit. When Roosevelt spoke of returning home to Hyde Park, he meant the town of Hyde Park, his estate was called Springwood.