The Monocle Returns - One Part Mr. Peanut, One Part Hipster Chic

Posted on March 8, 2014 by Roger Stone

From the New York Times -

The one-lensed eyepiece, an item favored by 19th-century military men, robber barons and Mr. Peanut, is finding itself wedged anew into the ocular sockets of would-be gentlemen seeking to emulate the stern countenances of their stuffy forebears.

From the trendy enclaves of Berlin cafes and Manhattan restaurants to gin ads and fashion magazines, the monocle is taking its turn alongside key 21st-century accouterments like sharply tucked plaid shirts and certificates in swine butchering.

“I got it just to have my own style, bring something new to the table,” said Jose Vega, 23, an aspiring Miami rap musician who can be seen sporting a monocle on his SoundCloud page. “Also, I’m nearsighted.”

Warby Parker, the fashion-forward eyeglass maker, features its Colonel monocle — named after Mustard of the Clue board game, not Klink of “Hogan’s Heroes” — prominently in advertisements to bestow a unique edge on its brand.

And Ray Gallagher, a British seller who has been in the optical business since 1963, has seen sales at his online store The Monocle Shop double over the last five years.

Martin Raymond, a British trend forecaster, credits the rise to what he calls “the new gents,” a hipster subspecies who have been adding monocles to their bespoke tweed and distressed-boot outfits. On a recent trip to Cape Town, Mr. Raymond said, he saw such a group carrying monocles along with tiny brass telescopes kept in satchels.

“All of this is part of a sense of irony and a way of discovering and displaying old artisanal and craft-based technology,” Mr. Raymond said. “You see the monocle appearing in Berlin, parts of South Dublin.”

Toby Miller, a cultural historian, said: “Monocles have always marked people out as beyond the crowd, slightly different. On one hand you have the Prussian officer, on the other you have the effete English lord, and then you also have the New York and London lesbian in the 1920s.”

Monocles are hardly everywhere. You won’t find them at the J. Crew Liquor Store, Topman or even at the on-trend stores run by Monocle magazine.

Even so, Nearsights, an online retailer based in San Francisco that specializes in monocles, said its sales nearly tripled last year to $66,000, from $26,000 in 2012. The owner, James Berry, said that his customers include many men in their 40s and 50s who are finding that no amount of squinting with the naked eye enables them to decide if an iPhone emoticon is a nurse or a grinning devil. These wearers can’t bear the thought of soiling their noses with those banners of middle age, drugstore reading glasses.

While some monocle buyers insert prescription lenses and some wear them with nonmagnifying glass in tints of purple or combat green, a majority of monocles, selling for $40 to $50 with a metal rim, are fitted with a reading lens.

One of Mr. Berry’s monocles, purple-tinted, is worn by the actor Alan Cumming in the March issue of the year-old fashion and arts magazine Spirit and Flesh.

David Gilboa, a founder of Warby Parker, said its monocle has been a surprising hit among chefs who need help seeing recipes. “A lot of them are getting monocles that they clip on to their aprons,” he said. And At NoMad, a clubby restaurant in Manhattan, a monocle is offered to customers who complain that they can’t read the menu in dim light. Perhaps the fussiness of this particular mini-trend may make some customers opt for a soft cocktail, the orange blossom water and cream-based Cease and Desist.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 × 3 =

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>