Ben Marks of Collectors weekly says: "Next Tuesday, for one day only, Google Glass will be available for purchase by the great unwashed masses, which means anyone with 1,500 bucks will have a chance to be a glasshole. To mark this momentous occasion, we spoke to Steve Brown from Intel, David Maidment of ARM, Matthew Woolsey of Barneys, and Jim Wolf of Heritage Auctions about the past, present, and future of wearable technologies, and whether consumers will ultimately make their decisions about Pebbles, Fitbits, and Jawbones based on the functionality of these devices or simply whether they are considered fashionable."
A self-described futurist, Brown looks backward when tackling the fashion-versus-function question. "Wearables are not new," he says flatly. "What is new is that wearables are now smart and connected. That's what's different about them. But people have worn wearable technology—whether it was a sword and shield, a suit of armor, a chatelaine, or a crucifix—for millennia. And they have always been about more than just the utility they provide. A piece of armor, for example, doesn't just protect you in battle. It also conveys something about your status and who you are. They were fairly ornate pieces of art."
More recently, in the late 19th century, another ornate wearable technology emerged in the form of the wristwatch. "The first target audience for wristwatches in the late 19th century was women," says Jim Wolf, who is the director of Watches and Fine Timepieces at Heritage Auctions. The first wristwatch was a Patek Philippe, made in 1868 and sold to Countess Koscowicz of Hungary in 1876. Soon, women of means across Europe wanted a wristwatch of their own. "The reason behind its popularity was fashion," Wolf says. "Ladies wristwatches were small, delicate, and could be worn on the wrist without a problem. It was really a dress piece of jewelry, like a bracelet."
Men favored pocket watches. "In the early 1900s, there was a stigma in the eyes of men about wristwatches. They didn't believe the small timepiece in a wristwatch could be as accurate as a large pocket watch, and the precision of a timekeeping device was important to them. The only reason to have a watch was to be punctual. Also, because of the popularity of ladies wristwatches, some men considered it effeminate to wear a watch on the wrist."