Henry Kissinger. Now there’s a guy who knew how to wear a pair of glasses. And the legendary Legend frame he wore was the staple of nearly every optometrist’s office back in the 70s. You could get darn near any eye size from 48 to 60, and any DBL from 14 to 24, and any temple length from 125 to 160. Color choices were brown, sort of brown, black, and sort of black. I am certain that the Legend frame—worn by Mr. Kissinger and every other grown man in the free world during this historical period of time—paid off my optometry school debt.
Oh, sure, you could also get metal frames, gold or silver. Didn’t really matter because within three months, they were green.
When I was a kid, my optometrist used to ask me if I wanted plastic, in brown or black, or metal, in silver or gold. I didn’t even have to try the frame on. It would be just dandy when I picked up my new glasses two to three weeks later.
There were, in those days, no warranties. You broke them? Tough. Scratches? Well, they were all crown glass lenses and only a 10-penny nail in the hands of The Six-Million Dollar Man could do that, so no worries there.
Then came out-of-work designers with nowhere to go, so they entered the frame business. There were frames made of wood. I am serious. You haven’t practiced optometry unless you have tried to convince a patient that he needn’t be concerned about termites eating his glasses. There were frames made of leather. Yes, there were. They were quite popular with the whip-and-chain crowd. There were frames with zero contact with the nose. They looked like a headband with a swimmer’s goggle hanging in front. Very, very attractive.
New metal alloys were created. They still turned green in a couple years though. Then came stainless steel and titanium and optyl plastic and new polymers that did not fade. Somewhere during this renaissance in frame materials that never went bad, someone uttered that devastating query that changed the world… “Can I use my own frames?”
So then we sold one frame every 10 years instead of a frame every year when the old one fell to ashes. Due to improved materials and design, frames got more and more expensive. Patients who were used to spending 25 bucks on a frame every year were shocked to find that frames were now $100.
Patients—and doctors too—began to freak, at least the ones who weren’t freaking already. That’s when someone got the bright idea of discount frames, BOGO, and all the other stupid ideas that belittled the importance of eyewear (and by association eye care). Now, all day long, our patients are told they can get the finest glasses made for 20 bucks. Thanks, and may I say for the record, that’s one huge load of crap and so are the glasses they buy.
Patients want wonderful, comfortable, lightweight, durable, stylish frames. That’s not a problem. Oh, and they want them free. Now it gets tougher. How in the world can they afford important things like soda pop and glasses?
I am one of the few optometrists who actually enjoys messing with glasses. To many of you (and there actually are TOO many of you), glasses are the poor stepchild at the wedding. Mistake! ALL the baby boomers are now officially presbyopic. Those O.D.s who understand glasses will overcome all. Thank you, Mr. Kissinger!