Retro Revolution: The Mad Men Effect and Retro Eyewear

Have you caught the latest Mad Men? If you did, you’re in good company: Every week, over four million viewers tune in to the series about conflicted advertising agents in the 1960s, with untold more tuning in to reruns. What does this have to do with the optical industry? Quite a bit.

The popularity of the series has resulted in the Mad Men Effect:  A widespread cultural fascination with the aesthetics of the late 1950s and early 1960s, a phenomenon which pop culture analysts have generally viewed as a backlash against the casual fashions of the past two decades. By the time the first season of the show ended in 2007, demand for clothing and accessories which evoked the 1960s skyrocketed—a demand which has remained consistent ever since. Even if you’ve never seen the show, odds are, if you’ve purchased clothing or accessories in the last six years (who hasn’t?), you’ve bought something that owes itself to Mad Men: dresses, suits… even eyeglasses.

Indeed, the optical world has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Mad Men Effect: While styles such as the cat eye, brow line, and chunky plastics were once stigmatized, they’ve found a new appreciation from wearers tired of frames that were comically big or frustratingly tiny. From college to the board room, retro is the new force in eyewear.

Most eyeglass wearers, old and new, have responded well to this retro revolution. Those who haven’t tend to fall into two categories: Those who still stigmatize plastic eyewear as “nerdy” or those who will give some variation of “My grandmother/grandmother worse those.” Explain to both groups the reason for the styles’ popularity, and the clean, put-together look to which retro glasses lend themselves. With some gentle encouragement, your patients can go retro and look their best.


Preston Fassel,

Optician at Magnolia TSO

Preston Fassel currently works for Dr. Christy Jew in the Magnolia TSO location. Fassel has been studying the history of eyeglass frame styles and trends of the 20th century since he was a teenager, and his writing has been featured in the Optician’s Handbook.