Agency from Anglo American is an updated browline available in seven striking colors.
Technology takes the combination frame to the max in Oakley’s Crosslink Switch.
The ’60s-inspired Banks by Oliver Peoples is a bold statement of style.
Takumi Style No. TK935 from Aspex is a metal combination frame with a sleek eyewire mounted to the textured brow and temples.

As with most things in fashion, classic eyewear styles are periodically reintroduced in modern ways and browline frames are a prime example.

Combination frames have become a familiar eyewear category in recent years. The options are nearly endless, limited only by the frame designers’ imagination. They can be composed of acetate fronts with metal temples or metal fronts with acetate, wood, or horn temples and can be full-rimmed or semi-rimless. If, however, you are from the generation of optical professionals that dispensed eyewear in the ’70s or earlier, chances are you (and I) think of a browline frame first when someone says “combination frame.”

According to Shuron, LTD, browline frames were invented in 1947 by Jack Rohrbach, the Vice President of Shuron Optical Company. Ronsir, the original browline frame model, was made from interchangeable chasses (two metal eyewires attached by a bridge) and “brows” (known back then as “trim”), allowing for complete customization of the frame fit and features.

The style was popular with the public and soon other frame companies produced their versions. Several frame manufacturers dominated the browline market at its apex in the ’50s-Art Craft, Victory Optical, American Optical, and Bausch + Lomb-along with its creator Shuron. Each company developed styles for women and men, offering a variety of eyewire shapes and temple options in multiple sizes and colors, and experimenting with combinations that included monel, acetate, aluminum, and other materials. The browline frame became an icon that comprised more than half the frames worn through the ’50s.

Pictures of celebrities and political figures have made these frames iconic: President Lyndon Johnson (in images of his national statement at the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), African-American liberation leader Malcolm X, Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Harlan Sanders, and Burt Lancaster in the film, Sweet Smell of Success, are just a few examples. The style was so popular that as plastic manufacturing techniques increased the popularity of plastic frames, browline styles were replicated by using transparent bottoms and solid upper portions. This became a major frame style of the ’60s.

Because of the iconic status of the browline frame at a time when American culture was conservative and family values were considered paramount, it came to represent the wearer’s traditional beliefs to such an extent that by the late ’60s, the hippie counterculture revolution led to a rapid decline in the frame’s popularity as a rejection of anything that represented the older generation.

As with anything iconic, fashion comes around again and the browline frame had resurgence in popularity in the ’80s when Bruce Willis wore the Clubman sunglass re-issued by Bausch + Lomb on a popular TV series. Ironically, this trend was embraced by the pop teen culture. The ’90s film, Falling Down, with Michael Douglas used the classic imagery of the combination frame’s conservative conformist wearer to convey the character’s motivation to the viewer. And today there is renewed popularity with young urban professionals embracing the hipster retro look of combination browline frames that have gained a following with the popularity of TV series like Mad Men and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation with major characters wearing the style.

Combination browline frames have the advantage of offering a somewhat more regular lens shape and usually a smaller eyesize that ideally allows the wearer’s eye to be centered in the eyewire. This results in a more uniform edge thickness all around the lens’ circumference. Because most of these frames have adjustable nosepads, combined with a sturdy hinge, it’s easier to make adjustments to pantoscopic angle and vertex distance. When fitting these styles, study the design of the browline portion of the frame and how it is attached to the eyewire to be sure the prescription you are considering will work well in a particular model. If the eyewire sits behind the thicker brow portion of the frame, it may not be appropriate for high-powered minus lenses unless the bevel is pushed completely to the front of the lens. In addition, complications from the way the frame is assembled or disassembled for glazing can require more time and skill by the bench optician.

The Zense collection by ProDesign Eyewear, Inc. is an eco-friendly line made of cellulose acetate that is produced from 80% biodegradable cotton. The combination frames in the collection are made with titanium eyewires to keep the non-allergic standard of the acetate. Style No. 7622-7628 is available in five fashion colorways with a wood-grain matte finish and a sleek brushed metal spring hinge that is an integral design element of the temple.

Ray Ban Clubmaster Optics (offered by Luxottica) is an update to the classic. Since its debut in the ’80s, the design has been refined with a more regular shape and shallower B measurement. This style is not a new release but any study of the combination browline would be incomplete without taking note of the continued best-selling popularity of this frame. Available in black acetate with a white metal eyewire, it works well for both women and men, is very popular with teens, and can accommodate progressives or Rx sun lenses as well.

Takumi by Aspex Eyewear is a collection of fashion-forward styles that is a combination of the graceful inspiration of Japanese design blended with the enterprising spirit of the west. Takumi means “master craftsman” and Style No. TK935 illustrates this to a tee. The stainless steel frame is a metal combination frame with a sleek eyewire mounted to the textured brow and temples.

Technology takes the combination frame to the max in Oakley, Inc.’s Crosslink Switch. The lightweight durable aluminum front and rugged O Matter temples come with two interchangeable metal lens carriers to allow it to be a single frame for Rx sun and Rx clear or a set of single vision and a progressive set and easily switch between them. Crosslink Switch has a look that’s pure Oakley but unmistakably reveals its classic combination frame roots. It also comes with a collection-specific case for storage of the chassis not in use.

Anglo American Optical Company was founded in London in 1882. Its handmade frames represent the refinement of classic frame styles and are offered in cellulose acetate and a variety of metals. Agency is an updated browline available in seven striking colors.

The ’60s-inspired Banks by Oliver Peoples is a bold statement of style. The lightweight combination frame sports sleek, custom tortoiseshell acetate on a metal chassis with metal temples. Custom-engraved filigree in the tailored endpieces and eyewires add elegance to the acetate browpieces. Browline combination frames are back and in a big way. With modern materials and features augmenting their retro design, they appeal to young and old alike.

Roxanne Armstrong is a licensed optician and owner of Art For Your Face in McLean, VA.

Anglo American Optical
Aspex Eyewear
Oakley, Inc.
Oliver Peoples
ProDesign Eyewear, Inc.
Shuron, LTD



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