What Glasses Did Malcolm X Wear?
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What Glasses Did Malcolm X Wear?

Malcolm X in AO Sirmont

Malcolm X wearing American Optical Sirmont. Photo: Marion S. Trikosko

What Glasses Did Malcolm X Wear?

Close your eyes and you could probably describe every component of Malcolm X’s signature style. The dark suit, narrow tie, and browline glasses he wore were not an accident but a carefully crafted aspect of his image. So what glasses did Malcolm X wear? He wore American Optical Sirmont glasses so faithfully that the style is often referred to simply as “Malcolm X glasses.” Though first released in the 1950s, the look has never gone out of style and AO Eyewear is proud to be re-releasing the Sirmont.

Malcolm X’s style

Malcolm X and MLK meet

Malcolm X and MLK meet. Photo: Marion S. Trikosko

Photographs of Malcolm Little in his youth show a very different image; he then favored flashy zoot suits. After his spiritual awakening, his look changed drastically and intentionally. His dark suit, tie, and strong browline glasses became a symbol of his work to advance civil rights. Malcolm X built quite a wardrobe of these items. He developed a strong brand loyalty to American Optical, matching different colors of Sirmont glasses to different suits and ties.

Why did Malcolm X wear glasses?

The obvious answer is that he needed them to see, but there’s more to it. Malcolm X’s first glasses may well have been prison-issued, but his look evolved quickly. Style and substance were inextricably linked for Malcolm X, a man who understood how his image played into the larger movement. Remaining loyal to styles and brands, such as with the AO Sirmont or Malcom X glasses, was intentional in creating a signature style that projected power.

What are browline glasses?

Malcolm X in Sirmont

Malcolm X at Queens Court. Photo: Herman Hiller

Browline glasses have been worn by many politicians for their commanding look, but what does browline mean? In browline glasses, the upper rim of the frame is much thicker than the lower portion. Traditionally, the upper browline is constructed from acetate and the remainder of the rim and the bridge are made of metal. The look took off in the 1950s and 60s and has remained in style ever since. 

The style works on many face shapes as it draws attention up towards the eyebrows. It is especially flattering on oval or narrow faces as the browline acts to widen the face at the eyebrows.

The browline glasses worn by Malcom X are the American Optical Sirmont which was out of production until 2022.

Browline glasses in the 21st century

AO Eyewear Sirmont

The Sirmont has remained highly sought after even after it was removed from production, with many intrigued by Malcolm X style glasses. AO Eyewear has been working tirelessly to bring back the Sirmont, as sunglasses. The original design blueprints were pulled from the archives so we could restore the style to its original specs. Fitting properties were then updated to flatter modern facial morphology. Details including the AO spearhead decor piece and channeled bridge remain faithful to the frame as originally designed. Each frame is handcrafted in our US factory from the finest global components. 

If you have any questions about the style, please contact us.

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