I can see clearly now the frames are gone… Or are they?

Once reserved only for those with bad eyesight, glasses have risen in popularity to the point where even those with perfect vision are rocking rim frames. But why the sudden adoration?

By Jennifer Hughes

Like many of our generation, I am cursed with bad eyesight. One day, I just woke up and bam, my destiny became facing seventh grade with “Four-Eyes.” I can’t remember what specifically targeted it, but after a numerous amount of days spent squinting at blurry white squiggles on a blackboard I was forced to visit an optometrist. From then on, I spent my first years of high school sitting in the back of every class, nervously glancing each way before shoving a pair of metal frames onto my face.

Bad vision has been around forever, but, back in the day, our ancestors managed to live with it, or not live, as the prehistoric case may be. Luckily, now there are innovations created to rectify or compensate for our poor eyesight, one of these being glasses.

Though the first inventor of traditional eyeglasses is unknown, scholars claim that glasses were first created around the thirteenth century. Before that, the mechanism of magnification began with the use of polished crystals and filled globes of water, which date as far back as 700 BCE.

Since the useful invention of eyewear, various types of lenses have been created to mend a variety of visual impairments. But only in the twentieth century did the various styles of glasses begin to evolve. In the 1950-60’s glasses became the latest fashion accessory in Europe and North America. At that time, they were worn by popular idols such as Marilyn Monroe with her “cats eye” glasses and Buddy Holly, an American singer-songwriter also known for his thick black frames, who encouraged other musicians, including John Lennon, to wear their glasses during performances. From then on glasses became a form of self-expression as well as a way to help restore not-so-perfect eyesight.
“I kind of like the way my glasses look,” Christy Frost, a third semester Literature student, said. “It [wearing glasses] is really easy, I don’t have to fiddle around with contacts and worry about getting infections or dry eyes.”

Nevertheless, what makes glasses so appealing? Why would anyone want to wear them? In our day and age, “glasses are becoming the norm,” Amanda Foti, retail supervisor of Pointe Claire’s LensCrafters said. Though contact lenses and laser eye surgery are out on the market as well, they can be a bit of a hassle and sometimes are not even an option.

“People have stopped wearing contact lenses, glasses are more of a fashion accessory,” Foti said. Influenced largely by media and celebrity fashion, glasses have bloomed in popularity. Open up any fashion magazine and you’re sure to find several of the models staring back at you behind large pairs of rectangular or round glasses. You’ll also see all the latest actors and musicians posing at least once in a trendy pair of eyewear.

“I think they’re flattering,” Sarah Faerstein, a third semester Liberal Arts student, said. “The opinions have changed over the years, but people think they’re stylish now.”

And with the hundreds of designs to choose from these days it’s no wonder glasses are worn by so many people. “I love glasses and the different styles they have,” said Ashlee Holder, a second semester Social Science student who’s been wearing glasses since third grade. “I find that glasses make everyone unique,” she said about the large variety of glasses these days. “People never have the same ones.”

“I find them stylish,” Kevin Poon, a third semester Creative Arts student who’s been wearing non-prescription glasses for close to two years, said. “I’m also subconsciously accepting the fact that I’m going to need to wear prescription glasses in the future because of my excessive use of electronics, so I wear them to get used to wearing glasses.”

Though glasses are considered fashionable these days, they still mark the unmistakable fact that those wearing them usually have bad eyesight. When walking around you usually notice that about one in every ten people you pass are displaying a classy pair of glasses. This only means one thing: most of us are pretty close to blind.

According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists, nearly 80% of all babies are born far-sighted. Though far-sightedness often decreases as we grow, near-sightedness increases and usually fully presents itself before the age of 25.

The first indication of near-sightedness in youth normally arises with the difficulty of reading blackboards at school. Besides genetics, factors that can contribute to bad eyesight include spending too much time staring at a computer or television screen, the bad lighting under which most of us work, stress, and poor nutrition.

Furthermore, to top it all off, bad eyesight has been increasing as the years go by. According to a study done on the visual health of Canadians by Léger Marketing in 2004, 76% of Canadians say they have a problem with their eyesight that has either been diagnosed by an eye professional or not.

In Oct. 2010, Pointe Claire’s LensCrafters sold around 600 units of either frames, lenses or a complete pair of glasses, while in Oct. 2009 they only sold 462 units. “That’s a big difference,” said Maxim Blais, lab technician and eyewear consultant. Greiche & Scaff in Dorval also noticed a 15% increase of people buying glasses within the last ten years.

Though glasses are diffusing rapidly through society and have become part of many people’s everyday lives, they can still present a setback. Like all things, there are cons as well as pros to glasses. “They’re annoying because they get dirty all the time,” said Samantha Gilbert, a third Semester Social Science student. And it’s true. Besides limiting my peripheral vision and storing countless raindrops every time I decide to walk outside during a downpour, glasses lenses have a habit of housing a lot of dirt and dust. They also often become foggy whenever they sense a drastic change in temperature.

In addition, glasses are pretty dangerous in any type of sport. After being faced with either the decision to see things and possibly get glass in the face or not to see anything and not end up in emergency, I decided contacts were the best for sport activities. Regardless of the type of sport, glasses always seem to get in the way. In some cases, glasses are completely impractical and yet so many people still wear them over contact lenses or laser eye surgery.

“I kind of like the way my glasses look,” Christy Frost, a third semester Literature student said. “It [wearing glasses] is really easy, I don’t have to fiddle around with contacts and worry about getting infections or dry eyes.” With wearing glasses there’s no way you can accidentally poke yourself in the eye or risk getting eye infections like with contact lenses and there isn’t the risk of further eye problems like with laser eye surgery, which occasionally doesn’t result with completely restored vision.

They’re a fashion statement. So much so, that even people who don’t need them go to the trouble of wearing them. These days, noticeable amounts of people wear non-prescription glasses. LensCrafters even sell clear-glassed frames. “I find them stylish,” said Kevin Poon, a third semester Creative Arts student who’s been wearing non-prescription glasses for close to two years. “I’m also subconsciously accepting the fact that I’m going to need to wear prescription glasses in the future because of my excessive use of electronics, so I wear them to get used to wearing glasses.”

Could bad vision continue to increase? We hope not, though for now we’ll just take it one pair of glasses at a time.

Thankfully, with the help of popular culture, glasses have become more and more acceptable in our society. They’re easy to deal with, safe outside of soccer or football fields, and fashionable with a growing selection of styles to choose from. And though glasses have their disadvantages, it’s good to see that, “hey Four-Eyes!” is finally being put to rest.

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