Jackie O: an eyewear icon

After her husband’s presidency election in 1960, America’s third youngest First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, quickly rose to cultural fame.

From the inauguration of her husband, to his shocking assassination, Jacqueline’s intense media presence staged her affinity for the arts, culture and flair for French fashion design.

As such a young woman in the White House, her stylish ensemble was globally publicised on television, international broadcasts amongst swathes of women’s fashion publications.

From her Chanel suits, bouffant hair, trouser suits and pillbox hats, Jackie O personified the sophistication of an independent, contemporary young woman.

And for you, the eyewear enthusiast, her choice of sunglasses was simply unforgettable. A large butterfly design which she regularly wore on presidential outings in and outside the United States.


Jackie Kennedy sitting in front of her president husband JFK


Jackie O walking down road in beige trench coat wearing large black sunglasses


Jackie O sunglasses

As First Lady, Jackie was expected to dress appropriately for her various duties, outings and formal social occasions.

Of course, she stepped up to this role excellently, famously wearing finely made couture garments from the likes of Coco Chanel, Cristóbal Balenciaga, and Givenchy.

Her taste favoured Parisian fashion. Simplistic forms which suited tasteful, presidential etiquette. Knee high skirts, elbow length gloves, graceful gowns, headscarves and her iconic pillbox hats.

But on sunny days, she wore her famously oversized sunglasses.

A style which became known as the “Jackie look.”


Jackie O wearing sunglasses and plain white dress

Jackie O was a refined woman with a renowned taste for French and European vogue. Despite the expectation of supporting American fashion designers, she favoured the simplicity and cuts of the ‘Parisian style.’ These garments gave her an international tone, more ‘in touch’ than the recent First Ladies prior. | Manhattan, 1970. | Image credit: Roland School

Jackie O in street wearing oversized sunglasses and short skirt

In the 1960’s, the short skirt reflected the increasingly liberal culture. A style Jackie O made permissible, because if the First Lady could wear one, any woman could. Due to her age and good relationship with the media, her choice of clothes, accessories and sunglasses were hugely influential for young American women. | Image credit: Town & Country Magazine


Jackie Kennedy sitting in open top car with her husband JFK

Jackie O had a dislike for patterns and prints, therefore favoured block pastel colours in her various trouser suits, knee length skirts, scarves and hats. These mono coloured articles became synonymous with her look, a signature of her style and taste. | Image credit: The Conversation



Jackie O wearing large round sunglasses


What brand of sunglasses did Jackie O Wear?

The brands of Jackie’s sunglasses varied over the years. These ranged from Nina Ricci, Francois Pinton, Traction and in her later years, Maison Bonnet, who also made frames for her second husband, Aristotle Onassis.

Because of this, Jackie O’s sunglasses varied in lens shape, such as round, ovular, square and even hexagonal. However, the format always remained the same. Large, oversized and extremely dominant, covering much of her eyes and face under her various stylish hats.

Perhaps the most memorable style were her rounded butterfly sunglasses made by French spectacle maker Francois Pinton in the late 1960’s. This roundish frame had slightly ovular lenses, elegantly similar to the figure-of-8 sunglasses worn by Audrey Hepburn.


Jackie Onassis wearing large tortoise shell sunglasses at a sports event

Jacqueline's taste for French couture also extended into her choice of sunglasses. In the 60's some of her early frames were made by Francois Pinton, a revered design house established in the 1920's. Her later sunglasses editions were also made by the venerated French frame makers, Maison Bonnet. | Image credit: Pinterest


Her iconic sunglasses featured a very defining saddle bridge which gracefully swooped up and over her nose. A detail which forgave the sheer width and height of the gradient grey lenses on either side.

These frames, named the Spa.2, were made in two versions. One from an imitation tortoiseshell acetate, the other in an understated gloss black acetate. During the mid-century, especially in the 50’s and 60’s, acetate was the go-to material for high quality spectacle and sunglasses frame making.

Notably, the temples didn’t align with the outer edges of the frame front. Instead, they tucked behind, slightly inset, to compensate for the oversized style of the fame. This catered for a slightly smaller female head-size and allowed the frame to have its characteristic dominance.


Close view of Jackie O wearing large oversized sunglasses

Jackie O's sunglasses occasionally used gradient tinted lenses. As seen in the image above, you can detect the transition of from the dark tint at the top, to the lighter tint at the bottom of her lenses. | Image credit: Pinterest


Jackie O sunglasses tribute

As homage to the sunglasses worn by Jackie, we'd love to replicate the quality and style of her 1960’s frames.

Using traditional methods, we’ll create a tribute sunglasses model from premium quality cellulose acetate and bespoke metal hardware.

Like many of Jackie’s sunglasses frames, we'll adopt the same oversized style. A large butterfly shape with an elegant saddle bridge, pronounced cat-eye endpieces and polarised sun lenses.

Congruous with all our spectacles and sunglasses, we’ll use stable five tenon hinges, traditionally secured with solid metal rivets. And just like the originals, the temples will in-set to maximise the prominence of this iconic sunglasses design.

Watch this space...



Final words

To this day Jackie O is still considered as one of the most culturally influential and recognisable First Ladies and has been titled numerously as a cultural icon.

In an era known for its gender inequality and male domination, Jackie wasn’t overshadowed by her husband’s presidency or indeed his assassination. Instead, she stood on her own, making her own decisions and influencing the people and power that surrounded her.

She was a fashion role model, progressively political media personality and above all else, a true originator for the oversized sunglasses style.

Hopefully you found this article helpful. Please check out our other eyewear icons. Thanks for stopping by.

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