Let’s face it: eyeglasses make us look smarter, and this has certainly worked in the past for presidents. While not all U.S. presidents have worn eyeglasses, those who have worn them have left an impression on our memory of them as historical figures. In this article, we will take a look at which presidents wore eyeglasses and how it affected their public personae.

Eyeglasses and U.S. Presidents: A Part of History

So what do Franklin D. Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, John F. Kennedy, and Theodore Roosevelt all have in common? If your reply is that they were all U.S. presidents, you are, of course, correct. But these historical figures all wore men’s eyeglasses as well.

The glasses worn by President Washington no doubt seem like museum pieces by modern standards. But, for their day, they were not just the height of function but quite fashionable as well. Today, President Washington’s glasses – which were round, silver and would have seemed quite heavy by modern standards – are on display at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. [1]

As a lawyer, Abraham Lincoln spent a great deal of time reading, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that he wore eyeglasses. Although you might not see Lincoln wearing glasses in photos or paintings, there is no doubt he wore them frequently. In fact, there are two different pairs of Lincoln’s eyeglasses at the Library of Congress. [2]

Photo Source: nobelprize.org

Eyeglasses and U.S. Presidents in the Modern Era

Approaching the modern era, presidents such as Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy all wore men’s eyeglasses. While Kennedy may have not been seen wearing his glasses in public very often, the exact opposite is true for Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. For both men, eyeglasses were almost permanent fixtures and appear constantly in photos. In fact, it is difficult for most people to imagine either Wilson or Roosevelt without their glasses. As for Franklin D. Roosevelt, people were accustomed to seeing him in photographs and in person both with and without his round eyeglasses.

Has the fact that U.S. presidents wore glasses made the accessories more acceptable? In short, the answer is likely yes! Many presidents have worn glasses, and, in some cases, most Americans have grown accustomed to seeing these presidents pictured only wearing their eyeglasses. The respect and attention afforded to presidents throughout U.S. history has likely played a role in helping make the wearing of men’s eyeglasses a bit more acceptable.

Many of the presidents who wore glasses also happen to stand out as being amongst our more memorable. Figures such as Theodore Roosevelt possessed larger-than-life personas. Other presidents were remembered for their tremendous contributions, such as leading the country during wartime. This was the case with Franklin D. Roosevelt and George Washington, who was a general in the Revolutionary War.


1. http://www.opticalheritagemuseum.org
2. http://www.antiquespectacles.com/people/people_present2.htm