Skip to main content
russell smith

The question

Is it true that hipsters are wearing monocles?

The answer

A piece in The New York Times in March that claimed the existence of this fashion trend has been roundly mocked. It reported sightings of well-dressed young men in Berlin and Brooklyn who sported this Edwardian accessory, but the only people the writer actually found wearing monocles were professional performers with a love of costume (an actor and a rapper). He also found that some chefs were using them as reading glasses, pinned to their aprons in the kitchen.

A columnist in a rival newspaper, The Guardian, explained that trends in fashion media are based on a couple of sightings, and actually constitute not truth but a kind of prediction: "Just as sports sections are bulked up with articles predicting what a game will be like before the game has happened based on past performances, so fashion sections are filled with the journalistic equivalent of crossed fingers," Hadley Freeman wrote. She concluded: "Monocles aren't happening. But ridiculous trend pieces definitely are happening."

I certainly haven't seen them in use, nor have I seen any evidence in this country of the "New Gent", the young conservative who affects tweed suits and spats and drinks sherry. I have seen them abroad, but they are hardly hipsters: They are utterly unfashionable, more like cosplay enthusiasts than avant-gardists.

It is true that you can buy monocles online with reading-glasses lenses in them and that these might be useful for middle-aged restaurant-goers – smaller than spectacles and easier to slip in a pocket. But this is a practical development rather than an aesthetic one. Anyone under 50 who pretends to require a monocle will look affected.

Novelist Russell Smith's memoir, Blindsided, is available as a Kobo e-book. Have a style question? E-mail