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Are tortoiseshell glasses old fashioned?


Tortoiseshell glasses have been around for decades and have gone in and out of fashion over the years. Some people may view them as old fashioned, while others think they are timeless and classic. So are tortoiseshell glasses actually outdated? Or can they still look modern and stylish today?

The History of Tortoiseshell Glasses

Tortoiseshell glasses first became popular in the 1940s and 1950s. The pattern was made by layering together thin pieces of mottled tortoiseshell material. This created a marbled, brownish-orange effect that was considered very luxurious at the time.

In the 1960s and 1970s, tortoiseshell glasses went out of style as new plastics and lighter metal frames came into fashion. They were viewed as stuffy, outdated “old man” glasses. However, like many vintage styles, tortoiseshell glasses made a comeback in the early 2000s. Celebrity figures like Jonny Depp and Scarlett Johansson were seen sporting tortoiseshell frames, sparking a new interest in the retro look.

Are Tortoiseshell Glasses Still in Style Today?

Tortoiseshell glasses have ridden the ups and downs of changing fashion trends. But today, they are definitely back in style for both men and women. Some key reasons why tortoiseshell frames are popular again:

Vintage inspired fashion – Vintage 1950s and 1960s fashion has come back around. Tortoiseshell glasses fit perfectly with this old school aesthetic. Retro cat-eye and wayfarer styles look great in tortoiseshell.

Classic and timeless – While trends come and go, tortoiseshell remains a durable, classic pattern. The colors pair well with most skin tones and outfits. They always look polished.

Warmer alternative to black frames – Black plastic glasses used to dominate eyewear. But warm, amber tortoiseshell provides a refreshing alternative to solid black frames.

Versatile for dressy or casual wear – Tortoiseshell glasses easily transition from day to night. They look sharp with business wear but also complement casual weekend outfits.

Tortoiseshell Glasses Can Look Modern and Fashion Forward

Tortoiseshell frames aren’t confined to traditional or stuffy designs. Many modern frame shapes and styles are available with tortoiseshell patterns to keep the look fashion forward, including:

Cat-eye – Tortoiseshell gives a bold, retro flair to cat-eye glasses, a favorite among fashionistas.

Browline – The contrast of tortoiseshell on the top with transparent lower rims creates a sleek browline look.

Geometric – Funky geometric frames with straight lines and angles look edgy in tortoiseshell.

Aviator – Oval or teardrop aviator frames get a dose of vintage coolness with amber tortoiseshell.

Wayfarer – Iconic wayfarer styles remain ever-popular, and tortoiseshell color upgrades the classic model.

Tortoiseshell Glasses Fit Any Age and Style

Tortoiseshell glasses are universal in their appeal and can flatter wearers of all ages:


– Young people can rock retro tortoiseshell frames for a unique statement. Children’s sizes are available to fit kids.
– Fun transparent or metal rim combinations add modern edge.
– Students may prefer oval lenses or wayfarers in tortoiseshell.


– Tortoiseshell adapts well to professional settings for men and women.
– The warm, earthy tones complement adult complexions.
– Classic shapes like cat-eye and horn-rimmed work for business casual offices.


– Tortoiseshell glasses first gained popularity among past generations, so seniors may feel a nostalgic affinity.
– The versatility matches well with mature lifestyles.
– Semi-rimless styles provide a lightweight, comfortable fit.

How to Style Tortoiseshell Glasses

To get the most fashion mileage out of your tortoiseshell frames, keep these style tips in mind:

– Stick to simple designs and avoid embellished frames to let the tortoiseshell color stand out.

– Match metals. If the frames have metal accents, wear jewelry in complimentary gold, silver or copper shades.

– For professional settings, pair with neutral, dark or earth toned clothing. Tortoiseshell also pops against black.

– For added edge, rock tortoiseshell glasses with bold colors like red, pink or electric blue.

– Choose lens colors like brown gradient that coordinate with the tortoiseshell pattern. Avoid loud lens hues that clash.

– For women, swept-back cat-eye shapes look great with pulled-back hairstyles and highlight the cheekbones.

Where to Shop for Tortoiseshell Glasses

Tortoiseshell eyewear can be found at various retailers:

Store Frame Brands Price Range
Local Optometrists Various designer and private label brands $$-$$$$
LensCrafters Ray-Ban, Coach, Oakley, etc. $$ In-house brands, Ray-Ban, Gucci $-$$$
Zenni Optical Zenni private label $

Get the Right Fit

Like any eyewear, tortoiseshell glasses should fit the unique size and shape of your face properly:

– The frame width should match the widest part of your face. Excess overhang looks sloppy.

– Lens height should align with your eye height. The top of the frame should not cut into your forehead.

– Adjustable nose pads and temple arms provide a custom, secure fit.

– If the bridge doesn’t rest comfortably on your nose, opt for adjustable or saddle-style nose pieces.

– Temple arm length should extend neatly over your ears without pinching.

Getting measurements at an optical shop will help find frames scaled to your proportions. Ordering online is more guesswork and may require exchanging ill-fitting glasses.

Caring for Your Tortoiseshell Glasses

Tortoiseshell glasses require some maintenance and care to keep them looking sharp:

– Use microfiber cloths to gently wipe lenses clean of smudges and dust. Avoid paper towels or tissues that can scratch.

– Clean the frames with mild soap and water. Avoid chemical cleaners.

– Store glasses in hard protective cases when not in use.

– Tighten any loose screws to avoid breakage. An optician can provide repairs.

– Avoid exposure to excess moisture and high temperatures which can warp frames over time.

– Consider having lenses coated to resist scratches, smudges, glare and UV rays.


Tortoiseshell glasses have proven their lasting power through decades of changing fashion. The retro yet versatile frames remain popular for their timeless, classic style. With the right modern shape and proper fit, tortoiseshell eyewear can look fresh and contemporary. They work equally well for dressy, professional settings as casual, everyday wear. For those seeking glasses that make a stylish statement with vintage appeal, tortoiseshell is always a wise choice.