Sunday, July 17, 2011

Soldiers and Pince-Nez


One of aims of Renaissance has always been to dispel the many myths concerning pince-nez: the biggest one being comfort and security.

Fascinating is the fact that the majority of soldiers during the 1880-1920 era who needed visual correction wore pince-nez eyeglasses. That it was the most popular and stylish eyewear made this a logical choice. Equally important is the fact that army officials recommended a pince-nez as the ideal choice because of the ease in wearing a gas mask over it. Spectacles proved to be less comfortable and rather cumbersome under masks or goggles.

Interesting too is the fact that military pilots particularly the German air aces were allowed to fly without perfect vision during the Great War (1914-1918) and most wore a rimless pince-nez without any "safety devices."

The fact that a pince-nez was so successful in both military and civilian circles was of course due to the great skill opticians had in fitting a pince-nez expertly to the individuals nose bridge. The end result was that the wearer had no concerns about stability because his pince-nez remained securely and very comfortably attached even during violent physical activity.

While the popularity of pince-nez for young people declined in the 1920's, particularly in the USA, it was not completely unusual for European soldiers and officers to wear a pince-nez (usually a rimless fingerpiece) even as late as World War 2 particularly in Russia and Germany!

[Note: top photo, young German officer, c. 1929; bottom photo, U.S. Army officer, c. 1917]

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