John Lennon: an eyewear icon

John Lennon glasses

More popular than Jesus?


Though in the 1960’s and 1970’s, you could walk through the most rural African village and hear the whistle of his melodies.

Despite his assasination in 1980, John Winston Lennon was and still is one of the most famous people in the world.

He remains recognised as one of the most prominent musicians of the 20th century both as a solo artist and as member of The Beatles.

Fan or not, you’ll undoubtedly know at least some of his music.

And if you know his style, you’ll surely recognise his iconic round glasses.


Front portrait view of John Lennon straing at viewer

Top 5 John Lennon glasses styles & where to buy them

Homage to his advocacy of round wire glasses, we've compiled the following list of the 5 best John Lennon glasses styles and where to buy them.

Like Lennon's original round wire glasses, these frames are identically round-rimmed featuring a simple saddle style bridge.

For comfort, swivel nosepads adjust to the shape of your nose making these spectacles effortlessly poised and easy to wear.


Best original John Lennon glasses

Famously, John Lennon’s glasses were originally made by London spectacle makers, Savile Row. Their classic round-eye spectacles were one of Lennon’s earliest wire frames featuring a beautifully forged metal nose bridge with swivel nose pads. To this day, Savile Row still make their frames using pre WWII machinery in their London factory. A real relic of vintage eyewear.

Saville Row SRO 007 round wire glasses frame



Best value John Lennon glasses

The RB 3447V 2500 by Ray-Ban is a modern interpretation of the round John Lennon glasses style. These spectacles are a medium to large fit frame with a lens width of 47mm and a bridge width 21mm. For something more affordable than the original Savile Row glasses, these charming round spectacles are made with gold coloured wire and feature tortoise acetate temple tips.

Round wire spectacles by RayBan



Best thin John Lennon glasses

The Dita Believer spectacle frame is a true round-eye spectacle. The lightweight frame is made from gold-plated titanium with adjustable metal nose pad/arms for lasting comfort. Like Lennon’s earliest glasses frames, they’re simple and to the point.

Round gold wire eyeglasses frame



Best thick rim John Lennon glasses

These bolder glasses hark back to John Lennon’s original ‘granny’ style glasses. The Oliver Peoples MP-2 OV1104 5244 feature a thick, matte black acetate Windsor rim. In his role as character ‘Gripweed’ in ‘How I Won The War’ Lennon wore very similar spectacles which he soon embraced as his signature eyewear. If you’re looking for an authentic look, these glasses are an early John Lennon glasses style.

Silver and black round eyeglasses frame



Best large fit John Lennon glasses

If you need a larger frame-fit, the Montana Optical MP92D-XL frame has a generous lens width of 54mm and a bridge width of 23mm. Nearly perfectly circular, these large wire spectacles embody the classic Lennon glasses look with the bonus of a larger fit.

Circular wire metal glasses frame by Leowe



Best undersized John Lennon glasses

For a smaller lens size, we recommend the Garrett Leight Wilson M spectacles frame. They have a small-ish lens width of 46mm and bridge width of 22mm. Ideal if you’re looking for that undersized glasses look.

Front view of round metal spectacles frame



Close view of John Lennon wearing round wire glasses

The history of John Lennon’s glasses

Famously, Lennon was incredibly myopic.

Barely able to see past the end of his guitar, his distance vision was extremely limited.

Despite his poor vision, he was reluctant to wear glasses during his youth. Hard to imagine today, considering how famous his bespectacled look became.

As it turns out, he was incredibly self-conscious and despised how large his nose looked, especially with glasses.

It was only in 1966 during the peak of Beatlemania that he finally adorned his self-proclaimed “granny style glasses.”

An eyewear icon emerged.

Originally, his first frames were thick round acetates. But later, he migrated to his signature glasses look. These were thin round-wire spectacles which have come to be known as ‘Lennon glasses.’

A symbol of 60’s zeitgeist, Lennon iconised eyewear as a fashion statement instead of medical aid. Similar to his contemporaries such as Buddy Holly, he prioritised his glasses as an integral part of his expression.

As a prominent anti-war hippie, his long hair, flamboyant clothes and wire glasses became ‘the look’ for hippie fashion which was widely adopted by the 60’s youth culture.

From there onwards, Lennon always wore round rim glasses and began incorporating various coloured lens tints such as blue, green, orange or red.

More than just a fashionable look, it’s proposed these tints helped with his suspected condition of photophobia. Supposedly, his lightly coloured lenses reduced the visual strain on his eyes from bright light.

Making a musical icon

Born in Liverpool 1940, Lennon’s middle name, Winston, was given after his grandfather and former prime minister Winston Churchill.

At the age of 5, he was gifted a harmonica (his first musical instrument) by his auntie and uncle whom he lived with after his parents separated in 1945.

Child of a broken home, he grew to be incredibly rebellious during his adolescence. Described as disruptive and boisterous, his perspective of authority and lack of parental structure made him an unruly young man.

Lennon’s rowdy demeanour intensified after the loss of his mother Julia in 1958. With a turbulent exit from secondary school, he was also later ejected from Liverpool College of Art in his final year.

It was at this stage he’d formed his first music band ‘The Quarrymen’ playing a mixture of rock and roll and folk music on home-made instruments. It was at the band’s second performance where Lennon met a young Paul McCartney.

Inevitably, the band evolved and later became one of the most successful music groups of all time. Renamed in 1960 as The Beatles, the group attracted their new lead-guitarist George Harrison and later, their drummer, Ringo Starr.

Headed by Lennon and McCartney, the duo began their song writing companionship which accounted for the majority of the band’s output.

Between 1962 and 1970, The Beatles became one of the most successful bands of all time, selling an reported total of over 1.6 billion singles to date.


Greyscale image of the four band members of The Beatles


John Lennon standing beside George Harrison and Paul McCartney in a recording studio


John Lennon glasses & style

Like many bygone stars such as James Dean, Jimi Hendrix or Amy Winehouse, Lennon's untimely demise eternalised him as if frozen in time.

Forever 40 years old, forever one of the 'fab four' his sense of style remains a reference point for the free love movement and counterculture of the 60's.

Throughout his fame, especially with The Beatles, Lennon expressed flamboyant flair for stylish clothes, hats and shoes. But no matter the outfit, his glasses remained invariably round.


“I'm not going to change the way I look or feel to conform to anything.”



John Lennon wearing numerous round rim spectacles and sunglasses all on his head and face at once


When did Lennon start wearing glasses?

In 1967, Lennon first publicly adorned his signature round wire glasses as part of his acting role for the British black comedy film, "How I Won The War."

As a child, he'd adamantly avoided wearing spectacles despite his extreme near-sightedness. But it was his film role that sparked his appreciation for eyewear; and presumably the ability to see properly.

Contrasting his mop-top Beatles look, he cut his hair short and famously wore these round Windsor rim "granny glasses" for his witty character Gripweed.




What are John Lennon's glasses called?

John Lennon's glasses, the 'Panto 45' were originally made by London based wire frame maker Algha Works. Now known as Savile Row, the factory have made wire frames for The Queen, Harrison Ford, Denzel Washington, Sean Connery, Ben Kingsley, Daniel Radcliffe and Johnny Depp.



What kind of glasses was John Lennon wearing when he was shot?

Shot on Dec 8th 19080, Lennon was wearing full-rim glasses made from a semi-transparent warm grey acetate. Tweeted in March 2013 by his widow Yoko Ono, you can see his bloodstained spectacles in her plea against American gun culture.



Who makes John Lennon glasses?

Lennon's glasses were originally made by Algha Works in London and were titled the Panto 45. Handmade from rolled 18 karat gold, the frame was fitted with custom tinted orange lenses.




Were John Lennon's glasses real?

John Lennon was incredibly myopic (nearsighted) and needed corrective glasses to see distanced objects. At age 31, his prescription was  -8.25 in his right eye and -7.50 in his left according to a focimeter reading at St Paul’s Eye Unit. 


"Without his glasses the world would have been blurred and distorted for John. He would have been able to see the end of the guitar and the frets, but anything else beyond that would have been difficult for him."

Professor Simon Harding, consultant at St Paul’s Eye Unit



Lennon's glasses over the years


John Lennon wearing army helmet and round wire glasses smiling

Lennon first donned his round wire spectacles for his only ever acting role in the hit dark comedy film "How I Won The War."

These were his first major public appearance in glasses and were made of rolled metal wire, sheathed with what is called a Windsor rim. This style used a fine acetate band around each lens rim.

For his role, the acetate was black, accentuating the prominence of the otherwise thin frame.


John Lennon in a trench on set for the film How I Won The War black comedy film

Even from the bottom of a prop war trench, you can detect the thickness of Lennon's lenses in this on-set photograph. 

Due to his myopia, the edges of his lenses would have been thickest at their edges due to their concave profile.


Greyscale portrait of John Lennon on set of How I Won The War wearing army uniform and round windsor rim glasses

In his debut acting performance, Lennon played his only non-musical role of Musketeer Gripweed.

The British black comedy film was released in 1967 based on the 1963 novel written by Patrick Ryan. 


John Lennon sitting eating a lollipop dressed in army uniform and round eyeglasses

Stemming from his exposure of How I Won The War, Lennon embraced his bespectacled look and continued to wear similarly round glasses.

What started as a humorous character costume accessory became an iconic part of his ensemble.


Beatles singer John Lennon saluting wearing white gloves top hat and round spectacles smiling

Lennon's British made glasses

Opting for fine metal frames, Lennon preferred the simplicity of the Panto 45 spectacles designed and made in London by Algha Works.

Also referred to as Algha, the factory is the oldest in the UK. They've produced wire spectacle frames there since 1932 using late 1800's machinery from a relocated German factory.

At their peak, Algha were making 1.5 million frames a year as part of the NHS 'free glasses programme.' They employed as many as 150 people during their hey day before the programme was ceased by Margaret Thatcher in 1988.

Lennon was one one of the numerous celebrities, film stars and royalty who wore these beautifully handmade glasses.


Close view of John Lennon wearing white jumper and round eyeglasses frame

Famously, Lennon regularly wore white, ivory or ecru garments. Often in corduroy, linen, velvet or denim. Just some of his famous get-up during the 60's and 70's.


Music star John Lennon wearing pin striped white suit and round wire glasses frame

Most, if not all of John Lennons glasses featured a simple saddle bridge. Unlike a keyhole, this shape simple arched over the nose with little embellishment or intricacy.

It's this banal aesthetic that makes this round glasses shape so timeless.


Close three quarter view of John Lennon wearing pin striped suit hat and roun rim spectacles

Over the years, some of Lennon's frames were slightly undersized with a narrow lens width of 40mm or less. You can tell by the width of the bridge they were relatively small lenses which were just enough for him to peer through.


John Lennon sitting on a bus smoking a cigarette looking through window

Touring with the Beatles, it's a well known fact that Lennon enjoyed playing games of Monopoly.


John Lennon with long hair and beard making peace symbol with his fingers


Three quarter view of John Lennon wearing orange tinted gold rim glasses made by Algha Works London

The orange tint in Lennon's Panto 45 glasses was a custom shade by Algha back in the 1970's. 

It's suspected that he suffered from an optical condition known as Irlen Syndrome which made him particularly sensitive to bright light. His various lens tints may have reduced the visual stress on his eyes.


Colour portrait of John Lennon in denim jacket and orange tinted round wire glasses

Orange was one of Lennon's most prominent and memorable lens tints.

Looking through his glasses, everything would have looked much warmer. Observing these photos, he probably had a mild 20% tint so they could be worn throughout the day or inside. I can't believe I'm making a comparison to JLo but she dons a very similar style of frame featuring a light tint as well.

If you've ever considered lightly tinted lenses, you should check out our article about tint colours here.


Yoko Ono and John Lennon sitting together outside house

Yoko Ono, Lennon's second wife was an established Japanese artist. So the story goes, they met in November 1966 at the Indica Gallery in London.

She was part of a high art culture scene whilst John came from a much humbler, working class background. An unlikely coupling, but it wasn't long before they got together and swiftly married in 1969.


Long haired John Lennon wearing his iconic round wire glasses loowking downwards

Lennon was a icon of the 60's and 70's counterculture movement. During the Vietnam war, he actively protested against the presence of US military troops hosting various peace rallies.


John Lennon and Yoko ono sitting side by side three quarter view

One of Lennon's most famous protests was with Yoko when they held their "bed-in."

Whilst in Amsterdam together, following their marriage in 1969, the newly weds stayed in bed for an entire week as an eccentric but peaceful protest against global conflict.


Front portrait view of John Lennon straing at viewer

Possibly his most famous look, Lennon decided to grow his beard in 1966. He kept his hair and beard long for several years, right up until the year of his marriage with Yoko.

Combined with his round wire glasses, this look became synonymous with hippie fashion and the youth counterculture of the 60's. 


Black and white photograph of John Lennon and Yoko standing together in front of bus at airport

Lennon reverted to a more clean cut looking the early to mid 70's when he ventured into his solo career with Yoko. It was then he released his politicised songs such as "Give Peace a Chance", "Instant Karma!", "Imagine" and "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)."


John Lennon in the 1970's wearing denim jacket and round wire sunglasses smoking a cigarette

Of course, Lennons frames weren't restricted to just spectacles. He too wore round wire frames as sunglasses with darker lenses than his customary lightly tinted orange lenses. Double denim, smoking a cigarette in these round shades was seriously rock 'n' roll.


Yoko Ono and John Lennon standing together both wearing large thick sunglasses frames

Photographed together for one of the last few times, Yoko and John are seen in the streets of Manhattan, New York both wearing their thick acetate sunglasses.

Later, in December 1980 John Lennon was assassinated by jaded Christian Mark Chapman who opposed his previous comments about being "more popular than Jesus."

In the archway of his US residency, The Dakota apartments, Lennon was shot in the back by David Chapman with a pistol from close range.

To this day, John Lennon is deemed one of the most prominent and memorable music artists of one the most impactful music groups of all time.

A political, artistic and eyewear icon.

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