The Kryptonian sent to earth from outer-space.
Impervious, immensely strong, able to fly, this caped philanthropist became one of DC comics’ most famed super heroes. Since the character’s conception in the 1930’s, it’s no surprise that the chronicles of Superman have evolved from a children’s cartoon to fully fledged feature-length films.
Indeed, his red and blue cape are his most easily recognised ensemble. But living amongst us mere mortals, it’s his alter ego and bespectacled disguise that we explore in this eyewear article.
As one of the most iconic glasses wearing superheroes, we pay homage to Clark Kent’s glasses style through the years.
What type of glasses did Clark Kent wear?
The numerous actors who played Clark Kent wore various types of full rimmed glasses. Invariably, they were always thick rimmed, rectangular and dark coloured. As a brief overview, we’ve listed the known brands and frame models below.
- 1951, George Reeves wore round tortoise eyeglasses made by Universal Optical
- 1987, Chris Christopher Reeve wore tortoiseshell acetate glasses made by Grant & Glass opticians
- 1995, Dean Cain wore tortoise Clubmaster glasses by RayBan
- 2011, Tom Welling wore black Denison glasses by Oliver Peoples
- 2016, Tyler Hoechlin wore black Clubmaster Square glasses by RayBan
These are just a handful of the different styles of Clark Kent glasses that have been worn over the years. Going into more detail, we’ve explored each Superman actor and his choice of eyeglasses.
Let’s dive in.
Contrary to the usual Superman glasses style, perhaps the least famous Clark Kent glasses were also the earliest. In the first ever Superman film ‘Superman’ (1948), American actor Kirk Alyn wore a pair of thin, wire-rimmed eyeglasses.
Rumour has it, that the disguise of Clark Kent was actually modelled on the bespectacled look of Harold Lloyd, a prominent silent movie star of the 1930’s. Lloyd’s banal clothing and round spectacles inspired the ‘beige’ camouflage for Superman’s alter ego. This disguise was a way for him to hide in plain sight as a forgettable journalist in the fictional city of Metropolis.
Although Superman’s glasses are usually remembered as being much thicker, these were in fact the original Clark Kent glasses. Like us, if you enjoy the vintage appeal of wire spectacles, round frames like these have made a real resurgence in today’s optical fashion.
George Reeves was the second ever actor to play Superman, both in the 1951 film 'Superman &The Mole Men' and in the live-action television series 'Adventures of Superman' from 1952 to 1958.
For the first time in cinematic history, Clark Kent adorned his signature thick-rimmed glasses which quickly became synonymous with the super hero's alter ego. Commonly known as the 'horn-rimmed' glasses style, these chunky round frames were incredibly very popular during the 1950s.
George Reeves' Clark Kent glasses
The glasses worn by George Reeves as Clark Kent were made by Universal Optical. They feature the brand’s unique 'spur' shaped decorative rivets on the tortoise shell acetate frame front. The exact frame model is unknown and are no longer in production, however the company still produce their flagship 'Mansfield Square F-770' glasses frame famously worn by actor James Dean.
The glasses that Reeves wore were made of tortoise shell acetate with traditionally round lens rims. They were the perfect glasses for a typical 1950's journalist and helped him to blend in with his fellow reporters. With his note pad, pork pie hat and full-rim frames, this became the quintessential Clark Kent disguise.
Although Reeves' glasses are no longer made by Universal Optical, we've assembled a similar selection of our favourite horn-rimmed glasses for you to choose from.
Similar to George Reeves' thick round glasses, these chunky tortoise specimens have a similarly intellectual appeal. Made by Gucci, these fashionable frames can be purchased here.
Rather than George Reeves' speckled tortoise pattern, these round style eyeglasses are made from a stylishly streaked brown and amber acetate. For a studious journalistic look, you can buy these Garrett Leight glasses here.
For a thinner, more slender spectacle style, these round tortoise glasses are less dominant on your face. Made it Italy from speckled Havana acetate, you can buy these Cutler and Gross glasses here.
Possibly most iconic Superman character of all time, Christopher Reeves played the role of Clark Kent in four of the most coveted Superman films between 1978 and 1987. With his side swept hair, square jaw, baggy suits and oversized glasses, he epitomised the kind natured and unassuming demeanour of Clark Kent perfectly.
Christopher Reeve’s Superman films
- Superman: The Movie (1978)
- Superman II (1980)
- Superman III (1983)
- Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
Christopher Reeve's Clark Kent glasses style
In Superman IV 'The Quest for Peace' (1987), Christopher Reeve wore a pair of oversized tortoise acetate spectacles made by Grant & Glass opticians. Although these particular frames are no longer in production, you can see an original pair here.
Looking closely, you can see a characterising rim-facet at the outer edges of the frame. This is where the thickness of the frame front has been reduced slightly so the end pieces catch the light. (See the image above.)
Shop the style
These large square spectacles emphasized Clark Kent's studiousness, contrasting and hiding his hidden super powers. Big glasses frames like these were incredibly popular during the '80s and have made a real come back in today's optical fashion. If large glasses are your kind of style, check out these Havana acetate glasses by Celine.
John Haymes Newton
In the short-lived live action Superboy TV series that ran between 1988 and 1992, actor John Haymes Newton acted as the young Superman in his formative years during his upbringing at his rural Smallville family farm.
Although Newton only lasted for the first season, he did give us some great glasses inspiration in the form of these enormous '80s style oversized acetate frames. He might not have made a big splash as Superman, but these spectacles were certainly sizeable. They - are - huge!
John Newton's oversized glasses style
These glasses are the epitome of '80s style and would certainly turn heads if you wore them out today. If you're feeling brave, why not give them a try? For something big and bold, check out these gigantic Gucci glasses in tortoise acetate.
In the second season of 'The Adventures of Superboy' (1989 – 1991), actor Gerard Christopher replaced John Haymes Newton as the titular character. (According to the producers, Newton wasn't doing a great portrayal of the young Clark Kent, so they replaced him.)
Gerard went on for another two seasons as Superboy and took the optical mantle of wearing these insanely large, oversized glasses. This style was hugely popular in the '70s and '80s and is enjoying a resurgence in optical fashion today.
Gerard Christopher's Clark Kent glasses style
Large square frames like these are a vintage look and provide ample lens room for your prescription. There are many benefits to having such large lenses in your glasses, especially if you wear varifocals (progressives). You'll have plenty of room for progressively powered multifocal lenses and wont have the annoyance of seeing your frame in your peripheral vision. Check out the large square tortoiseshell Coren frame by Oliver Peoples.
Dean Cain played Superman/Clark Kent in the '90s ABC series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. This reboot was a huge hit show that ran for four seasons and made Dean Cain a household name. Over 88 episodes between 1993 to 1997, Cain's role as Clark Kent created a legacy series for fans who tuned-in for four golden years of Superman gold.
Dean Cain's glasses style
Cain wore various styles of glasses during his role as Clark Kent. His most stylish (in our opinion) were his tortoise RayBan Clubmaster glasses. These iconic Ray-Ban frames are a mid-century design classic and have been worn by some of the most influential people in popular culture, including Bruce Willis, Anna Wintour and Jay-Z. Otherwise known as browline glasses, these frames feature thick acetate across the top of the rims with metal temples and nose bridge.
In Warner Brother's series 'Smallville', actor Tom Welling played the role of adolescent Clark Kent between 2001 and 2011. Spanning 10 years over 217 episodes, the show follows the life of the young Kryptonian on his Kansas family farm in Smallville. Developing his super powers, being raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent, we watch the young Clark mature into the Man of Steel.
What episode does Clark start wearing glasses?
For most of the Smallville series, we don't see much optical action. But In Season 10 Episode 14 'Masquerade', Clark (Welling) makes a pivotal decision to play the role of a humble journalist reporter to cover his true identity as Superman. In his newsroom office, he poignantly adorns a pair of thick rimmed eyeglasses as part of his played-down Clark Kent persona.
"The only way the glasses are ever going to work is if I adjust my behaviour when I use them. The world needs to believe that Clark Kent is way too normal to ever be Super."
Does Clark wear glasses in Smallville?
In the final season of Smallville 2011, Tom Welling wears a pair of black Oliver Peoples Denison glasses. These rounded rectangular frames are a sleek spectacle style made from matte black acetate, featuring double pin-rivets on the front.
With his beige trench coat and mild-mannered demeanour, Welling's character adopts a humble, shy persona in his unassuming alter ego as Clark Kent. His rectangular glasses yield a more intellectual style than a flying, immensely strong, evil-fighting super hero. Even without those secret powers, you too can get the well-read look of the Oliver Peoples Denison frame here.
Back to the big screen, Brandon Routh took on the persona of Superman/Clark Kent in the 2006 blockbuster 'Superman Returns'. Positioned as a homage sequel to the original Superman movies, the story is set 5 years after Superman (Routh) left Earth to find remnants of his home planet of Krypton.
Fitting the typical earthling Clark Kent stereotype, Routh has floppy dark hair, masculine features and the quintessential journo-style glasses. Like the man wearing them, these rounded rectangular style frames are intentionally low-key and add to the banality of his boring mortal disguise.
Brandon Routh's Clark Kent glasses style
If you have a long or oval face shape, rectangular glasses are a great choice. Their angular rims and straight lines will help to accentuate your strong jawline and give you a stylish, sophisticated look. Rectangular glasses are also a great choice if you prefer an understated style with your eyewear.
For added depth and warmth, why not go for a coloured or patterned acetate? In Superman Returns, Brandon Routh's eyeglasses are a subtle rectangular style in a deep brown havana pattern. Tortoise glasses like these are a nice way to add a classic look and warmth to your complexion.
Henry Cavill, the world's current Superman, is the most recent actor to play the role of Clark Kent in the Superman chronology. For the first time in the franchise's history, he was the first non-American actor to play Superman in a major motion picture.
Henry Cavill's Clark Kent is a more modern take on the classic nerdy character, opting for a more gritty interpretation of the humble Metropolis journalist. In the 2013 blockbuster ‘Man of Steel’, Cavill ticks all the Clark Kent boxes with his rugged jawline, dark hair, understated physique and signature eyeglasses.
Henry Cavill's Clark Kent glasses style
As the Man of Steel, Henry Cavill is no stranger to looking sharp in a suit. But it's his signature rounded rectangular eyeglasses that really give him that superhero edge. Whether you're saving the world or working your day job, frames like these are a versatile look for oval or long face shapes.
Neutral glasses like these are ideal for formal scenarios. Frames made with black acetate are a neutral style and just like Clark Kent, can be worn to give-off that well-read journalistic style. For a similar look, check out the Hollins frame by Oliver Peoples.
Tyler Hoechlin made his debut as Superman in the CW's Supergirl in 2016. Although this role was secondary to Supergirl, we couldn't leave him out of this Clark Kent roundup. Hoechlin was a guest star in the first two seasons and later became a regular cast member in the third season. Tyler's Superman was well received by fans and critics alike, with many praising his charming and optimistic take on the character.
Tyler Hoechlin’s glasses style
Tyler's portrayal of Superman included the obligatory use of glasses as part of his character’s disguise. In Supergirl, Tyler's Clark Kent wore a pair of RayBan Clubmaster Square glasses, which he used to avoid being recognised as Superman. Harking back to ‘90s ABC Superman series starring Dean Cain, these classic frames are one of the more stylish Clark Kent glasses styles.
Thinking of wearing browline glasses?
Browline glasses are a timeless style that have been popular since the 1950s. They're characterised by their prominent acetate upper brow line and thin metal rims in the lower half. Considered as a combination-style frame, they're a nice in-between if you find chunky full-rim glasses too dominant on your face. Pus, if you want to channel your inner Superman like Tyler Hoechlin, a pair of browline glasses are a timeless optical style.
Facts & details about Clark Kent’s glasses
How do Clark Kent's glasses work?
According to the DC comics Superman ‘Secret Origin’ series, Clark Kent's spectacle lenses are made from Kryptonian glass which his mother (Martha Kent) procured from the space shuttle which transported him to earth. As Martha discovered, Kryptonian glass is incredibly strong and durable, meaning Clark's hardy lenses could withstand his use of heat vision without melting. In fact, it's been said that this glass is so tough that even Superman himself wouldn't be able to break it.
A snippet from the DC comics Superman ‘Secret Origin’ series illustrating Martha Kent giving her unwilling son Clark his new glasses | Image source: chrisisoninfiniteearths.com
A snippet from DC comics Superman ‘Secret Origin’ series showing a young Clark Kent's accidental use of his heat vision in Smallville High School | Image source: chrisisoninfiniteearths.com
Does Clark Kent need glasses?
Clark Kent didn't need to wear glasses to aid his eyesight. Instead, he wore them to protect his friends and family from his heat vision which he initially struggled to control whilst growing up. The high density Kryptonian glass used to make his lenses prevented accidentally hurting other people or causing unintentional damage.
What glasses does Tom Holland wear?
In the 2019 Spiderman movie 'Far from home' Tom Holland wears a pair of DITA Flight 006 glasses in smoke grey with black palladium metal work and a custom light blue lens. DITA is a luxury Japanese eyewear brand renowned for their avant-garde designs and intricate use of luxurious materials. The Flight 006 is one of Dita's most popular styles and has been worn by numerous celebrities, including Max Verstappen, Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Junior. If you're looking to get your hands on a pair of Dita Flight 006 glasses, they retail for around $625 USD.
What is the Clark Kent effect?
The Clark Kent effect is a disruption of facial recognition via the use of a disguise. In simple terms, facial alterations such as expression, makeup, a beard or eyeglasses is enough to hinder being recognised.
In a 2016 study conducted by Robin S. S. Kramer and Kay L. Ritchie from the University of York’s Department of Psychology, they showed a group of 59 participants side by side images of the same person - one wearing glasses, one without. Their results indicated that people struggled to match the two images as being the same person due to the adornment of glasses.
Are Clark Kents glasses magic?
No, Clark Kent's glasses are not magic. However, the lenses are made from Kryptonian glass which are incredibly hard and high density. These tough lenses can withstand his heat vision without melting and subdued the intense blue colour of his eyes which helped his disguise as Clark Kent.
Whilst you might not have heat vision super power, high density lenses are a nice way to make your lenses thinner and less bulky. If you have a particularly strong prescription, check out this article on high index lenses.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re clearly a Superman fanatic. As you’ll have seen, the various actors, series, films and spin-offs of Superman have featured numerous styles of eyeglasses in the superhero’s 80-year expanse.
As part of Clark Kent’s disguise, it transpires his use of glasses have scientifically proven effects to fool his colleagues and the people of Metropolis. Not only do they hide his identity, but they also mute his piercing Kryptonian blue eyes and heat vision.
If you wear glasses yourself, it’s easy to see how integral they are to your visual identity and how people come to recognise you.Hopefully you found this article helpful. Please check out our other eyewear icons. Thanks for stopping by.