Arts & Life
11:59 am
Mon October 28, 2013

Alabama, Inc.-- What's "Old" is "New" in eyeglasses

What’s the worst pair of eyeglasses you’ve ever worn? The black rimmed type sported by Clark Kent? How about the large red frames made famous by talk show host Sally Jessie Rafael? Others are considered cultural icons, like the gold rimmed specs worn by Beatle John Lennon. Those didn’t come from a fancy boutique. But rather, there were the standard frames available through the British National Health Service. The singer first wore them while acting in the film “How I Won the war.” In a case of what’s old is new, fashion designers who specialize in eyeglass frames are dredging up the “vintage” styles and offering them for sale to present day customers. Dr. Jack Schaeffer says when he first opened his optometry practice, people avoided glasses. So much so that his wife had to talk him into selling spectacles to his patients. Now, time and tastes have changed. “When we first worked with children. I’d say they needed glasses, and they and their parents would cry. They would actually cry,” says Schaeffer. “Now, I see children and I tell them they don’t need glasses and they cry about that.” And, for nostalgia buffs with money to spend, there are frames available dating back a century or more. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was known for wearing gold rimmed glasses. Now, a Los Angeles based company finds original frames of this type, some dating to the 1870’s. Schaeffer Eye Center is the only outlet of the frames in Alabama. “Frames made back in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s. They’re called retrospecs,” says Schaeffer. “It’s a whole company that sells the frames. Except now you’ll pay five hundred dollars for them. They’re gold and hand made.” Schaeffer admits the trend in favor of eyeglasses is a departure from when he first got into the optometry business. Male patients had to make do with maybe ten styles of frames. Now, patients use eyeglasses as fashion statements. “When you look, people of fashion…people who understand, people who travel, know that glasses are the one thing you see everyday,” says Schaeffer. “So, people understand truly that it’s not just about fit, it’s function and form. Form is fashion.” Join me this Wednesday on Alabama, Inc. on Alabama Public Television. I’ll talk to Jack Schaeffer about what got him into the optometry business, and how he bought the idea for his annual charity Crawford boil for a dollar.