John Lennon’s Iconic Glasses Were Inspired by the UK’s National Health Service and a Film Role


  • John Lennon was initially embarrassed to wear glasses.
  • John Lennon started wearing his famous round glasses after a movie role.
  • Julia Lennon, John Lennon’s sister, used his glasses for a fundraising campaign.
John Lennon wears a denim jacket and a pair of glasses.
John Lennon | Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Later in his life, John Lennon was rarely without a pair of round glasses. They became a part of his image as a celebrity, and it’s difficult to imagine him without them. When Lennon first began wearing the frames, they weren’t exactly a stylish choice, though. He began wearing them for a movie role and decided to stick with a similar shape for the rest of his life. 

John Lennon didn’t wear glasses until later in his career

According to Lennon’s sister Julia, the musician avoided wearing glasses early in his career because people thought they were uncool.

“John, our mother and I all wore glasses because we were all very short-sighted,” she said, per The Beatles Story. “It wasn’t cool to wear glasses when The Beatles played the Cavern, and when The Beatles became famous John wore contact lenses.”

Still, the former Beatle would have required glasses in order to see.

“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 of St. Paul’s Eye Unit at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital explained. “His short sightedness was at a level such that it’s likely it would have worsened later in life and may have become a threat to his vision.”

The UK’s National Health Service inspired his iconic frames

In 1967, Lennon appeared in the film How I Won the War. In preparation for the film, he received a pair of standard, National Health Service-issued frames, which he described as “granny style” glasses. 

Though he hadn’t wanted to wear glasses before, he liked how the circular frames looked on him. Soon, they became a standard part of his wardrobe. Per Banton Frameworks, he also began incorporating tinted lenses into his rotation. They reportedly eased the strain from looking at bright stage lights, but they also were a fashion-forward detail. 

John Lennon’s sister used his glasses to help fund research into eye disease

Lennon’s glasses were such a vital part of his celebrity image that his sister believed they could help with fundraising for the St. Paul’s Eye Unit. She auctioned off the pair of orange-tinted glasses he wore while writing “Imagine,” and invited other celebrities to donate their old frames. Proceeds would fund research into the care and treatment of eye disease.

“It was fascinating to be given lenses that replicated what John would have seen without his glasses, and it wasn’t much at all,” Julia said. “We want as many donations of glasses from stars as possible to ensure the auction raises an incredible amount for an incredible cause. I will be contacting friends to try and get the word out there and hopefully they will also encourage as many famous faces to join the cause. All we need is love!”

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