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A Groovy Guide to 1970s Eyewear

The 1970s. The swinging 60s were well and truly over and the 70s brought with it a lot of change. It saw Nixon resign from office, the end of the Vietnam War, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and the invention of both the Walkman and the personal computer.

Each decade brings with it different styles and trends, and one way you can always tell what decade it is when looking at an old photograph is by looking at the style of glasses and sunglasses being worn.

3 pairs of vintage sunglasses from 1970s

Glasses, sunglasses and their precursors have been used for thousands of years to help people see and protect from the sun, but first rose to prominence as a fashion accessory in the first half of the 20th century. Since then they have been a constant throughout fashion, and just like fashion, they change with the times.

Here at Ed & Sarna, we love the styles of the 70s, so have put together a guide on the fashion, culture and of course the glasses of the 1970s. 

Fashion of the Era

Fashion in the 70s championed looking like an individual. It combined many different styles from previous decades, such as bell bottoms popularised by hippies or platform shoes from the glam rock scene. 

The decade began by continuing the hippie looks of the 1960s, including tie-dye, ponchos, bell bottoms, midi skirts and maxi dresses. By the mid-70s the t-shirt was no longer considered an item of underwear, so became more of a standard look. Accessories were kept to a minimum.

Near the end of the decade, big looks became popular. Latex, glitter and satin became the norm, with loose, billowy shapes also being popular. 

Disco Fever

One of the biggest things to hit the world in the 1970s is the rise of disco music. It began life during the late 1960s as a reaction to the dominance of rock music, championing syncopated baselines, synthesisers, four-on-the-floor beats and more. Many iconic artists saw themselves rise to fame during this period including Abba, Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, Chaka Khan and the Village People.

Studio 54 nightclub style image

The Disco scene exploded during the 70s, and soon cities around the world had thriving disco club scenes, where the drinks would flow and the fashion would glow. One of the most popular clubs around this time period was Studio 54.

Studio 54

If you’re looking for the epitome of 70s style, look no further than the lavish parties hosted at Studio 54. Located in Manhattan, it opened its doors as a nightclub in 1977 at the height of the disco lifestyle. It became known for its celebrity guest lists and extravagant events.

Stars such as Liza Minelli, Cher, Michael Jackson, Debbie Harry, David Bowie, Donna Summer and many, many more would frequently descend on the club to dance and perform. Bianca Jagger once even famously rode a white horse through the venue for her birthday.

And with the arrival of such stars, fashion was always at the forefront, including sunglasses.

70s Sunglasses & Glasses

The 1970s sits between two very distinct eras for sunglasses, which can sometimes lead to the decade being forgotten about when discussing eyewear. Cat eye glasses of the 60s and the 80s oversized styles are such iconic imagery, what happened in between can sometimes be overlooked.

The 70s actually brought a wave of popularity to eyewear, making them a lot more mainstream. This is because technological advancements enabled plastic lenses to become more common than the glass ones that preceded them. As this made glasses much lighter, they were a much more popular choice as a fashion item and not just something people wear to see and shield their eyes.

The colour palette was firmly rooted in earthy tones, with soft shades that complimented the glamorous looks of the time. Tints evolved to introduce ambermatic and graduated lenses. These fresh looks were at the forefront of fashion, with a popular style being lenses that are darker at the top and more faded towards the bottom.

Specific Styles

Like every decade, certain styles were more prominent in the 1970s, such as butterfly, square and aviators. Read on to find out more about a few of these styles. 

Evolution of Teashade Glasses

Hippy-style lenses were still popular, with yellow and amber tints being very common. The teashade glasses popularised by John Lennon were still popular in the early 1970s, the exact style began to fade into the 70s. The hippy-style lenses turned into something larger and more dramatic, frequently being coloured brown. David Bowie was frequently seen in earth tones sunglasses, being the perfect compliment for his outlandish looks.

Butterfly Shape

Women of the period flocked to butterfly-shaped glasses. They are a feminine option that partly resembles a butterfly in shape. They are oversized and often tinted, with the standout element being the thick frames around the lenses. 

Popular brands such as Elisabetta Von Furstenberg and Cazal focused on creating beautiful frames that celebrities such as Jane Fonda and Olivia Newton-John loved to be seen in. 

Ed & Sarna stock a great selection of butterfly shape glasses, including frames from the 1970s from top brands, such as vintage Cazal sunglasses.


Military-style fashion was incredibly popular in the 1970s, partly due to the focus on the Vietnam War and the global coverage that accompanied it. This bought boilersuits and bomber jackets into popular culture, as well as aviators. The first aviator-style sunglasses were used in the 1930s by the US military to help reduce glare while flying.

A set of 3 vintage aviator sunglasses

The first commercial pair of aviators went on sale in 1937, but the iconic Ray-Ban Aviator followed quickly afterwards in 1939. Since then they have taken the world by storm, but were particularly popular in the 1970s, being worn by public figures such as Tom Cruise, Slash, Freddie Mercury and Elvis.

The aviator style is characterised by steel or titanium metal frames with a double or triple bridge. The lenses are typically dark or reflective and are slightly convex. They are designed to cover the entire field of vision, which helps pilots to fly. As previously mentioned, earth shades were very popular for aviators in the decade, with gold frames and tinged lenses.

Shop with Ed & Sarna today for vintage aviator glasses from the 70s, 80s and 90s, from top brands such as Bugatti and Eschenbach.

Square Frames

The 1970s turned everything bigger and better, including when it comes to glasses. One of the most popular styles of the time is oversized square frames. One of the most famous faces wearing this style at the time was Elton John who would frequently wear oversized sunglasses on stage while touring.

First Lady Jackie Onassis frequently wore square-framed glasses in the 60s, and its popularity extended into the 1970s, nicknamed Onassis glasses. The rise of paparazzi culture began to sweep the world during this time, so oversized glasses were very popular for celebrities to try and hide from the paparazzi. They’re even still frequently used by stars in the modern age, with the Kardashians or movie stars frequently donning large, square glasses as they run to a waiting limo.

We have plenty of vintage square-framed glasses available and our 1970s frames are from top brands such as Haute Couture and Silhouette.

Vintage Sunglasses & Glasses From Ed & Sarna

If you’re in the market for 1970s vintage designer eyewear, shop with Ed & Sarna today. We have an amazing collection of glasses and sunglasses from various decades, including the 70s, 80s and 90s. This includes eyewear from top brands including Burberry, Christian Dior, Gucci and Valentino.

Vintage butterfly shaped sunglasses from the 1970s

All of our frames are sourced directly from manufacturers, distribution firms and antique optometrists from across Europe and the USA, focusing on finding unique eyewear that makes a statement. We refer to our products as new old stock. This is because while they are vintage sunglasses, they are actually brand new, so every product you get from us has never been worn before.

All the lenses we find are hand-checked by our team to ensure quality and functionality, as we believe our customers should get the best products available. We love vintage glasses as they are typically hand-made, ensuring quality.

Our glasses and sunglasses can be customised with coloured lenses, in various styles such as mirrored, gradients and polarised. If you have a prescription, we can add this to your lenses, so you don’t have to worry about not being able to see when shopping for stylish frames from us.

Have any questions about our glasses and sunglasses? Give us a call today at 0800 054 6766 or email info@edandsarna.com for more information. 

We are always happy to have a one on one consultation either online or at our Cheltenham studio so don't be a stranger.

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