Costuming a character for TV isn’t just about draping them in pretty clothes. Even a show like Succession, which is limited to corporate attire, puts lots of thought into their individual character’s clothing to ensure the apparel says something about each persona’s journey and personality. If your favourite fictional person is clothed in a certain way, there’s a good reason behind it. And if they’re wearing glasses, it’s not just because the character’s nearsighted: the specs also aid in their portrayal.
Still sceptical? Read on to learn more about five iconic TV characters who wouldn’t be the same without glasses.
Jess Day Looks So Different Without Glasses (New Girl)
Though Jess looks like a manic pixie dream girl at first glance, her character is not just about whimsical quirks and habits. She’s trying to grow up and find love and friendship without losing her idiosyncrasies—something everyone can relate to. Her geek chic attire is designed to reflect this personality, which is why she often wears colourful, bright patterns, flouncy dresses and rectangular tortoiseshell glasses for added femininity.
The unique mixture of light and dark patterns on these frames mirrors Zooey Deschanel’s one-of-a-kind character, and this plays a significant role in what makes this titular new girl so unforgettable.
Dwight Schrute (The Office)
The American reboot of The Office is the stuff of sitcom legend, spanning nine seasons and amassing a cult following. Now, it’s getting a reboot of its own, with the show’s original creator, Greg Daniels, involved in the project. Fans are now eagerly speculating what the new adventures of the workers of Dunder Mifflin could be like—and if they’ll get to see some old, beloved characters.
One welcome appearance, of course, would be that of Dwight Schrute. Dwight is one of the most memorable characters of the original run for many reasons, including his epic prank wars with Jim, his love for order—and his signature pair of silver, wire-frame Aviator glasses. These distinctively outline his eyes, granting him a concentrated, no-nonsense look that juxtaposes his frequent mischievous smiles nicely. The Office fans now recognise his glasses as the iconic piece-de-resistance of this truly iconic paper company employee.
Felicity Smoak (Arrow)
Felicity isn’t just Green Arrow’s love interest—she’s a tech genius, a businesswoman, and an excellent member of Team Arrow in her own right. That’s all emphasised by her two-toned rectangular glasses, which give a sense of stability, maturity, and sophistication—even if she has a habit of accidentally spouting out double entendres. Her specs are a significant part of her costume: there aren’t a lot of superhero paramours that don dark, distinguishing frames. The fact that she does immediately tells the audience she’s a unique take on the trope.
Few shows can match the complete 180 that was Walter White’s character arc. Starting as a devastated chemistry prof diagnosed with cancer, this character ended Breaking Bad as the infamous Heisenberg. Throughout the series, his angular, gunmetal glasses, which once underlined his persona as a mild-mannered high school teacher, stand in for Walt’s innocent persona—with one of his habits involving him taking them off when he wants to appear threatening.
Towards the end of the show, the glasses were even replaced with a dark-coloured pair to mark the end of his character arc. However, the original pair remains an iconic part of Walt’s character design, and he was seen wearing it during his cameo in the spin-off Better Call Saul.
Chidi Anagonye (The Good Place)
Who could forget The Good Place’s resident ethics professor? Chidi Anagonye is a good person through and through—his indecision only emphasised that, as did his stomach-ache-inducing analysis paralysis that often stemmed from him wanting to do the right thing.
His glasses tell the audience of his sensitivity even before he opens his mouth. Dark and square-shaped, they frame his large brown eyes and highlight his vulnerability and anxieties—and he truly wouldn’t be the same without them.
Spectacles are a deliberate part of costuming in TV, and these iconic characters prove just that. They wouldn’t be the same without their specs.
Did we miss any TV characters in this list?