Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Vacation

Believe it or not, I have a day job which takes up a lot of my time. The Renaissance doesn't pay the bills. So I'll be taking a two week vacation from this column. I will still be checking my email.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rene's Inspiration

Last week I posted a photo of Rene, a flexible guard wearer. As like other pince-nez enthusiasts, Rene was inspired by a prior wearer in history. I became interested in pince-nez after seeing film clips of FDR take off his glasses. Across the Atlantic, Rene had a similar source of inspiration but with a twist.

Family photos of his great grandfather, Johann Schober, displayed in his childhood home created an interest for Rene in pince-nez. He liked the style worn by this distinguished gentleman who served three times as Chancellor of Austria from 1921-1931 as well as National President (1918) and long time National Chief of Police.

As Rene approached his mid teens, he was determined to obtain a pince-nez and wear it exclusively. His desire was realized at age 16 and he has been content with the flexible guard since that time.

Interestingly, I have a post on my other blog which covers another man in Austrian history: Archduke Otto. Please check it out if you are interested.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Great Nose Pad Showdown: J.I. Morris vs. QTE

Only on the Renaissance will you be able to find a review of nose pads suitable for wear with pince-nez. Nose pads for pince-nez are difficult to find and wearer reviews, to my knowledge, are non-existent except for this blog. I've had the opportunity to wear nose pads from both J.I. Morris and QTE for extended periods of time. Now I am able to render a decision on the qualities of both makers.

Morris is an established name in nose pads. My friend has been wearing them for ages and I found them to be very good. Comfortable and obviously fairly well-made as they have not torn. In my limited experience with pince-nez (less than a year), I was amazed at the difference in comfort and security when wearing Morris nose pads and not wearing any pads. The pince-nez I've worn would not be wearable if I did not have nose pads.

A week ago I switched to nose pads from QTE so I could gauge the quality of these pads for the Renaissance. I didn't expect much difference. I was wrong. QTE is slightly better than Morris nose pads in regard to both comfort and security, the vital yardsticks for assessing pince-nez wear.

The first noticeable difference was the grip of the pads. QTE has a bit of a firmer grip as the silicone doesn't feel as slippery as the Morris pads. You can feel a textured grip on the QTE pads even though it has a smooth surface. This is extremely important if you sweat while wearing pince-nez.

Second, QTE pads are a touch more comfortable than Morris. I had some irritation on one side of my nose bridge with the Morris which has disappeared while wearing the QTE pads. I can feel the difference. Somehow the QTE pads soften the feel to a small yet significant degree when compared to Morris.

Any downsides to QTE pads? At first sight, I wasn't impressed by the clear color. Morris pads have a rose coloring which blends in nicely with the flesh. However, clear color is fine and I wouldn't suggest that QTE change it. Don't get me wrong, Morris makes a fine nose pad. QTE happens to make a superior product. QTE nose pads are made in the US and are non-toxic.

The QTE website is very good for ordering online. Their nose pads are available in three sizes which parallel Morris's sizing. Note that the Morris regular size is equivalent to QTE's small size. They have assortment packs of the three sizes or you can order a pack of one size.

Why such an extensive review of nose pads? This item is absolutely crucial for wearing pince-nez in most cases. They greatly enhance comfort and security.

*Note: As of 12/09, Morris nose pads are no longer available according to the author's understanding.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Period Costumes

The Renaissance is a serious blog geared for the modern wear of pince-nez. Naturally, I try to have some fun and keep it lighthearted as much as possible. We do recognize that pince-nez are often worn as a key part of period costumes. This is a great way to bring realism to historical reenactments and provide great public relations for pince-nez.

This is a photo of Michael from Australia, a pince-nez wearer and reader of the Renaissance. In this photo, he is dressed up as the town crier for his young son's school fair. I'm sure the youngsters were impressed!

Friday, May 9, 2008

The "Flexible Guard" Pince-Nez

The "flexible guard" is one of the oldest known types of pince-nez and they are often found on eBay and other online sites. The "flexible guard" style predates the hoop spring and it was popular from about 1870 through the 1890's. This isn't a comfortable style to wear but it is historically important and an interesting collector's item.

The "flexible guard" type pince-nez were among the first type of eyeglasses. It is important to remember there is a distinction between spectacles, which had temples or arms, and eyeglasses which had none. The distinction in terminology lasted until about 1930 when pince-nez replaced eyeglasses and and the term spectacles begin to disappear from common usage in the USA.

The earliest successful eyeglasses (pince-nez) for full-time wear were a precursor to the flexible guard type dating back to the Civil War era. These glasses, shown above, were made of a hard rubber type frame with a very high arched metal or steel spring bridge. They had no real nose guards but slight tiny protrusions as part of the rim. These protrusions pressed against the flesh when the wearer clipped them on just below, and to the widest part, of the nose bridge. This was a one size fits all model pince-nez and they almost always had a handle or slot for attaching a safety device (i.e., cord or ribbon).

This precursor shown above evolved into the flexible guard style pince-nez about 1870. The nose guards were similar to the hard-rubber type in design but this style was of metal construction. This offered more flexibility, thereby offering more comfort and security. Portrait photos of the period show this type of pince-nez with or without safety devices. A good example of the flexible guard variety is pictured below.

The offset guard (aka hoop spring) type pince-nez was tremendously popular from the 1880's through 1900 and remained in public wear even a bit longer. As late as 1908 it was available in the Sears Roebuck Catalog. The pertinent page is shown below. Please click on the photo to read the text as it is very interesting and you can compare the hoop spring to the flexible guard as both are featured on this page. Sears recommended the hoop spring for full-time wear and the flexible guard for occasional use. The Renaissance concurs.

The introduction in the late 1880's of the hoop spring pince-nez saw a decline in the USA of the popularity of the earlier pince-nez. However, the flexible guard remained in widespread use in Europe until decades later.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Hot Buying Tip for Those in London

The Renaissance is blessed with some thoughtful readers who have excellent tips for pince-nez enthusiasts. I recently received an email from Nick, a longtime pince-nez wearer who has a hot tip for those in or near London. He recommends the antique market day, Saturday, on Portobello Road. He told me that they have every kind of pince-nez imaginable and the prices are very good, if not an outright bargain.

I wish that I were visiting London soon. Thanks for the tip.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


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