The “Spectacles” of Hidden Figures

By Robbie Johnson Weinberg, Director of Operations and Co-Founder

I have been attending a movie club in anticipation of the upcoming Academy Awards on February 26, 2017. We have been trying to see all the movies nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Supporting Actor.

Last week, I saw “Hidden Figures”, which is based on a true story that I had sadly never heard of. The plot centers around a group of African American female mathematicians who played critical roles in NASA’s ultimately successful ability to land a man on the moon. What makes it all the more amazing is that these women are performing high-level math and engineering jobs, all while being the victims of a still very segregated South.

Although the storyline is gripping and entertaining, I found myself consumed by the main character’s eyewear from the moment little Katherine Johnson appeared in the first scene. As someone who lives and breathes spectacles, Katherine’s crooked glasses with the 10K gold Numont style mount from the 1940s distracted me. Likely, it was an American Optical piece. It distracted me because the years these frames were invented and worn were much later than the time period Katherine is wearing them. In other words, the glasses she has on during these early scenes had yet to be invented. I know Hollywood has specific people in costuming whose sole focus is to make sure period pieces reflect the actual era, but they missed the mark here.

Regardless, I loved the frame young Katherine is wearing in “Hidden Figures.” In our stores, one of my favorite lines is Retrospecs. Eyeglasses weren’t always mass produced. They were created by jewelers and oftentimes lasted for a lifetime. At Retrospecs, the owner, Jay, has built his business model by restoring frames from the 1890s to 1970s. At Eclectic Eye, we have several examples of the 1940s Numont frame worn in the movie. Also in our collections, we have examples of 3-piece Saddle Mounts from the 1910s, a 1930s “Full Frame Ful-Vue,” a 1942 “Rimway Ful-Vue” and an “Everjax” or two. Each piece has detailed filigree and subtleties, which create a history as unique as the frame.

By the time Katherine got to be an adult working at NASA, she graduated to a full ZYL, or plastic frame. This frame is the MOSCOT BUMMI, which I recognized immediately because I own it. As a trained optician, I don’t love the fit of this frame on Taraji P. Henson, the actress that plays Katherine. It slides down her nose too often, but in the early 1960s, there weren’t as many options for proper fit as we have today, so I found this to be believable. This frame is created by MOSCOT, a homegrown, 100-year old company based in New York City that is still owned and operated by the Moscot family. This is a great small business story in itself, which I love. Eclectic Eye has successfully carried MOSCOT since they began their wholesaling endeavors a few years ago. We love their iconic shapes and how true they stay to their brand and culture. The MOSCOT BUMMI frame is a classic early 1960s style with a mild cat eye shape and subtle key-hole bridge that many can wear. It’s definitely period appropriate, so I give costuming an A+ for effort on this choice.

Katherine Johnson, Hidden Figures, in MOSCOT BUMMI

Eyewear is an integral part of the costuming in “Hidden Figures,” and when you live for eyewear, a movie like this is so much fun. The eyewear stands out as dramatically as the jeweled tone fabrics or tailored plaids that Katherine wears in a sea of white, short-sleeved shirted white men with black ties. But, the eyewear isn’t just about the costuming in the movie. It also represents a physical manifestation of these women’s ability to perform and succeed. Glasses are a badge of honor for them. I would love to have had this movie available when I was coming of age. I thought of glasses as sign of failure, weakness and ineptness. Katherine and her posse of smart women feel just the opposite, and having them as role models would have been useful. I’m glad I have them now.

Go see “Hidden Figures,” and let us know what you think!