What people want from their eyeglasses?

First and foremost, it’s about good vision,right? Or at least it used to be.  Before we get into that, a little history is in order.

Beginning in the early 1900′s, eyewear – aka eyeglasses – had just completed a  paradigm shift. For the preceding 400 years, it was primarily a hand-crafted artifact, with frames made from natural materials, such as leather, bone, wood and shell. With the arrival of the 20th century, frames beginning to be mass-manufactured alloys. The efficiencies realized from mass production lowered frame cost substantially, making them much more affordable for the common man. Lenses were simple curved affairs, often being simply punched out of sheets of “float” glass which had been heated and “slumped” to approximate the target cure desired. With cheap lenses and cheaper mass-produced frames, the democratization of eyewear had begun.

Around 1920, scientific glass firms, with legacy names such as Bausch & Lomb and Carl Zeiss, began for the first time to apply  optical calculations in the design of eyeglass lenses. Although the resulting  products were of a quality and clarity the world had never before seen, the cheaper choices still remained quite popular, as people either felt the best lenses were too expensive  (10x more!), or that the less expensive choices were “adequate” enough for their needs and pocketbook.

In the ensuing years, by the mid 1930′s, frame  styling began to transition away from  simple and symmetrical round, oval and hexagonal shapes. Meanwhile,  materials also moved away from metal and toward the then new-angled plastic materials, such as Bakeolite. With the arrival  of plastic frames came another paradigm shift and market driver: Fashion! As with cars and clothing, new and novel styles made having new frames a marker for prestige, power and wealth. And mass manufacturing was more than happy to copy the trendy new blocky styles and knock them off for a lower price.

Fat forward to today: with newer and premium  “digitally-enhanced” lenses entering the eyewear market, once again a significantly-tiered price offering exists for lenses. Adequate at the bottom, better in the middle, and truly fantastic at the top. Meanwhile,frame styling is being driven harder than ever by the fashion houses, who continue to license their names and create eyewear fashion that is directly influenced by their current styling portfolio.

At the same time, cheaper look-alike models are showing up by the thousands, drive by both consumer preference and the monster democratized of all: The Internet.

So what does this all have to do with what a consumers wants from their eyewear? Plenty. Because cost is fast trying to transform eyewear from a custom measured, custom made item of vision correction and facial apparel to a base commodity. Optimally done, eyewear is not a commodity any more than you are.

Certainly the low prices trumpeted by both mass merchants and online vendors have appeal.  In fact, they can appear so low that consumers tend to doubt whether their glasses can be good for their eyes while simultaneously rationalizing the low price with a ” how can I go wrong” attitude.

But I’m not here to bash low-priced eyewear. I’m here to tell you that when you desire the finest quality digital lenses, frames, service, and fit, you’ll always find a friend and a warm welcome at Long Island Opticians.

It’s your choice. It’s your eyes. Choose wisely.