A monocle is a type of corrective lens used to correct or enhance the vision in only one eye. It consists of a circular lens, generally with a wire ring around the circumference that can be attached to a string. The other end of the string is then connected to the wearer's clothing to avoid losing the monocle. The antiquarian Philipp von Stosch wore a monocle in Rome in the 1720s, in order to closely examine engravings and antique engraved gems, but the monocle did not become an article of gentlemen's apparel until the nineteenth century. It was introduced by the dandy's quizzing glass of the 1790s, as a sense of high fashion.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the monocle was generally associated with wealthy upper-class men. Combined with a morning coat and a top-hat, the monocle completed the costume of the stereotypical 1890s capitalist. Monocles were also stereotypical accessories of German military officers from this period; especially from World War I and World War II. German military officers who are actually known to have worn a monocle include Werner von Fritsch, Erich Ludendorff, Walter Model, Walter von Reichenau, Hans von Seeckt, Hugo Sperrle and the fictional (and comical) Colonel Klink.
Monocles were most prevalent in the late 19th century but are rarely worn today. This is due in large part to advances in optometry which allow for better measurement of refractive error, so that glasses and contact lenses can be prescribed with different strengths in each eye, and also in reaction to the stereotypes that became associated with them. Another significant contribution to the decline of the monocle is that some health organisations (specifically Britain's National Health Service, but possibly others, in their local contexts) would not fund prescriptions for monocles, even when the prescribing optometrist recommended a monocle.
Some famous figures who wore a monocle include the British politicians, Joseph Chamberlain, his son Austen, Henry Chaplin and Angus Maude. Percy Toplis the The Monocled Mutineer, founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Planters mascot Mr. Peanut, Portuguese President António de Spínola, filmmakers Fritz Lang and Erich Von Stroheim, prominent 19th century Portuguese writer Eça de Queiroz, Soviet writer Mikhail Bulgakov, actor Conrad Veidt, Dadaists Tristan Tzara and Raoul Hausmann, esotericist Julius Evola, French collaborationist politician Louis Darquier de Pellepoix, criminal Percy Toplis, Poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson, singer Richard Tauber, diplomat Christopher Ewart-Biggs (a smoked-glass monocle, to disguise his glass eye), Major Johnnie Cradock, actors Ralph Lynn and George Arliss, Karl Marx and Milburn Pennybags. In another vein G. E. M. Anscombe was one of only a few noted women who occasionally wore a monocle. Famous wearers today include astronomer Sir Patrick Moore, former boxer Chris Eubank and King Taufa'ahau Tupou V of Tonga. Abstract expressionist painter Barnett Newman wore a monocle mainly for getting a closer look at artworks. Richard Tauber wore a monocle to mask a squint in one eye.
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