July 16th is International Drag Day, which was founded by Adam Stewart in 2009 to provide drag artists with the space to expose their creativity and culture in a proper way and for us to celebrate their charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent. Yet only fifteen years ago, drag was something which was still a little taboo in the UK. A few comedy TV acts like Dame Edna and Danny La Rue had managed to sneak through into the mainstream, but it was certainly not appreciated and respected for the art form it is today. In the twenty-first century, drag is now enjoying one of its most popular periods in herstory and it seems like this could largely be in response to Ru Paul’s Drag Race and its legions of fans. However, the story of drag and its history spans hundreds of years – even going back to Shakespeare himself.
As anyone who has studied a Shakespeare play at school will remember, the audience in the 16th and a7th centuries were incredibly religious and did not believe that the theatre and acting were professions that a respectable woman would take part in. Therefore, out of necessity, men had to play the parts of women. Sometimes this became even more confusing, when there were men playing females, who dressed up as men to disguise themselves…such as in ‘As You Like It,’ when Rosalind disguises himself as Ganymede! Obviously, this early drag bears little resemblance to what we recognise as drag today. Now it is a skilful art form, where men get to express a creative, different side to themselves by creating stunning feminine dress, looks and body language to create a new persona. Their outfits are jaw dropping, their figures are incredible…I can’t be the only female who watches them awestruck, wishing I could look as incredible as them?!
Two hundred years after Shakespeare, 18th century England became more enlightened by Princess Seraphina – a servant otherwise known as John Cooper who dressed as his alter ego daily. She was a pioneer for early LGBTQ rights and was openly seen in the Georgian era’s equivalent of a gay bar; a very brave act considering that homosexuality was still an illegal act punishable by hanging. For many, Seraphina was seen as the first drag queen who later paved the way for the vaudeville queens in the early 20th century, such as Julian Eltinge. At the end of shows on the stage, she used to pull off her wig and reveal her gender to shocked onlookers in the crowd – a move that is still popular in drag lip-syncs today!
In the twentieth century, drag came a long way. With the Stonewall Riot in 1969, seeing Marsha P Johnson protesting against police raids in gay bars and the creation of the Gay Liberation Front, to the glamorous and decadent drag balls in the 1970s in New York, portrayed in Netflix’s ‘Pose.’ The fight for acceptance was making huge strides and drag started to drip through even more into the mainstream. Actresses like John Waters’ muse, Divine, became household names in the 1990s and of course, Ru Paul himself was achieving global fame. In 2009, the first series of Ru Paul’s Drag Race aired and was a success with many ardent gay fans, but it burst out of the closet into the mainstream a few years ago and has now won a legion of fans both male and female and of every sexual orientation.
Last year, the very first Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK was aired, which won over a whole new set of UK fans and launched icons such as BagaChipz, Davina De Campo and The Vivienne into the mainstream. Millions were gagged by their incredible make up and couture outfits. But drag queens are also known for their jaw dropping accessories – including glasses. Here is our lowdown of the most stylish specs wearing queens from Drag Race and how you can emulate their lewk with our glasses.
We will begin with the grand dame of drag, Ru Paul himself whose iconic glasses are a huge part of his drag. He favours the more square, thick stronger frame, which are a real style statement. Our Arkitekta Square Glasses (£49) are also a bold choice, giving a forceful and stylishly simple look. Like Ru, you will look artistic, yet strong and intelligent too.
Nothing quite says high fashion like a pair of clear frames and season 12 queen, Jackie Cox, really knew how to werk those statement frames. It takes a certain sense of style and confidence to carry off clear frames and such a strong shape, but our Carey Medium Square Glasses in Ice (£115.00), which are handmade in France, will add a touch of quirky sophisticated glamour to any face shape.
Bianca Del Rio
Of course, one of the things that glasses are used for on Drag Race is the iconic library moment, where the queens don a pair of specs and proceed to “read” their fellow queens, using their acerbic and often cutting wit to critique them. As one of the most quick witted queens to ever appear on the show, Bianca Del Rio was a pro at this and her adroit observations and hyperbolic tongue are a huge part of her live shows to this day. She combines her comedy with an exaggerated 50s style and her oversized cat eye glasses are a perfect illustration of this aesthetic. Her diamante trimmed frames could almost be our Betty Cat Eye Glasses in Graduated Black (£16.00), and at such a reasonable price, you could buy them up in all the colours to accessorise different outfits.
The iconic incredible Sasha Velour, winner of season 9 of Drag Race, has a drool worthy collection of the most amazing retro and avant garde glasses I have ever seen. In unbelievable shapes and every hue of the rainbow, she really pulls out all of the stops when it comes to spectacular spectacle style. These red, round glasses make an awesome statement and bear a striking resemblance to our Anglo American Optical '400' Round Glasses in Red (£115.00). This best-selling, lightweight 'Airlite' round frame is from the Anglo American Optical catalogue (see our blogpost on Anglo American here) and is a classic retro 30s style frame.