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Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Buddy Holly's Eyewear

The great pop musician Buddy Holly died 50 years ago today. That's a sombre anniversary, but a date worth recalling. Holly literally touched several generations of major musicians with his brief - shockingly brief - career - and, in the process, generated enduring rock and roll classics, as well as a style and look that are for all time. I don't want to dwell here on the music - though I love his songs, and recall first playing my Mom's Holly 45s on her old player when I was a kid - but pause to note how significant Holly was for eyewear.

It is not clear to me whether Holly was being entirely ironic when he donned his horn-rimmed specs, but he is arguably the first icon of popular culture to be directly associated with glasses as part of his signature look - though he is roughly simultaneous with TV's Phil Silvers as Sgt. Bilko. I am sure that most movie stars only wore sunglasses, and few stars of any kind would be caught dead wearing optical devices (perhaps a monocle). Holly's glasses-use helped to cement his image, as young, and different.

It's been called geek-chic, but then I think it was more profound. Others wore glasses, too - Orbison, of course, but almost regretfully in his case - and later, Nana Mouskouri, Elvis Costello, Peter Sellers, and John Hegley, among others, adopted glasses as part of their act. I have to include myself in this category.

All of us, who wear glasses - for need and for style - owe Holly a profound debt of thanks, for making glasses such an integral part of pop culture, at such an early stage. In his unapologetic employment of spectacles during his performances, Holly put how he looked - in both ways - at the heart of his spectacular work.
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