Eyewear Evolution

Yesterday, we talked about how the very first sunglass sighting was a piece of bone with a slit carved lengthwise through it, cobbled up by an Arctic Eskimo tired of glaring sun rays bouncing up from the snow on a bright day. That was more than two thousand years ago, and we didn’t go from a shapeless clunker on our faces (Lady Gaga might disagree!) to sleek chic from great shade collections such as Mykita, Dita, and Thom Browne.

Pince Nez from Rosenborg castle in Copenhagen, worn by royals in the Middle Ages. © Desiree Koh

Pince Nez from Rosenborg castle in Copenhagen, worn by royals in the Middle Ages. © Desiree Koh

Along the way, eyeglasses took on the form of bone-framed rivet spectacles to be dextrously balanced on one’s nose bridge, outer rims with leather straps strung through to be attached to the ears, and lorgnettes, foldable eyewear that could be tucked into their handles. Some were even part of accessories such as fans and gentlemen’s fob chains! It wasn’t until the 20th century that the functionality of eyewear was fully explored, as well as the ergonomics for wearing it throughout the day and night. That is, in a very quick nutshell, is how frames and sunglasses that we know so well today evolved from that Eskimo’s ingenuity – here is a great blueprint for the basic structure of a pair of eyeglasses. Sure, you recognize the structure, but how many parts could you actually name? 8)

We've come a long way in eyewear design, baby - what a ride it's been. © Desiree Koh

We’ve come a long way in eyewear design, baby – what a ride it’s been. © Desiree Koh

From this physiognomy, eyewear is manufactured from machines in countries as far-ranging as China, Taiwan, and South Korea to handcrafted by artisans in France, Japan, and Germany. No matter what shape they take on, this structure is exactly why the astounding varieties of designs and styles are in existence. Which ones work best for your face shape?

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From Then To Eternity

In prehistoric times, during a particularly sunny day on which daylight bounced off snow and into an Eskimo’s eyes, he inventively carved a slit into a piece of bone and strapped the contraption across his face, effectively fashioning the world’s first pair of sunglasses. Prescription spectacles came later. In 1287, a monk named Salvino degli Armati properly invented reading glasses, not coincidentally at the start of the Renaissance period where larger numbers of intelligent classes and professionals meant a greater need to pore over the written word.

The Inuit of the Arctic fashioned the world's first sunglasses from bone more than 2,000 years ago. © Canadian Museum of Civilization

The Inuit of the Arctic fashioned the world’s first sunglasses from bone more than 2,000 years ago. © Canadian Museum of Civilization

These days, optical sightings are much more common, although many visionaries are making extraordinary eyewear that goes beyond helping us see better. Visual artist Victor Hugo, through his Material Memorie collection, transforms sunglasses into costume pieces, flamboyant shades that look at home as part of urban street fashion, but really steal the scene at nightclubs, galas, haute couture runway shows, and other extravaganzas of life. Although he’s creating artifacts few have before, using ethically sourced tribal materials such as animal skulls, bones, and leathers and Swarovski crystals in what he calls a “macabre-luxe” style, his work harkens back to the days of theatrical pomp and flair, where grand entrances were characteristic of larger-than-life actors and life was just a cabaret. Like a traditional artisan, Hugo embellishes and decorates eyewear by hand, with production made to order and taking up to two weeks.

Umbra by Victor Hugo, in the style of "macabre-luxe". © Material Memorie

Umbra by Victor Hugo, in the style of “macabre-luxe”. © Material Memorie

On the other hand, two sleep health researchers from Down Under have invented a solution to help those suffering from interrupted snooze patterns from staying up when we should be in bed. The Retimer looks like part of an Avenger’s superhero costume, and is the Kryptonite to ailments such as jet lag, insomnia, and Seasonal Affective Disorder. Put it on when you need to be awake, and an adjustable green glow mimicking natural sunlight coaxes your brain to keep working instead of shutting down for the day, so circadian rhythms can be regulated back to normalcy. Forget melatonin pills and other drug therapies – all you have to do is don this ergonomic contraption, which can fit over regular eyeglasses, and keep functioning.

Return to bed at your regular time with the Retimer. © Retimer

Return to bed at your regular time with the Retimer. © Retimer