Purely Aesthetic Glasses
Usually, only people with vision problems go to the trouble of getting a pair of glasses. But sometimes, we have a character who dons a pair of spectacles even though they have perfect eyesight. The Purely Aesthetic Glasses are just there to make the character look smart, sophisticated, and/or cute. However, whether they really do make the wearer smart, sophisticated, and cute is variable. A sort of sister trope to Goggles Do Nothing.
- A McDonald's commercial shows two men, wearing glasses and sitting at an intellectual coffee shop, somehow found out that McDonald's also serves coffee. They immediately rebel against the pseudo-intellectual front they had been putting up to get their coffee, and yes, one of them was pulling this trope. The other one was not.
Anime & Manga
- Miu from Historys Strongest Disciple Kenichi wears these to make herself stand out less, and although she's still a head-turner, she's not as much of one. That said, when she finally ditches them and decides to be more open, it does not go unnoticed.
- Suzumiya Haruhi: Yuki Nagato's glasses seem to be simply an aesthetic feature, and she stops wearing them after Kyon tells her she's cuter without them.
- She uses them for "magical" purposes in some novels (such as The Disappearance) but they don't correct her vision. Except in the spinoff, where she's Blind Without'Em.
- Angel Beats!: Takamatsu wears a pair of these. However, it is noted almost immediately that despite the specs, he's still an idiot.
- In Sailor Moon, both Ami (Sailor Mercury) and Mamoru (Tuxedo Mask) have been shown wearing "reading glasses" on occasion. Neither of them actually need them.
- In One Piece, Nami wears a pair of glasses while lecturing the rest of the crew on what they'd learned at Sky Island since arriving. These glasses had never appeared before and only once since.
- Axis Powers Hetalia
- Though people read into it for different reasons, America doesn't need his glasses. They represent Texas (rather, he puts them on after annexing Texas) but really seems to exist soley for looking cuter.
- Something similar happens with Team Dad Austria, who's said via Word of God to be more or less plain, looks-wise.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS: As shown in the last episodes, Quattro doesn't need her glasses. She just has them to help keep up her façade of innocent cuteness.
- It's implied in Chrono Crusade that neither Aion or Shader need their glasses. In Shader's case she's probably wearing them because it makes her look brainy, in Aion's case it might be that, or it might be to make him look more intimidating. In Aion's case, they're probably also there to hide from the audience that Chrono and Aion are identical twins.
- In D.N.Angel, Satoshi doesn't actually need his glasses, and admits it to people when they ask. However, it's implied they might function as a way to hold back his alter-ego, Krad.
- Evangeline of Mahou Sensei Negima would put these on whenever she wants to look more teacher-like before Negi and everyone else training under her.
- In Katekyo Hitman Reborn, Gokudera Hayato aquires a pair of glasses half way through the series for no apparent reason, aside from the fact that they make him look even cuter. Well, he does seem to use them whenever he reads things. When studying Sistema CAI, when teaching Tsuna to swim, when trying to learn how to properly cook... Looks like it can be deduced that Gokudera has a little vision problem when it comes to reading things up close. He seems to have no problem in school without his glasses, however. He doesn't care about school, though.
- Jin from Samurai Champloo wears designer glasses which are completely pointless, expressly for the purpose of looking sophisticated.
- Firo of Baccano! takes to wearing a pair of these from 1970 onwards after he replaces Maiza as the camorra's conta è oro. When asked about them, he admits that they're just there to make him look smarter.
- Azuma from Bamboo Blade got herself (fake) glasses in the hopes that they would help improve her marks.
- Used by Popura while studying for a test in Working!!, just because. Her co-worker Takanashi thinks they make her look even cuter than usual.
- Dentaku, of Litchi Hikari Club. Suitably, his epithet is "Science Boy".
- When the master assassin Golgo 13 needs to infiltrate a chemical warfare lab by posing as a skilled chemist, his disguise consists of... a pair of glasses. It's arguable whether they make him look smarter, but they actually DO make him look less intimidating somehow, which is an accomplishment in itself, considering his face.
- Ginnosuke from Tokyo Underground wears thick Nerd Glasses, but whenever he loses them, he has no trouble functioning - he assembled his first spirit gun without them (requiring him to scavenge for parts in a junkyard), and even fight better. He's also surprisingly handsome without glasses, a fact made clear by not a few girls. He still puts them back on when he can.
- Ninamori wore lensless glasses over contacts during the school play in FLCL, instead of just wearing normal glasses, because she doesn't want the other students to know she has imperfect vision.
- Detective Conan's Conan Edogawa has big round glasses for the aesthetic affect of looking less like himself; he's been de-aged into a child and is living day-to-day with a Childhood Friend whom he does not want to recognize him, and Shinichi never wore glasses. He's Clark Kenting, but he doesn't have the luxury of changing back and forth at will. They also make him look cuter, which he exploits. That said, he does get some cool features built into them as time passes, chiefly that they contain the monitor system for his little electronic trackers. And yeah, I don't know how he gets his eyes to focus that close-up either.
- When he first grabs a pair in the anime he punches out the lenses in them so he can actually see as they originally belonged to someone else (presumably his father) who does need them.
- An unanimated chapter of Daily Lives of High School Boys revealed that Hidenori has 40/20 vision without his Stoic Spectacles.
- Sebastian in Black Butler puts on glasses whenever he is acting as a tutor, even to Ciel who knows perfectly well that Sebastian has no need for those. Apparently it's an image thing.
Comics -- Books
- In the Marvel Universe, Jeanne-Marie Beaubier a.k.a. Aurora of the Canadian team Alpha Flight wore fake glasses when assuming the persona of a straight-laced schoolteacher.
- In the same universe, some versions of Spider-Man claim that Peter Parker never needed glasses at all, but his Aunt May feared he would strain his eyes by reading without them. They were broken in an early strip, and after that he has never worn them again. The gag shows up again every couple of years, where after seeing something supernatural/incredible, Peter will muse that maybe he needs to go back to wearing glasses.
- Clark Kent, of course, whose glasses mainly serve as his disguise. In some versions his glasses do have something special about them.
- The Phantom almost always wear glasses or shades whenever he's not wearing his regular mask and costume. The same goes for all predecessors down the line (as a Legacy Character, The Phantom has a 400 year long history) and as none have had particularly bad vision, they've just used fake glasses.
- In DAYDverse, Terry Boot had these when he was younger, to appear intelligent so the Sorting Hat would put him in Ravenclaw.
Films -- Live-Action
- Subversion: In the movie Charade, Regina (Audrey Hepburn) accuses Peter (Cary Grant) of not needing the reading glasses he puts on. She pulls them from his face and dons them herself—then gets a shocked expression and quickly hands them back, saying quietly, "You need them." Evidently, the degree of correction in those lenses was something fierce.
- Played straight in High School Musical with Kelsi, completely averted with every other character in the movie.
- Hitch Hikers Guide to The Galaxy: Tricia "Trillian" MacMillan, in her first scene has a pair of glasses to flag her character as clued-in.
- In Gremlins 2, the smart gremlin obtains a set of glasses from an unknown source the moment it acquires intelligence.
- In (Untitled) (yes, that's its name, parentheses and all), gallery owner Madeleine Gray has a whole collection of fake glasses she wears to look more sophisticated and hip, and she tries her hardest to prevent anyone from discovering that they're just for show.
- Joe wears glasses as part of the wealthy bachelor disguise he puts on to seduce Sugar in Some Like It Hot.
- Imzadi by Peter David. Mary Mac, a female Orion administrator of a Federation science post, dresses in a rather dowdy manner (loose fitting clothes, functional braids, and large glasses) to avoid being seen as just another Green-Skinned Space Babe. Ironically, glasses are rare in Picard's time (or even Kirk's), as future medicine has other means of correcting eyesight.
- Harriet the Spy wears a pair of lens-less frames as part of her spy gear and sometimes to school because she thinks they make her look smarter.
- In one essay in Scott Adams' book Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain!, he writes about how to appear smart. The first and most important tip he gives is to wear glasses, even if you don't need them.
- Doctor Who: The special episode "Time Crash", where the Doctor teases his own past self for wearing glasses he doesn't need in order to look "a bit clever". Ironically, the Tenth Doctor himself is practically infamous for his use of the brainy specs. The fact he has worn them in not only his fifth and tenth incarnations, but also, at least once in a Television Tie in Novel, his eighth, which were pretty much his youngest-looking incarnations, rather suggests he might not really need them and just wears them to give himself more gravitas. Out of universe, David Tennant (the Tenth Doctor) has said that he wanted to have his Doctor frequently wearing glasses in order to give glasses-wearing kids a heroic role-model.
- On How I Met Your Mother, in the flashback in "Arrivederci, Fiero," it's shown that Ted wore spectacles. When they accidentally break, however, he says they were merely "decorative."
- Red Dwarf: Rimmer dons specs in the episode Holoship after illegally enhancing his intelligence with a mind patch.
- In one episode of Even Stevens, Donny watches a video on how to appear smarter. One of the video's suggestions is to wear glasses (Also, to use big words like "cornucopia, meaning 'bountiful' or 'a lot of'").
- In a recent episode of Better Off Ted, Lem reveals that he has been doing this for the past ten years.
- Both Mulder and Scully are seen wearing glasses occasionally in the first season of The X-Files. No explanation in-story for why both stopped using them after that. Mulder does make a passing reference to "need for corrective lenses" in the fourth-season episode "Home".
- In the Torchwood episode "Adam," when the title character has altered the Torchwood team's memories and personalities, Owen gets a fetching pair of specs with his nerdier, more awkward persona. As well as a cardigan and a slicked-back hairdo. Geek chic indeed.
- Scrubs: In an early episode, Elliot is seen with a pair of glasses that disappears without explanation and never comes back. In the commentary, the writers noted that Sarah Chalke wore them because she thought it would make the character seem smarter.
- On Thirty Rock, Liz Lemon wears glasses most of the time, despite Jenna pointing out that she doesn't actually need them. This is a case of Truth in Television: Tina Fey, who modeled the character of Liz on herself, has said many times that she only needed glasses to read the cue cards on SNL but continued to wear them off the show because they unintentionally had become her trademark.
- NCIS: This trope is Michael Weatherly's personal Hand Wave for his glasses showing up a few times in the first season. Tony, his character, is supposed to have 20/10 vision.
- Inverted on Criminal Minds, when Meganekko Penelope briefly wears contacts in an attempt to look more serious.
- Spike Milligan in There's a Lot of It About:
Doctor: Why do your glasses have no lenses?
Spike: Because I have perfect eyesight, Doctor.
- In The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Illya does seem to legitimately need reading glasses, but he's also been seen putting them on in order to pose as a doctor or scientist on short notice.
- Subverted on Dollhouse: in the first episode Topher explains that Echo really does need glasses when she's imprinted with the Miss Penn personality, even though she normally doesn't. The way he sees it, little weaknesses like that are important features that help give the personae their strengths.
- Ami in Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. She claims she feels awkward without them.
- Hugh Laurie, when hosting Saturday Night Live, was supposed to put on glasses at one point during a sketch, to make his character look smarter. Since he fumbled the Glasses Pull and couldn't get them on quickly, he just ad-libbed, "Never mind, they're just an affectation."
- Worn by a character who was cut from GURPS Discworld. Wilma is a hamster who was turned into a human, and now travels with a strange group of adventurers. Because she's so much smarter than she was as a hamster, she's convinced she's a genius. And because she's a genius, she should wear thick glasses. The fact said glasses impair her vision doesn't matter to her in the slightest.
- Charlie from the Street Fighter Alpha series is a well-educated individual (on top of being devilishly handsome) and can be seen removing his glasses before a fight. A bit of Capcom trivia reveals that the glasses are purely aesthetic, as his vision is just fine. Note that Charlie is an Air Force Pilot, and they have to have 20/20 vision.
- Emma plays this straight in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. When Raiden is about to escort her underwater, she takes off her glasses and he suggests for her to get contacts. Emma then admits that she can see perfectly fine and only wears the frames to look cuter.
- In Final Fantasy Fables, Chocobo gains a pair of these while he's a Scholar. Most. Adorable. Nerdy bird. Ever.
- Mega Man Zero's Cerveau has glasses that are similar to Cyclops. But that didn't stop him from looking brainy.
- Scholars in Final Fantasy XI have two specially designed pieces of headgear that are mortarboards with built-in glasses. The lower-leveled one has Intelligence and augments their ability to regain MP. The higher leveled on has Mind (generally associated with wisdom in the game), elemental magic skill, and improves their spell-casting time. But the amazing thing is that the mortarboards can even make Elvaans look smart!
- In Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas most glasses do nothing (the lucky shades increase your luck), unless (in New Vegas only) you take the "Four Eyes" trait, which raise your perception with glasses and lower it without. Non-unique glasses are weightless, so if you think your character would look better with them, you can wear them without needlessly weighting yourself down.
- El Goonish Shive: Tedd's glasses, before their special abilities were revealed, could be called manly specs (stop laughing!), as he wore them to look less effeminate. However, the obvious side-effect was to make him more nerdy as well, an example of the trope.
- Ping from Megatokyo does this once to try to get her classmates to like her. The plan fails, unfortunately.
- Sarin the Wizard of The Dragon Doctors wore a monocle in the first chapter (and ditches it right around the same time he gets permanently turned into a woman). It's later revealed in a flashback this was entirely an affectation; a kid said Sarin (a young, green-haired man wearing a grey hoodie) didn't look anything like a wizard. Sarin's response was to magically grow a (green) mustache, throw on a robe, and pop in a monocle, with the words, "Impaired vision equals smart!"
- Jyrras Gianna of Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures doesn't need glasses, and originally started wearing them on the suggestion of Dan, who told him that smart people usually wore glasses. They still serve a purpose, however, in somehow decreasing his cuteness, thus preventing people from slipping into diabetic shock whenever he makes Puppy Dog Eyes...
- Atop the Fourth Wall: In Linkara's The Dark Knight Strikes Again review, he wears one over his regular glasses, since nothing says I am a real reviewer like wearing two pairs of glasses in your face.
- Ask That Guy With The Glasses: In a segment, he reveals that he attended Glasses University, where everyone wears glasses and is therefore smart, good education and effort toward learning being well beside the point. He demonstrates by taking off his glasses, and... well, it's hard to properly describe.
- In The Nostalgia Critic's Alone in The Dark review guest starring Linkara and Spoony, the latter mocks Tara Reid's infamous archeologist role thusly:
Spoony: How do we know she's a scientist? Because she wears glasses, of course! And as we all know, any woman who has glasses is either a scientist or an adventurous librarian. As if wearing glasses makes you look any smarter!
(NC and Linkara glare at Spoony)
Spoony: (sheepishly) ... I need glasses.
- The other take of this was Spoony trying to cover his ass and eventually telling Critic that he'd do him. ...he got his wish.
- The Nostalgia Chick will sometimes wear hipster glasses when she wants to appear more like an academic.
- In the main cast commentary for Suburban Knights, Lindsay discusses her usage of glasses. She explains that she stopped wearing them because the camera would be reflect in the lens, leading to several other commentators bringing up their own issues of wearing glasses while filming.
- James Rolfe doesn't need to wear glasses, as can be seen in some of his videos, but wears them in his persona as The Angry Video Game Nerd to add to the image of a stereotypical geek.
- Halfway through Todd in the Shadows' review of "I'm Sexy And I Know It," he puts on a pair of glasses as the words "DEEP LYRICAL ANALYSIS" flash across the screen. He spends a good portion of the review gesturing them in his hands, though, possibly due to the Fridge Logic that his character is supposed to be wearing a mask.
- In an episode of Cow and Chicken, Cow immediately became smarter after she started wearing glasses. Chicken then started wearing glasses to try and become smarter—it failed, but he acted like he was much more intelligent.
- On Daria, noted ditzes Kevin and Brittany are convinced for one episode that glasses might make them smart. Brittany does say something intelligent and then declares, "Wow, these things really do work!" but Kevin gets a pair without lenses because he doesn't want to get too smart.
- In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer finds glasses and immediately starts acting smart, by quoting the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz after he got his diploma (and making the same mistake of referencing the wrong type of triangle). He does the same thing in one of the comics, when he buys Artie Ziff's glasses.
- Mind you Homer actually seems to be farsighted and has been shown wearing half moon spectacles while reading.
- It's been debated in Metalocalypse fandom whether or not Charles Foster Ofdensen's glasses are functional or just there to both accentuate his cleverness and make him seem more harmless than he really is (which isn't at all. He's the Badass Normal).
- On Jimmy Two-Shoes, during a Screw Learning, I Have Phlebotinum plot, Beezy dons a pair of glasses even though he has perfect eyesight. Heloise apparently needs hers to read, but in one episode she puts them on before giving advice, probably to appear smarter.
- Later episodes of ReBoot had Dot adopt a pair of Purely Aesthetic Glasses while working as Mainframe's COMMAND.COM. In earlier episodes she would wear them inconsistently with the implication that she didn't need them, she just liked them.
- On Family Guy Brian tries to show Lauren Conrad how smart he is by taking out glasses to read. When she asks when he got reading glasses, he says he always wore them. She points out she knows they aren't real as she can see the Austin Powers logo.
- Drew Carey got laser surgery at some point, but started wearing a pair without lenses, because he looked weird without them. Not only that but he usually wears a specific style of glasses modeled after military-issue "Birth Control" glasses (so named because no one wearing them will ever get laid). This was lampshaded in one episode of The Drew Carey Show where he addresses the audience wearing a slimmer, more stylish pair that he usually wears off camera before switching to his familiar ones right before the show starts.
- For a brief time, "Weird Al" Yankovic wore these after he got laser surgery of his own, since his glasses were part of his iconic look. He quickly decided this was silly and simply altered his look instead.
- In his youth, Elton John played this trope straight when he started wearing glasses to copy his idol, Buddy Holly. Subverted, now that he can't see without them.
- This trope has its origins in Medieval and Renaissance Europe. The literate educated classes were often forced to read by candlelight, straining and eventually damaging their eyes. Therefore, intelligent people were more likely to need (and be able to afford) glasses than the ignorant masses, or those who earned their fortune in other ways.
- Reading in candlelight doesn't really damage your eyes. Growing old does, however, and if your job is to read and write, rather than farm, then you really need the glasses, hence the connection.
- Sadly believed to be played straight in real life by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, which executed any "intellectuals" in their attempt to bring Cambodia back to a self-sufficient agricultural community, including anyone who wore glasses.
- Stephen Harper started wearing glasses, seemingly for no reason other than to look smart. They didn't help.
- Even people who don't need a vision correction (or only need a very minor correction, possibly unknown to themselves) are often advised to buy proper lenses anyway that correctly match the human eye and are of the same optical quality as lenses in prescription glasses. Because of the cost of those lenses some refuse and wear glasses with the demo lenses from the store still in the frame. Those lenses are often stamped with the name of the frame manufacturer on them, so as a result you can occasionally see people wearing aesthetic glasses whose lenses are half covered with a brand tag like Prada, Vogue, etc.
- Anytime an actor who doesn't need glasses plays a character who does. For example, Daniel Radcliffe, who has normal vision in real life, wears lensless glasses throughout the Harry Potter movies. Lenses, after all, create reflections and, if you're a cinematographer, reflections are the enemy. It's much easier to put your actor in lensless glasses and not constantly worry about whether the camera, studio lights, or crew members are being reflected.
- Zachary Quinto has taken to wearing thick-rimmed glasses when he's in the midst of filming the Star Trek films because they help him hide his shaved eyebrows.