Hipster Eyeglasses in Court: Non-Prescription Eyewear All the Rage

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on April 02, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Hipster eyeglasses are increasingly the focus of criticism in some courthouses, as defendants don non-prescription spectacles to make a statement for jurors.

But it's not so much a fashion statement, The Washington Post reports: It's strategy.

"Those glasses are influencing the jury, trying to make them think they're Boy Scouts or something," one woman complained to the Post, after all five of her grandson's accused killers showed up at trial wearing spectacles. Before trial, only one defendant was known to have worn glasses to court.

It's no secret that wearing glasses -- hipster-type or otherwise -- can change people's perceptions. A 2008 study in a psychology journal found subjects viewed bespectacled black defendants as more intelligent, more honest, and less threatening, the Post reports. One defense lawyer called it the "nerd defense."

Non-prescription glasses aren't just gaining popularity among defendants in court. Celebrities and even some politicians have been accused of wearing stylish glasses just to make them look smarter -- or even hotter.

In Washington, D.C., courtrooms, however, the hipster eyeglasses trend seems to be serious business. Friends and relatives of inmates, and even their attorneys, are supplying the non-prescription frames. Some inmates are even swapping eyeglasses amongst themselves, the Post reports.

Some defense lawyers support the practice, saying it's no different than having a defendant dress in a suit and tie. And juries aren't always swayed by four-eyed defendants, the Post points out.

At the D.C. murder trial where all five defendants wore hipster eyeglasses, prosecutors called out the use of non-prescription specs and suggested dishonesty. A jury will decide whether to look into the issue or not.

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