While tortoise-style eyeglasses may have waxed and waned in popularity over the past century, these rich, multi-color frames have finally proven themselves as timeless standards in more recent decades. And yet many seeking their next eyewear style still hesitate to take the plunge with their first pair of tortoise color glasses. For the risk-averse who are accustomed to classic black frames or the minimalist look of metal wire, tortoise pattern glasses are actually the best way to build in a touch of complexity to your everyday look without falling victim to passing trends. Most designs incorporate two to three neutral tones that complement all eye colors and skin tones while managing to jive seamlessly with day-to-day shifts in wardrobe.
Tortoise shell frames, also often referred to as horn-rimmed glasses, first made their way onto the eyewear scene in the early 20th century. The frames were originally made from real tortoiseshell or animal horn, but the use of these materials was banned worldwide in 1973 thanks to the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Since then, stained plastics have replicated the distinctive spotted tones of authentic tortoise shell.
The tortoise shell glasses craze was first tied to a role performed by early film star Harold Lloyd in the 1917 silent movie, Over the Fence. Lloyd wore the glasses to craft an average, ordinary character type...a quality that still resonates with tortoise shell fans today.
A multitude of cultural and economic events have inspired the disappearance and re-emergence of the tortoise shell style through time. The look fell out of vogue from the need for price-sensitive alternatives during the Great Depression and as a response to plastics shortages during World War II. But Ray-Ban’s launch of the original Wayfarer in the 1950s ignited renewed appeal, and the emergence of hipster fashions ushered tortoise shell into a new century.
Whether your eyewear tastes run to the conservative, or you’re quick to try something new, you’ll find tortoise shell eyeglasses to love in our collection.
These Polo PH2083 round tortoiseshell glasses by Ralph Lauren are a modern take on Harold Lloyd’s original trendsetters. This classic silhouette is somewhat slimmed down, thanks to updated styling.
The Burberry BE2269 square tortoise shell glasses make an excellent option for face shapes unsuited for round frames. Metal and striped detailing at the temples lend a bit of clever contrast.
Ray-Ban unites a thick browline with lightweight metal frames in the RX5154 tortoise shell glasses. This iconic look complements style aesthetics from distinctive and refined to fashionably geek-chic.
Tortoise shell sunglasses make this timeless style wearable for men or women, in options with or without prescription lenses. While still available in traditional silhouettes, the tortoise shell pattern has been adapted to fresh, new 21st-century designs.
These men’s tortoise shell sunglasses by Persol mimic the familiar aviator profile. Fun blue gradient lenses pop against glowing amber hues.
Gucci uses thick, wide frames in these oversized tortoise shell sunglasses to celebrate the tortoise aesthetic. A slight translucence perfectly captures the light, and a signature Gucci logo marks the temples.
Perhaps the best thing about tortoise shell glasses is that they work for all tastesfor men and womenand throughout every season.