Glasses: a traditionally iconic symbol that portrays the wearer as someone more intelligent than the average human and somewhat less attractive (no offense to all of the glasses-wearers of the world). With this perception attached to wearing glasses, it is very hard to understand the recent explosion of people wearing glasses unnecessarily, often even without lenses. Many people attribute this to the “hipster” movement, but this meme has transcended even the ever-so-popular hipster memeplex. For example, wearing skinny jeans, plaid shirts, and fitted hoodies has not reached the larger culture that is outside the hipster movement quite like that of wearing glasses has.
This meme burst out of the larger memeplex of being a hipster when celebrities, particularly professional athletes (who are quite the antithesis of a hipster) began rocking the lens-less glasses. Russell Westbrook, all-star point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder, largely exemplified this outburst of the meme in non-hipsters. This meme is almost entirely behavioral and has been so successful in being transmitted because it is simple and people see celebrities do it (and evidently, for some reason, think it looks “cool”) and want to copy that style. This form of a meme being transmitted is extremely common given how infatuated people are with attempting to be like a celebrity, and this is really unfortunate because often no thought is put into the decision-making as to whether such an action is truly beneficial for the person replicating the meme. But this points to what Susan Blackmore says in chapter one of her book The Meme Machine when she states, “Memes spread themselves around indiscriminately without regard to whether they are useful, neutral, or positively harmful to us” (pg. 23).
Although this meme has just recently became extremely popular, the idea of wearing glasses for purely fashion purposes is not new. In fact, the superstars of the most recent NBA Championship (Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, and Dwayne Wade) had a debate over the origins of the fad that was published in the The New York Times by Tom Spousta. Westbrook claims he has been doing it for years, James stated it started in the 70’s or 80’s, and Wade points to Spike Lee doing it for years. Whichever renowned athlete is exactly correct is irrelevant; what is important is that wearing glasses as an accessory is just like any other fashion trend: it comes and goes.
Meme theory in itself is quite an odd, yet also quite fascinating concept. Although it is clearly not the case, authors such as Richard Dawkins and Susan Blackmore make it seem like memes are almost living entities in that they have the desire to “spread for their own benefit, independently of any benefit to the genes” (pg. 22). It is also very fascinating that these memes have evolved and been transmitted throughout the generations to shape the ideology we currently have. But despite these fascinating and mostly well supported arguments, several criticisms still exist; for example, Richard Dawkins points to the fact that “nobody really knows what a meme physically is” (pg. 11). This critique is very simple, yet is at the core of the meme theory so with this uncertainty still present, it is hard to completely accept memes and even more difficult for the average mind to fully comprehend the theory.