Browline glasses are a style of eyeglass frames which were very popular during the 1950s and 1960s, especially in the United States of America. The name derives from the fact that the bold upper part of the frames frame the lenses in the same way that eyebrows frame the eyes. The glasses were first manufactured by Shuron Ltd. in 1947 under the “Ronsir” brand and quickly emulated by various other manufacturers. The design became the most common style of eyeglasses throughout the 1950s and the early 1960s before it was surpassed in popularity by solid plastic styles. In the 1980s, interest in the design was reinvigorated when Ray-Ban began producing lines of sunglasses and eyeglasses known as the “Wayfarer Max” and “Clubmaster” in 1986.
Browline glasses are constructed from a combination of metal and either plastic or aluminum. The lenses of the glasses are fixed in metal frames which then insert into plastic “brows,” which are attached to the earpieces of the glasses. Traditionally the bridge of the glasses is metal and affixed to the metal portion of the frame surrounding the lenses. In more recent styles, the bridge is part of the plastic “brow” portion.
Browline glasses were invented in 1947 by Jack Rohrbach, then vice-president of Shuron Ltd., an eyeglass company.The glasses quickly caught on in popularity amongst eyeglass wearers, resulting in numerous other companies releasing their own browline frames. Most notably, Art-Craft Optical produced the “Art-Rim” brand, which offered designs for both men (under the “Clubman” models) and women (under the “Leading Lady” models) and introduced aluminum tops as an alternative to the zyl plastics used by Shuron. The style’s popularity rose throughout the next decade, to the point that browline glasses accounted for half of all eyeglass sales in the 1950s, with Shuron alone selling sixteen million browlines between 1947 and 1971.As a result, many famous figures from the mid-20th century wore browlines, including black liberationist Malcolm X, Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Sanders, and many others.
As of 2011, Shuron and Art-Craft optical still manufacture browline glasses; in the first decade of the 2000s, many other eyeglass manufacturers began to release their own styles.