Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
Thursday, 23 December, 1999, 14:53 GMT
Tony Blair focuses on his new look

Prime minister Tony Blair kept his new spectacles a secret from the world for nearly three months, nervous of what people might say.

From young children, scared of playground taunts, to adults tentative about launching their new look on the world, it is a feeling many will have gone through.

Margaret Thatcher's eyes have it
Mr Blair told Woman's Own: "I have been feeling self-conscious just because it's a change. The trouble is you're in the public eye and all your changes have to be made in public."

"I'm just another 40-something bloke who's discovered he needs glasses. [Age is] all it is really, isn't it," he said.

His reluctance to show off his specs is an attitude which would probably draw short shrift from the "people's poet", John Hegley. Famed for writing about dogs, vegetables and glasses, he has long maintained that people should be proud to flaunt their four-eyes.

Paddy Ashdown goes over the top
Hegley, one of whose anthologies is called Glad to Wear Glasses, thinks of contact lens wearers as nothing less than traitors.

But it seems Mr Blair is hardly alone in feeling self-conscious. Research for Boots Opticians has shown that many over-40s suffered a crisis in confidence because of their deteriorating eye-sight.

The reason - pinpointed by the prime minister - was a feeling that they were getting old.

Liz Kitchiner, the company's image consultant, said wearing glasses was actually an opportunity to enhance your look.

Lack of confidence when wearing specs (national average
Having photo taken - 29%
Special occasions - 21%
Out on a date - 19%
"Glasses are a really hot fashion accessory at the moment, and the design you wear can say a lot about you, so take your time when choosing your frames and take along a friend whose judgement you trust," she said.

Lack of confidence when wearing specs (45-54 age group)
Having photo taken - 36%
Special occasions - 27%
Out on a date - 27%
And the verdict of at least one expert was that Mr Blair should not have worried. Marilyn Taylor, a former optician and now a consultant with image advisers Color Me Beautiful, said she thought his new specs suited him just fine.

"I like them," she said. "I think they suit his bone structure and his facial features altogether. They are fashion forward, quite trendy," she said.

Neil Kinnock takes a good look
She said he had "quite fine features" and an oval face - the kind of face which would suit most types of specs.

But being the leader of an presentation-obsessed government, the impact on his image must surely have been considered.

Again, Ms Taylor says Mr Blair had nothing to worry about. "They make him look younger and I think because he deals with all ages, from young people in schools, it's important he comes across like that."

John Major's eyes wide shut
It was also quite a European style of frame he had chosen, she said, into which all sorts of thing might be read.

"I'm glad he hasn't gone for the John Major purely library, tortoise shell type of thing. This is much better for him."

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

Spex appeal
What do glasses say about a person?

See also:
23 Dec 99 |  Health
Eyesight: The effect of age
Links to other UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories