Eyewear is by all means a necessity and a frill at the same time, but when it comes to quirky facts about it, can you think of any interesting pieces of information that is worth knowing? If you do… well, lucky you I have dug out a few interesting facts about the so-beloved spectacles.
Eyewear has undergone quite a few transformations since its inception and it’s still evolving
Back in the day, around 1000 AD, the so-called reading stone, which represented a hemispherical lens, was first used as a reading-facilitating tool. It was quite simple, if we look at it from our modern, ultra tech point of view, but it did the job. The reading stone went on to take a more sophisticated shape and led to the invention of the first spectacles in the 13th century.
Interestingly enough, the first sunglasses are believed to have been used by judges in China at some point in the 12th century in order to conceal their emotions during court proceedings. These sunglasses were made from flat panes of smoky quartz and their one and only function was to hide (unlike the Ray Ban’s slogan).
You might wonder who came up with the idea of glasses and their country of origin. According to various sources, it’s all about the “Made in Italy” type of thing, and this happened in the late 13th century. As to the inventor, this is a bit more obscure and perhaps controversial, but there are a few names out there, among which are Salvino d’Armate and Giordano da Pisa.
However, slowly but surely, we’re approaching our post-modern era in terms of eyewear. Not long ago, more precisely in 1929, Sam Foster started to produce sunglasses which set off the new trend in the US. Polarised sunglasses, however, came into existence in 1936 thanks to the gifted Edwin H. Land who started to experiment with making lenses with his patented Polaroid filter. I am not going to elaborate on the purely technical aspect of the previously mentioned contraption, instead what deserves to be mentioned is the social role of our shades.
As we know, not only do sunglasses protect, but they boost our confidence, make us more attractive and last but not least, conceal our feelings and emotions (somehow those Chinese judges were very right). Given that the eyes are the window to the soul, and apparently this has been scientifically proven by a handful of scientists at the Orebro University in Sweden whose finding boldly links the traits of personality to the iris structure, it seems logical, or at least useful, to disguise them when we want to.
A few examples, taken out of everyday life, come to mind – nightlife lovers, party animals and chronic ravers hide their bloodshot, tired eyes behind dark lenses, flustered young teenagers use them as confidence boosters or sometimes worse, disguise drunken misfortunes with a pair of shades (although, to be fair, this sort of attitude might draw unnecessary attention rather than diverting it).
It goes without saying that celebrities and sunglasses get on like house on fire, conveying a message of (un)wanted aloofness and/or poshness. So, whatever your intentions are, besides traditional eye protection, you need a pair of decent sunglasses (or two for the fashionistas). Sunglasses can have also important health-related applications such as allowing doctors to make more precise diagnosis, in the case of the O2Amp sunglasses, or the smart sunglasses.
From a very social perspective, sunglasses are undoubtedly associated with leisure, sunny holidays, dolce far-niente, summer parties and festivals. This perception made me want to have a look at any sunglasses related social media representations. I came across some 11 million images under the #sunglasses on Instagram, which is quite impressive. It’s all out there, so taking a few selfies with your shades on is clearly a summer must. Honestly, you can’t go wrong!
Another impressive fact is the UK Plano sunglasses market was estimated at €121.9m in 2009 and 95.9 million pairs were sold in the US alone in 2012. You can confidently deduce that the eyewear industry is colossal in terms of market value, social representations and fashion designs e.g premium, mid-market and mass market sunglasses.
To sum up, what’s outlined above and metaphorically peeps into the history of the eyewear, so much more can be added and that’s where “behind the specs” becomes meaningful, diverse and fun.