Skip to main content


Glasses spectacular

A boy wearing humorous coke-bottle spectacles. Taken with a fish-eye lense.
Click to enlarge

21 Feb 2017

A list of things about people who wear glasses, to help with characterisation.

In the last couple of weeks, in two separate books, I’ve come across instances where a character pushed their glasses up their nose. The intended gesture is very familiar – an adjustment made with a finger on the bridge between the lenses – but the phrasing is just a little off, and the effect will make the reader laugh and jolt them out of the scene.

It’s a shame to use what is nearly a cliché, particularly one that is open to misinterpretations: characters in specs are a treasure house of tics and interesting gestures and there are so many other ways to animate them.

I made a quick list of everything I could think of to do with glasses, which means I no longer have any excuse for nasally inserted glasses.

NB: some of these are not optician-approved methods of handling glasses.

  1. Adjust them by taking one corner in one hand, or a corner in each hand.
  2. Tap the hinges with a finger.
  3. Chew or suck on the ear piece.
  4. Re-seat them by lifting off the nose and replacing.
  5. Take them off and inspect the lenses.
  6. Wonder aloud how they get so dirty.
  7. Polish the lenses with distilled water and a microfibre cloth
  8. Huff on the lenses and then scrub with a handkerchief or item of clothing.
  9. Lay them on the table fully extended.
  10. Lay them on the table folded.
  11. Put them away in a case.
  12. Peer over them (tilt head forward).
  13. Peer under them (tilt head back).
  14. Tighten the screws.
  15. Look with disgust at the grunge under the nose pads.
  16. Take them off and tap the temple tip on the table. (‘Temple’ is the correct term for the arms).
  17. Rub behind their ear because the ear piece doesn't fit properly.
  18. Rub at the red marks left by the nose pads.
  19. People whose faces squidge against the temples.
  20. Handle them carelessly with greasy fingers, put them on and then take them off to clean.
  21. Sudden breakage – a screw drops out, the lens falls out, they snap across the bridge. May cause total consternation.
  22. It's always a surprise that the ophthalmic optician will do simple repairs for free.
  23. Anti-glare coating gives them a rainbow sheen, visible at certain angles.
  24. Old specs have a yellowish tinge.
  25. Wash under the hot tap with washing-up liquid.
  26. Accumulate old pairs (for emergencies and because it's hard to recycle them).
  27. Fix with tape or a sticking plaster.
  28. They get knocked askew by a surprising, dishevelling event or a blow to the face. It's rather shocking to see a glasses wearer with specs askew.
  29. Wearing an old pair because the current pair is lost or broken.
  30. Lose them on a night out.
  31. Get into the car and realise you don't have them.
  32. Lost in plain sight – on top of head, or in the usual place.
  33. Searching for a safe place to put them down.
  34. Forgetting that you're wearing them and trying to rub your eye.
  35. Bat something away from your face and knock them off.
  36. If worn on a string or chain, the way the strings drop down either side. When not in use, folded or unfolded.
  37. ‘Where are my reading glasses?’ or ‘Let me get my reading glasses.’
  38. Facial injuries made worse by glasses.

Image credit: (c) Can Stock Photo / cookelma