Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dead Presidents?


This is the Pince Nez Renaissance. Renaissance meaning revival or rebirth. The purpose of this blog is to generate more interest in contemporary wear of pince-nez. So is it wise to put a picture of a president from a hundred years ago as in my last post?

Absolutely!

I've seen a lot of eyewear manufacturers flash the names of celebrities who wear or endorse their frames. Lunor, for example, lists Puff Daddy, Yoko Ono and Tom Cruise as celebrities seen in their frames. Oliver Peoples eyewear is worn by Jessica Simpson, Brad Pitt and Kate Moss. Other brands tout celebrities with no modesty. All famous and successful people.

I can understand this phenomenon. When I was a teenager, I wanted to wear Windsor style glasses just like the ones pictured on the Beatles' John Lennon. I thought they were a hot look and later shopped for that style of frame. Much to dismay, I found out that the round lens looked awful on me. In fact, it doesn't look good on most people. Later, I realized that John Lennon was a total jerk. I was swayed by the power of celebrity.

Then I grew up.

I'd rather look up to some of the great presidents in our history as role models. To me, Woodrow Wilson and FDR are far more accomplished and desirable than Tom Cruise and Yoko Ono. So yes, I will put up pictures of great people from a hundred years ago.

As far as the issue of styles being outdated, the basics of eyewear design haven't really changed in the past 150 years. Materials have improved but the designs are basically the same. In fact, I wrote a column on LeDandy which compared two frames made about 140 years apart. One is a frame currently made by Lunor and the other one is of unknown origin and dates back to the US Civil War, circa 1865. They are almost identical.

The great US presidents of the past are far better than the lot of current "celebrities." Take pride in the fact that Theodore Roosevelt wore pince-nez.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Wilson's 15th Point: Hoop Spring Pince-Nez!


Woodrow Wilson hoop spring pince nez
Now that I have become more familiar with pince-nez, I see this style with a more critical eye. Prior to this blog, I did not know hoop spring from fingerpiece. Interestingly, I find that most historical figures of the early 20th century who wore pince-nez had the hoop spring style. This is an excellent photo of Woodrow Wilson with hoop springs which closely resemble my own.

President Wilson is known for his "Fourteen Points." The peace plan he authored at the end of WWI that wasn't ratified by the Senate. French Prime Minister Clemenceau commented on Wilson's plan. "Mr. Wilson bores me with his Fourteen Points; why, God Almighty has only Ten!"

Friday, February 22, 2008

Nose Pads for Pince-Nez, Part II of II


Morris Rest-Rite nose pads pince-nez
Nose pads are a wonderful creation which provide enhanced comfort and security for wearers of pince-nez. These simple silicone nose pads are exremely difficult to find. Do an internet search and you will have no trouble finding silicone nose pads. These are the screw-in variety meant for eyewear with temples. The slip-on boot pads are much more elusive.

So far I've been able to track two sources for slip-on, silicone boot pads: J.I. Morris Company of Southbridge, Massachusetts and Stormin' Norman's. The Renaissance recommends the J.I. Morris Company for several reasons. Stormin' Norman's is a wholesale distributor and, as stated on their website, does not sell to individuals.

If you browse the Morris website, you will not find nose pads in their selection. A friend of mine called them and found out that they still make the Rest-Rite, boot style nose pads and they sell directly to the public!

I've had the opportunity to wear the Rest-Rite pads with my white gold hoop spring. Morris's nose pads are a quality product and are slightly thinner than the now-extinct Danbert product. Sizes available are regular, large and extra large. The regular size is suitable for most nose guards. Extra large is the best choice for pince-nez with cork lined guards. Size dimensions are illustrated on the box pictured above.

At the time of this writing, the price is $16.50 for a dozen pair in any one of the three sizes. This price includes shipping in the US. Individual pairs are sold but I do not having pricing information. The telephone number for J.I. Morris is 508-764-4394. Website ordering is not available at this time.

Morris nose pads should last at least a year with constant wear and may last as long as three years.

The only other seller of boot style, slip-on pads is Stormin' Norman's. I do not have any experience with them or their product, but their price is $8.75 for a dozen pair in size large or extra large. The website states that they do not sell to individuals but you may want to contact them. Contact information is available on their website.

I'm very pleased that my friend found this great source for nose pads. Trust me, once you start wearing them on your pince-nez you will wonder how you could live without them.

If any readers of the Renaissance have another source for nose pads, please write to me. [update: QTE makes nose pads also. See post.]
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*Note: As of 12/09, Morris nose pads are no longer available according to the author's understanding.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Nose Pads for Pince-Nez, Part I of II


Danbert nose pads
As a relative newcomer to pince-nez, I thought to myself "What has surprised me the most about pince-nez eyewear?" Unlike most people, I never really questioned the security of wearing this eyewear. Somehow I had a feeling it was quite secure on the nose. My biggest shock was the necessity for wearing nose pads.

These little silicone slip-on, "boot" pads make a world of difference with both comfort and security of pince-nez. I've had the opportunity to wear several versions of hoop springs and fingerpieces, with and without nose pads. I doubt if I would be able to wear any of the pince-nez without them. Silicone provides an excellent grip while still maintaining a soft feel. Also, nose pads are particularly helpful with perspiration.

As you can see in the picture below, these nose pads slip over the nose guard like galoshes on shoes. Hence the name boot pad. Gently stretch the nose pad before placing it on the nose guard. Be careful in this process as it is possible to rip them.To put them on, hold the the nose guard with one hand and place the wide part on one end of the nose guard. Then gently pull over to the other end of the guard. Usually, you will want to place the wider part of the nose pad at the top of the guard. Use your judgment.

pince nez fingerpiece nose pads
By placing the pads on the nose guard, you are slightly narrowing the bridge opening. This is especially evident on a fingerpiece. The pads are quite thin and this shouldn't be a problem as the nose guard can usually be corrected if necessary.

How long do nose pads last? About three to four years with regular wear.

It is possible to wear pince-nez without the pads and find a good degree of comfort and security. This is found quite often with cork-lined nose guards. Other situations involve a combination of comfortable nose guards and an expert fitting. In most cases, you will want to wear the silicone nose pads.

This was the easy part. The hard part is finding this item. The nose pads pictured at top are no longer made, as Danbert is no longer in business. Part II will address how to find this elusive item which is the essence of life for pince-nez wearer. If any readers have leads on where to find the silicone boot, slip-on pad, please write to me.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Intellectual Pug


pug pince-nezPince-nez can even make a big improvement for dogs. Here is my pug Tater wearing an old Zyl fingerpiece from WWI. Ok, you guessed it. I used Photoshop. Nevertheless, it does give her an intellectual look which she so desperately needs.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Right Partner: A Vital Element


Ever see the movie "Schindler's List?" The movie by Steven Spielberg is about a businessman named Oscar Schindler who saves a thousands Jews or so from extermination. There is one line I remember spoken by Liam Neeson who played Schindler. He said "My father told me you need three people in your life: a shrewd accountant, a smart doctor and a forgiving priest." LeDandy would like to add a fourth one to the list for pince-nez wearers: a competent and motivated optician.

Last Thursday I went to my optician for a consultation about lenses for my pince-nez. My partner and I have been going to an optical store in the Castro district of San Francisco for many, many years. It is a small, independent shop shop with two optometrists and a staff that has been there forever. They will be happy to put in new lenses for me.

Sounds simple and it is for me. I consider myself very fortunate. But finding the right optician can be a big challenge. Don't assume it will be easy to get lenses installed. In some cases, it may not be possible because of the mounting and your lens prescription.

I've heard from a friend with much pince-nez experience that the major optical chains refuse to work with pince-nez. Nor will many small, independent shops. I can speculate as to the reasons why many stores will not make lenses for this eyewear:
  1. Liability for damaging antique eyewear;
  2. No frames to sell to the customer;
  3. Complexity of fitting lenses to pince-nez;
  4. Extremely limited demand;
  5. Special training for staff.
From a businessman's point of view, it is sensible not to work with pince-nez.


So how does one find an optician to put lenses in your pince-nez? Pound the pavement, as they say. You may have to visit several optical stores before finding a place which is competent and motivated. The motivation factor is telling. If a store is willing to put in lenses, will they do it grudgingly or eagerly? As for competency, ask if they have ever worked successfully with pince-nez before. You do not want to be their first pince-nez client!

If you have a good experience at an optical store with pince-nez, please write to me. I'm building a worldwide list of "pince-nez friendly" optical stores. Good luck.

Friday, February 15, 2008

It's (Not) All About Me


I was appalled by the appearance of this blog the other day. I have the banner at the top with my image repeated across the screen, along with a big picture of me in a post wearing a hoop spring pince-nez.* If I was a first-time reader, I'd think "this guy is an egomaniac." I want to assure that the Pince-Nez Renaissance is a community, on-line resource center and not a personal blog about my eyewear interests. It just turns out that I'm the only model available right now.

If you wear pince-nez or are interested in the style, I encourage you to write to me (LeDandy) with your stories and/or photos. With your express permission, I'll include the material in a post. Or leave a comment on a post if you like. Many people may think that a blog just about eyewear is boring. I agree. The interesting part is always about the individuals involved with the subject matter.

Of course you don't have to contribute anything to this blog. I'm happy to have you as a reader and hope you continue to be one. But if you'd like to share your story and/or photos, it would be a great addition to this blog.

___________________
*Note: Previous banner had LeDandy's picture repeated across the screen.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

If At First It Doesn't Fit....


LeDandy pince-nez

Sometimes you might want to try and try again. It all depends on the details of the mounting. Some mountings are quite adaptable and others are quite inflexible. Do not be disheartened when a beautiful pince-nez does not fit at first. Sometimes adjustments can be made.

So what makes me so smart in this area? The white gold hoop spring that I am wearing in this photo did not fit at first. It was far too snug and wobbled vertically on my nose. It didn't fit the second time I had them on either. It wasn't until I learned something from another pince-nez that I decided to adjust the nose guard on this white gold mounting.

A small correction to the nose guard with my fingers. Voila! It fit superbly. I'm sure some minor optician adjustments will be made, but I am well in the ballpark on this mounting as to fit. I'll also want to get a different shape and size of lens. This is such a gorgeous pince-nez that I couldn't give up on it.

As you can see below, the nose guard of this hoop spring is quite adaptable by nature of its design. All you have to do is gently bend the back part of the nose guard to the desired position. When making any adjustment on the nose guard, it is best to make several small, incremental changes rather than one large correction.

Other nose guards are not suited to much modification. I tried on a beautiful, art deco yellow gold hoop spring which was a tad too large for me. This one was a heartbreaker. The nose guards on this mounting are delicate with a slender arm as seen below. Click on the photo for a detailed view.

It was a thrill to wear this yellow gold pince-nez for a short time. The lens shape, called a tear drop, is identical to the pince-nez worn by Sec. of the Navy Frank Knox in yesterday's post.

So don't give up right away. A small adjustment, if allowed, can work miracles.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Germans Wore Grey, You Wore Blue...


... and New Dealers wore hoop springs.

Unforgettable line from the movie Casablanca. The title of this post, I mean. Humphrey Bogart said this to Ingrid Bergman while recounting their romance in Paris. Thinking back to the time of this classic movie, pince-nez was still worn. In the FDR administration, New Dealers almost exclusively wore the hoop spring variety pince-nez. This is not a surprise as FDR wore the hoop spring and he looked superb in this style.

It has grown into legend that FDR adopted the pince-nez because he admired his relative Teddy Roosevelt. This legend has no basis in fact as pince-nez itself was quite popular in FDR's era. Furthermore, Teddy Roosevelt wore a safety chain on his hoop spring pince-nez. FDR did not wear a safety chain to my knowledge. FDR clearly had his own style and is one of the great unsung dandies of the twentieth century.



Bernard Baruch, Presidential Adviser


Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Sec. of Treasury (1934-45)


Frank Knox, Sec. of the Navy (1940-44)


Homer Cummings, Sec. of Justice (1933-39)
[technically an Oxford style pince-nez]

Justice Felix Frankfurter, circa 1930s

Friday, February 8, 2008

eBay Buying Guide for Pince-Nez, Part II of II


Now to get down to the nitty-gritty, as they say. It seems like each line of goods on eBay has its own particular high points and low points. Pince-nez tests the extremes. The bad side first. Sellers generally know very little about eyewear and usually nothing about pince-nez. Descriptions are usually poor and pictures are typically of low quality. The good side of pince-nez on eBay is that this eyewear is dirt cheap! There is no reason why you should spend more than $20 with shipping for a pince-nez. Most bidding starts at $10 and doesn't go much higher. If a bidding war ensues on one item, pass on it. Another good pince-nez will come along very soon.

On Fit
You will develop a good "feel" for what will fit after gaining some experience. The important thing to remember with pince-nez is to look at fit differently than you would eyewear with temples. One size does not fit all. Take into account the width and depth of your nose bridge when looking at a pince-nez.

Do not gauge the width between the closed nose guards on a pince-nez in the same manner as you would look at standard eyewear. Remember, the nose guards on a fingerpiece open up so that they can clamp onto your nose.* Buyers may tend to think of guard distance as far too narrow without understanding the concept of them being opened when the pince-nez is clipped on the bridge of the nose.

Pince-Nez to Avoid
There are some items on eBay which are often seen and should be avoided at all costs.

Any mounting which has a bent or twisted frame. Such a flaw is seldom able to be corrected on a fingerpiece and risky on a hoop spring. The item below is a longnette with a twisted frame.


Nose guards not in good working order. Fingerpieces should make a snapping sound when closed. The spring on a nose guard of a fingerpiece should not move when released. The coils should have an excellent appearance, as if new. Symmetry is important when judging nose guards as this is an indication of condition.

Hoop springs with rivets instead of screws for attaching the lens to the mounting. This variety appears with great frequency on eBay. These pince-nez were sold in drugstores as cheap sunglasses. The problem is that these lenses are not replaceable. Only buy this style if you are looking for cheap, costume eyewear. I've seen the style below listed at $30 which is ridiculous. $5 would be appropriate.


"Zyl" pince-nez without screws for the lens mount. Zyl was an early type of plastic dating back to the WWI era which had a tendency to dry out and get brittle. Many of these are seen on eBay. In addition to the material problem, many of these mountings do not have screws so that lenses may be changed. An optician would have to expand the strap with heat to pop in the lens. Not a wise purchase. However, there are some zyl frames which do have screws for the lens mounting. Zyl is a tricky field for the novice and should be avoided until you build up some experience. This includes me!

Below is a photo from the back of a zyl frame without screws for the lens mount.


Given that sellers typically know very little of pince-nez, rely more on the photo than the text of the description. Sellers are known for "puffing" their merchandise, often exaggerating condition. I couldn't believe it, but a seller actually described the pince-nez shown below as in excellent condition. A position impossible to justify given that the mounting is missing a nose guard!


Good Deals
New, old stock mountings. These are great finds as the condition is usually excellent. Some may even come on the original cardboard holders. It might be worth a premium to buy one of these when you see one, provided the price is within reason. Here is one that recently sold on eBay for $30.


Groups of mountings. You can often often find groups of pince-nez assortments for a very reasonable price on eBay. This is a great way to get familiar with different mountings at a cheap cost. Even if some mountings are broken, the parts may be salvaged for later use. Springs and screws are very difficult to find otherwise.

In conclusion, the last element to include is luck. Yes, that intangible quality which is all so important. Sometimes even the best research and procedures results in a less than satisfying purchase. Other times, you get lucky despite indications to the contrary. Just don't overspend and I guarantee a good experience in the long run.
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*When fingerpiece nose guards are opened fully, the width between the nose guards should be about 1/8th inch minimum to 1/4 inch maximum more than the width of of individuals nose bridge. These figures represent a total of 1/16th and 1/8th inch on each side of the persons nose bridge. This is just a rough estimate but useful.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

eBay Buying Guide for Pince-Nez, Part I of II


Pince-nez are no longer currently manufactured. At least in any quality apart from Matrix-style knockoffs or cheap readers. The only thing available are antique pince-nez. Fortunately, they knew how to make frames in the last century and many are still in wearable condition.

Many of you will turn to eBay to buy antique pince-nez. This is a pretty good place to buy these eyeglasses. There are pitfalls to buying on eBay, but overall its a safe place. Seller feedback is the first indication of a reputable seller. Anything over ninety-eight percent is good. Below that percentage, I'd do some serious investigation or ignore the listing from the seller. Also consider the number of feedbacks and the nature of their other merchandise, if any.

This post addresses some of the generic issues and concerns of buying on eBay. Part II of this buying guide will focus on pince-nez specifics.

Perspective
It is important to keep in perspective the cost of these frames. A brief survey of completed auctions had most prices between $10 and $30. Some were less, and a few ranged up to $100 for gold markings. This is downright cheap compared to the cost of ordinary frames today which are probably between $200 and $500. If you want a wearable mounting, you can buy five pince-nez, have one fitted with lenses, and still walk away with a bargain. Chances are you will have to buy several to determine fit.

I've learned through trying on many mountings that I need a shallow bridge of medium width for a fingerpiece. You learn through trial and error as to what will fit. This means will probably have to buy several pince-nez to get one with a good fit. The nice part is that these "mistakes" are not costly and at the very least, you'll have your own collection of pince-nez. Or you can resell them on eBay and maybe even make a dollar or two.

Sniping
I highly recommend "sniping" on eBay. This is where you place a bid in the closing seconds of an auction. There is no point in placing a bid any earlier than the last minute of the auction. Early bids create higher selling prices which only benefit the seller. I wrote an article for my other blog, LeDandy (of Northern California), on the art of eBay sniping. If you do decide to go this route, consider purchasing Auction Sentry. This is a superb sniping software package which has a 100% success rate for me at placing bids. I set my snipes for five seconds before close of auction.

Questions
Most reputable sellers encourage prospective buyers to ask questions. Do take them up on this offer if something is unclear. This can be a description or photo. Failure of a seller to respond to me cancels any interest I have in an item. I must say that most questions are answered in a day or two.

As a veteran eBay buyer, I can assure you that your eye will develop as you study more eBay listings. It's a fun process!

Stay tuned for Part II which will cover pince-nez specifics.

[Note: LeDandy no longer recommends Auction Sentry. Try esnipe.com.]

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

"Little Pieces of Jewelry on the Nose"


This is what many people have called pince-nez mountings. To those unfamiliar with this style of eyewear, it is easy to think of pince-nez as just one design. But once you get familiar with this eyewear, you can appreciate the different looks and construction of this gorgeous eyewear. Hoop spring, fingerpiece, saddle bridges, bridges with art deco motif. The material used in the pince-nez varies. Most are gold-filled but others are 10 or 14k gold and some are silver-plated. Brass was also used. Nose guards can be either be stationery or the pivot variety.

A friend put together this stunning picture of various mountings. Click on it so you can see the mountings in more detail. They really are pieces of jewelry.

pince nez jewelry

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Myth: You Can Play Rugby While Wearing Pince-Nez


Ok, I made this one up. While a properly fitted pince-nez provides a very secure fit, I do not recommend that you play rugby while wearing them. Unless of course you are very fast and never get tackled.

I do have an interesting bit of historical trivia. During WWI, the U.S. Army advocated the use of pince-nez due to its comfort while wearing a gas mask. Pince-nez: strong enough for war but not for rugby!

[U.S. Army Officer, circa 1917]

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Myth: Pince-Nez is an Old Fashioned Look


Clearly the biggest fear surrounding pince-nez is that they will fall off one's face. Oddly enough, this thought never entered my head. I had a feeling all along that they were fairly secure. My biggest fear was that this style is an old-fashioned look and people would laugh at me on the streets. After all, I don't recall seeing any pictures of people wearing them after the 1940's. I consider myself bold by wearing colorful socks and low vamp shoes. However, I don't want to appear as a clown.

Pince-nez is not an old fashioned look. I will stipulate that this style was popular a long time ago and has completely fallen out favor. This is not news. The history may be old but the "look" is not outdated. This is the important distinction. The pince-nez will always have a modern look due to its minimalist architecture. The futuristic movie The Matrix featured Laurence Fishburne wearing pince-nez sunglasses.

Eyewear from well over a hundred years ago still looks beautiful. Many of the styles are highly desirable and worn today. The age of a design should not affect your judgment.

Don't take my word for it. Lunor, a German frame maker held in high critical regard, derives their designs from antique eyewear. Here is a quote from the Lunor website:

The aesthetic design of LUNOR eyeglasses is based upon a collection of optical antiques from the years 1650 to 1950. The collection includes glasses and cases, princenez [sic], binoculars and microscopes, which belong to one of the foremost collectors of optical antiques in Europe, Gernot Lindner, owner of LUNOR Enterprises. [emphasis added]

A friend sent me a picture of his eyewear. It is absolutely stunning and represents the apex of eyewear design. The eyeglasses may be old, but the appearance is timeless.

Needless to say, I no longer believe that pince-nez is an "old fashioned look." If people do laugh at me, I know it will be for the hot pink socks and not my pince-nez!

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