Why do people wear a monocle?

Sir Patrick Moore

Reports suggest there has been a surge in hipsters wearing monocles. But why do people usually wear them, asks Denise Winterman.

Sir Patrick Moore started wearing one at the age of 16 and always accessorised it with a bushy eyebrow. Where he led, hipsters are reportedly following. The monocle, a corrective lens for a single eye, is making a comeback in cities as far flung as Manhattan, Cape Town and Berlin, according to the New York Times. But apart from being a fashion statement, why do people wear them?

They're usually worn by people who are long-sighted to see things close up, says Daniel Cullen, who runs a company selling specialist eyewear including monocles. They are handy and are popular among chefs who need help seeing recipes as they can be easily clipped on to aprons, according to one monocle supplier quoted in the New York Times. One Manhattan restaurant reportedly has one for customers who complain that they can't read the menu. They're also used by people with a drooping eyelid, a condition known as ptosis, to keep their eye open. "Often they are suggested by opticians but people don't know that much about them so they call up to find out more," says Cullen. Some people simply don't want to use glasses when they have a problem in one eye, like Moore.

Monocle Monocle can have tinted lenses

The monocle became fashionable in the late 19th Century and associated with the classic English gent. They suffered a "public relations disaster" in the UK during World War One when they became too closely associated with the German high command, according to the College of Optometrists. In the US they became popular with women in the early 1900s.

So are they making a comeback? Cullen has been stocking monocles for over a decade and estimates that he sells roughly 15 a month. His customers are mainly in the UK but he gets orders from around the world. He says there has been a slight increase in orders recent weeks. It could be the start of something. Watch this space.

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