Four Eyes

The author and his friend Nando at WORN’s Legendary Black Cat Ball

Glasses weren’t always cool. The archetypal nerd of our collective imagination is still pictured with thick-rimmed black glasses affixed with white tape. Not that I was ever bullied for wearing mine. I was called “four eyes” once and my reaction was, “Really now? People actually say that?” I wasn’t embarrassed when my nearsightedness forced me to get glasses, but I certainly didn’t relish the chance to pick out frames. Glasses, like underwear, were just something you had to wear. (The main difference being glasses are worn on the face, while underwear isn’t… most of the time.)

Then I started noticing something. Tina Fey wore her glasses on SNL, Sarah Palin wore hers on FOX News, and Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin in glasses became a YouTube sensation. Spectacles had ceased to be something celebrities were ashamed of and soon others began ‘coming out’ as their true bespectacled selves.

Even animals got in on it. T-shirts appeared with anthropomorphic creatures like Kermit the Frog and Hello Kitty wearing chunky horn-rimmed glasses. But the most telling phenomenon of all: the availability of hip frames with no lenses, so that even those with 20/20 vision can look cool (or should I say nerdy?).

We were having a glasses moment and I, with my old nondescript frames, was missing it. When I decided to get new ones, my first step was to ask advice from my friend and coworker Nando. His cute frames always seem to enhance (not detract from) his handsomeness. Although I wanted cool glasses, I still wanted people to see me through the lenses.

Nando recommended a place on Queen Street with a two-for-one deal. While the idea of having more than one pair of glasses seemed indulgent and a tad “Court of Versailles,” I gleefully pictured trying on a myriad of pairs reflecting different aspects of my personality. It would be like those movie scenes where characters try on an absurd number of silly hats just because they can.

I invited Nando to accompany me to the frame store, but our work schedules conflicted so I went solo. The two witty sales associates played a game similar to Good Cop/Bad Cop. One would offer a pair (“How do you feel about tortoise shell?”) while the other, acting like the tough-love friend, would rule them out.

I went through almost every style mentioned in WORN’s Issue 11 glasses glossary, but when I put on a modern reworking of the classic brow-line frame we knew we had found choice number one. For my second pair, I decided on thick, black horn-rimmed frames. I knew they were a hipster cliché (if you google search “hipster glasses,” there they are) but I thought they made me look geek-chic cute.

When I first wore them in front of Nando, I was worried that my bespectacled role model would disapprove of my choice.

“Aww, Max, those are so good!” was the general consensus at work. Then Nando noticed them.

“Yeah, um, they look very familiar,” he said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I have the exact same pair.”
“For serious?”
“Do they have the little stars on the corners?”
“This is why you should have come with me.”

If Nando has two pairs and I have two pairs, my understanding of probability tells me that there’s only a one in four chances of us wearing the same frames on the same day. That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? So I’m working on another theory to help me sleep at night. What’s so wrong with owning the same pair of glasses? Why can’t we both take it as mutual flattery? Our whole ‘who wore it better’ culture is too competitive as it is. I like the frames on him and I like the frames on me.

Personal style is not in an item itself, but how you wear it.

Sometimes you need a new pair of glasses to see things clearly.

text by Max Mosher
photo by Samantha Walton

The Low Down on Downs Designs

At first glance, we seem bombarded with clothing options. Never before in history have there been so many stores and styles to chose from. Don’t like the ‘fast fashion’ of the malls? There are vintage shops a-plenty. Having trouble finding a specific item you see in your mind? Go online and you’ll probably uncover something similar.

As clothing has become more and more central to our identities, styles have multiplied exponentially, like molecules in a petri dish.

But not everyone is represented in the innumerable items on the rack. As Jeanne Beker recently wrote about a friend of hers who uses a wheelchair, many people still get left out of the fashion industry despite declarations of democracy.
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Fashion Nerds Converge

“I always sit in the front row,” I overheard a young woman tell her friend. “I’m a nerd.”

I could relate. A nerd myself, I arrived early at Convergence: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Fashion, Ryerson University’s first Fashion Studies graduate symposium that took place last November, and observed the over-caffeinated presenters as they organized their notes, unpacked their laptops and scurried about.

Other snippets of conversation that could be appreciated by WORN readers surrounded me:

“What are you wearing? I can see the Peter Pan collar!”

“There has to be a certain number of left-handed desks in the room. It’s called equity.”

“I’m going to wear my hat during my talk. I’m going to wear it until Wednesday.”

“You have every right to squeal; tutus are a sight to behold.”

“I’m not putting a name tag on silk.”

As the students, professors and guests took their seats, Sarah Portway, a Ryerson graduate student and one of the presenters, discovered her PowerPoint presentation would not load properly.

“It’s like I tell my students,” she said. “If there’s one thing that will screw you up, it’s technology. Late last night, I decided to be funny and create a pictogram. This is my punishment. Maybe it’s because my computer’s made of wood.”

I asked her if this was true. “Yeah, the outside is bamboo. My talk is about sustainability, so I should put my money where my mouth is.”

During her introduction, Associate Professor Dr. Alison David Matthews explained the title of the symposium. ‘Convergence,’ she said, means to ‘bend towards.’ It was a good metaphor for the diverse but overlapping topics discussed throughout the day.

Caroline O’Brien inspects a tutu for her talk on the Ballerina in Western Culture

From harem pants in interwar Paris to style blogs in the digital age, the presentations touched on the conflicts inherent in the study of fashion. Is fashion decorative or protective? Superficial or indispensable? Frivolous or feminist?
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Grace Under Fire

Every little girl dreams of becoming a princess—or at least that’s what people thought once upon a time. Nowadays, young women are more likely to look up to female pop stars, politicians, and professional athletes. But the Cinderella narrative, the hope of being plucked from obscurity by a handsome Prince Charming and showered with all the couture and tiaras one could ever want, still holds power in our collective imagination.

How else to explain the exhibit Grace Kelly: From Movie Star to Princess at the TIFF Bell Lightbox? The indisputably beautiful Kelly shot to fame in the 1950s as Alfred Hitchcock’s “icy blonde” in classics like Rear Window and To Catch A Thief, only to abandon acting to marry His Serene Highness Prince Rainier of Monaco.

Unlike the princesses-turned-celebrities Diana Spencer and Kate Middleton, Princess Grace went in the other direction. Her 1956 wedding was an international news sensation; MGM produced the official documentary, thus delivering the final film on her contract. Princess Grace turned tiny Monaco into a glamorous weekend getaway for her Hollywood friends. Gradually retreating from the camera’s gaze, she wrote poetry and pressed flowers, only to die in a car crash at age 52.

“Grace Kelly brings together the Golden Age of Hollywood, European royalty and the very best of 20th century fashion,” says Noah Cowan, Artistic Director of the TIFF Bell Lightbox. “Considered the epitome of elegance and glamour, she was also among the most significant taste-makers for women around the world.”

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