Welcome to our blog!

We authors, Kuan Peng, Sarah Roach, Griselda Arzate thank you for visiting our blog, The 11th Item: Soft Contact Glasses today!

This blog will give you a good understanding of contact lenses’ history, but is focused on how its design and functionality helped to transform society!

Note: it’s best to watch this on HD!

In addition, due to the large amount of content that is available on this website, we ask you take some time to browse through the website in this order. Of course, each article on this blog can be read independently of one another (as blog posts should be), but we hope to highlight several topics of interest. You can refer to the direction tab on the top menu for this anytime. Enjoy!


The introductory information on contacts will be a short refresher and small fact crunch. Visit it here.

Before you dive into the meat of our contents, you might want to take a look at each author’s perspective, here.

So what are the influences of contacts on our society? We explore this through contemporary media, and having some of the analytic skills from our class might be helpful! See here.

We can’t possibly explore contacts without considering its counter part, glasses. See detailed analysis here!

Monocular are no longer worn. Will contacts or glasses go out of fashion in 10 years? Check out this vision of the future while it’s hot!

And finally, here are the sources we referred to, if you wish to read even more!


Gateway to the world

Having grown up in an extreme academic environment in China during my first three years of elementary school, my parents has always been worried about my eyesight, and they were adamant about not buying me video games, making sure I only did work under well-lighted environments. Yet, despite all their efforts, I developed a mild myopia similar to my mom around 7th grade, and got a prescription glasses to wear.

I’ve had an interesting relationship with the several pairs of glasses that I went through the years (and for some reason they keeps breaking…). When I first got glasses, I tried my best to not wear them, and I would always take them off when engaging in work that I can see with my bare eyes, such as using computers and homework. But as my prescription went up, it became harder and harder to use glasses that way, and eventually they became permanent accessories on my face.

It was during my junior year in a creative writing class that made me rethink of my relationship with my glasses. I was trying to write a poem about an everyday object, and I realized as I was writing that my glasses were not simply tools to adjust my vision. I felt much more connected to the real world when I had my glasses on. When I took them off, I felt more absorbed into my own world. Even nowadays, whenever I sit down and try to take introspective look on my goals and progress in life, I would often take off my contacts or glasses to focus on who I am.

I got my contact lenses my prior to my senior season in my high school baseball team, when I played second base in the varsity team. I found contacts much more convenient because I no longer had to make sure they stayed on top of my nose. They made me feel like I belonged on field, even if they didn’t do much to influence my skill. When I think back to these times, I think having the right equipment really boosted my confidence and had shaped some part of my performance. Nowadays, I wear contacts for formal occasions, but I’m often too lazy to actually wear them, because the large amount of time I spend in front of my laptop screen really makes my eyes uncomfortable for some unknown reason.

I am really excited for the increased role contacts and glasses could possibly take in our lives with the advance of technology, as that would only add to my personal definition of eyewear as my gateway to the world, be it real or digital.  

A Brief History of Eyeglasses

Correction of Optical Defects: From Spectacles to Lasers – Professor William Ayliffe

Professor William Ayliffe, from Gresham College, is one of the world’s leading experts on the history and evolution of spectacles. He dates the use of magnifying lenses, the precursors of eyeglasses, to the times of Troy. According to Ayliffe, magnifying lenses were used for reading purposes and it is impossible to know where exactly where this idea originated. Spectacles, therefore, are nearly impossible to track to an exact date. It’s believed that the first pair of spectacles were created between 1268 and 1289 during the time when Roman priest Friar Giordano de Pisa refers to their creator during a sermon. It’s believed that this Roman priest was part of the same monastery as the unknown man who first created spectacles in Pisa, Italy. From his monastery, the idea of glasses was exported throughout Europe.

Early glasses were made of quartz and were usually held together using bone, leather, or metal. Additionally, they were either in the form of scissors that were held by a pinching above the nose or they were manually upheld, two options that caused people a lot of frustration. It was not until Benjamin Franklin invented the bifocals that glasses began taking their modern-day shape.

Analyzing Glasses and Modern Culture: Literature

Eyeglasses in modern culture have also served as symbols in literary works. For example, in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Piggy’s glasses play an essential part in the boys’ journey on the deserted island. Golding’s novel revolves around a group of stranded boys who find themselves alone on a tropical island. Piggy, arguably the most important character in the novel, is a short and stalky boy who wears glasses. While half of the boys are quick to assimilate to the savage, unruly life in the jungle, the other half attempts to remain civilized. As the story unfolds, more and more boys become barbarous and eventually begin killing one another because they’re overtaken with a wild spirit. One of the most important themes in Golding’s novel is the inability of the boys to recreate a civilized, orderly way of life on the deserted island, and how this is parallel to the chaos that erupts in the “real” world.


Many literary scholars believe that Piggy’s eyeglasses also reflect the deterioration of humanity on the island. Piggy’s glasses are used in order to spark a fire using the sun so they can send a smoke signal for rescue. Therefore, many people conclude that his glasses and civilization are one in the same. From the time a lens is punched out of the frame to when Piggy is killed and his glasses stolen, the piece of eyewear is a parallel to how untamed the boys become by the end of the novel.


Piggy represents the voice of reason and logic, but only when he has his glasses. As time goes on, the boys realize what an important commodity the glasses are; the owner of the glasses has the power to start fires and command attention.


It’s interesting to note how glasses are portrayed in literary works. People with glasses are seen as logical and rational and glasses are coveted because of their science (in this case, they can spark fires to cook raw meat and send rescue signals). Companies sell glasses by promoting them as being fashionable and adding to one’s self image, Golding’s book portrays them in a new light.  

Griselda’s Experience with Eyeglasses

When I was in the 8th grade I was given the most exciting news to date: I was going to need braces and glasses. That year I was tested for a prescription, fitted for a frame, and adorned with a complete set of bottom and top braces; to say that I thought I was “cool” is an understatement. All my friends had braces and, naturally, I wanted them as well. But not as many of my friends had glasses, so when I showed up to school with them I was the center of attention and I loved it.

I’m a sophomore in college and I still wear the same pair of glasses I bought seven years ago. I remember thinking that I had to pick a pair that would make me look intelligent yet sophisticated. I’m possibly the worst decision maker, so picking a frame was no easy task. I tried frame after frame and kept apologizing to the optometrist that was clearly getting frustrated with my lack of decisiveness. I went from colored circular frames, to metal shiny frames, and finally settled for a traditional black, rectangular frame.

Besides generating a lot of attention at school, I was shocked to realize how much easier it was to see the whiteboard in my classes. How had I been able to focus or do well in class if I couldn’t even see what was written on the board? Even when I wasn’t in class I struggled to see objects and people at a distance, sometimes straining my eyes in order to clearly see. Now that I’m in college, I still only use my pair of glasses, although it’s becoming clear to me that I need to get contacts because they’re more practical. I still only wear my glasses in lecture, but I could benefit from using them while riding my bike throughout campus or while playing lacrosse for the club lacrosse team. While I’m biking I tend to squint and strain my eyes in order to clearly see other bikers. When I walk through a dining hall I have a hard time seeing the food selection without getting relatively close to the items.  While I know that wearing my glasses will help me from straining my eyes, I’d rather not wear them outside of the classroom because they obstruct daily activities. I only wear them outside of class, for example, when they go well with the particular outfit I’m wearing that day. Otherwise, my glasses are kept in my backpack until lecture.

I’ve thought about getting contacts several times. I’ve even called my optometrist and made an appointment to discuss them, but canceled last minute because I decided that I could put them off for a bit longer. Truth is, my life would benefit exponentially from wearing contacts. I could play lacrosse without having to work hard to see the ball and I could bike and walk without worrying if I’m going to crash in something. I love my glasses, but it’s a hassle having to pull them up every couple of seconds when they slip off of the tip of my nose. While I think that my glasses have become an essential part of me and even reflect my personality, perhaps it’s time to make my life easier by getting contact lenses. 

Analyzing Glasses and Modern Culture: Video Advertisements

Visionworks A Better You TV Commercial

Television commercials are an important form of advertisements. A 2012 television commercial from Visionworks, an eyewear company that provides glasses and contact lenses to men and women throughout the U.S., describes choosing a pair of glasses as “personal.” It claims that while glasses help improve vision, they also boost “confidence” and are “an extension of [one’s] personality.” Additionally, the commercial ensures that if you buy glasses through Visionworks, then you will also undoubtedly leave with “a better you.” For a commercial about glasses that is less than a minute long, this video makes a lot of claims and promises to people who are shopping for glasses. People in the video range in age, race, gender, and are portrayed in various setting so as to promote the versatility of the glasses. They range in emotions; some are serious, some are cheery, and some are silly. This additional dimension helps add to the overall message of the video that glasses are not just a solution to poor vision, but an expression of oneself.

Analyzing Glasses and Modern Culture: Print Advertisements

Advertisements of eyewear has change alongside the evolution of glasses themselves. in this 1912 ad for eyeglasses, the glasses are being promote for their “minimalistic look.” this advertisement is important to the evolution of glasses in popular culture because it shoes that eyeglasses were mainly advertised for their practicality and convenience. Whereas people in the early 1900s wanted glasses that were subtle and understated, people in the 21st century prefer bigger and more flamboyant glasses. 



Today, advertisements are characterized by their boldness and fashion. For example, the advertisements below from the Tom Ford eyewear line focus on sexuality and style. In the advertisement with the topless woman and sitting man, it’s interesting to note that the eyeglasses are at the same level as the woman’s breasts and thereby sexualizing eyewear. Additionally, the male is dressed in chic, refined clothing, which adds to the fact that glasses are now deliberately worn in order to add to a wardrobe or specific look. This advertisement, unlike the one from the 1920s, is focused less on practicality of eyeglasses and more on the fashion of them. Instead of promoting glasses that are subtle and comfortable, this Tom Ford advertisement is selling sex and fashion, two things that are increasingly put together in order to sell merchandise.



The advertisement below is also from a Tom Ford line of eyewear, but instead of sexualizing glasses, this advertisement focuses on the elegance of glasses. The young man is well-dressed and well-groomed; he’s wearing a clean white suit sitted with a button-down shirt, tie and handkerchief. He’s stylish yet looks incredibly intelligent with his Tom Ford glasses. Though these glasses look simple and pragmatic, this advertisement suggests that they are anything but those things; the model in this print advertisement is aloof and extremely fashionable. 



It’s interesting to compare eyewear advertisements from the past and the present because it has changed in order to accommodate what people demand. While in the past people may have thought that glasses were nerdy and anything but chic, today people look to make a statement with the piece of metal or plastic that balances on the top of their noses. Eyewear is no longer about seeing properly, but rather about standing out and attracting attention. 




Analyzing Glasses and Modern Culture: Magazines and Newspapers

While people may have considered eyeglasses a handicap in the past, today glasses are an essential part of self-expression. For instance, glasses are increasingly becoming an indispensable aspect of the fashion industry. Top-tier magazines and newspapers are publishing articles on the how-to of glasses; from how to pick the perfect frame to how eyeglass demographics are changing.

It’s obvious that a topic like the evolution of eyewear is interesting to readers if such popular magazines, like GQ Magazine, write articles about how to pick the perfect frame. On GQ’s website there is a featured articled called, “Get Framed! A GQ Guide to Glasses.” The guide includes advice like:

“As Always, Fit Is Everything

1. Your glasses should be about the same width as your face—no wider, no narrower. And the top of your frames should hit at your eyebrows.

2. If your favorite pair of glasses isn’t fitting at the nose bridge, top-shelf eyewear stores can, in some cases, add plastic or silicone pads.

3. Get your glasses serviced once a year. The shop will tighten the screws, buff scratches from the plastic, and refit them to your face.

4. Shell out for good lenses. Thin, antireflective lenses are pricey, but they’re lighter, more comfortable, and worth it.”

It is interesting that people are looking to fashion magazines for advice on spectacles, instead of deciding based on personal preferences or based on advice from their optometrist. The feature also presents interviews with fashion designers, eyewear customers, and numerous celebrities. When designer Robert Geller was asked why he decided to include glasses in his clothing line, he said, “They say a lot about a man’s character, and I thought they helped complete the look of the collection” (Get Framed! A GQ Guide to Glasses). More and more designers are including eyewear as part of their accessories collection because people are demanding eyewear options.

According to an L.A. Times article—“Eyeglasses a new fashion essential?”—glasses have gone from a “nerd necessity” to “chic accessory” (Tschorn). The same article related eyewear to a beautiful jewelry piece in a clothing collection; they have become an essential aspect of any wardrobe. Designers, the article says, also find it easier to promote an eyewear line because the brand name or brand logo is always found on the side of the frame, making it easy for people to see frames they like and go buy the exact same ones.


Another interesting aspect of the current eyewear trends is that people who don’t need prescription glasses wear glasses as a fashion statement. Half of American that do not wear glasses (19.2% of people) said that they have worn glasses “without a prescription to be fashionable” (Tschorn). According to an article in the New York Times, people buy glasses without prescription lenses to “create an image” (Nelson). The article goes on to say that there are so many people wearing glasses to date that it seems “as if contacts were never invented” (Nelson). Whether a fashionistas thinks glasses make an outfit look chic, bold, ‘edgey,’ or cool, glasses have come back with a vengeance; they have completely taken over runway shows and fashion magazines.

While some people believe that the eyewear trend will disappear just as trends like shoulder pads and leg warmers did (Black), others believe that glasses are and will always be an essential part of one’s self-expression.

What if contacts were never invented??

For all the athletes all there, this would be an extremely dire situation. A study from the Pacific University indicates that as many as 78% of athletes uses some sort of contact lenses to help with their vision. Indeed, this statistic is very natural considering that this is one area that contact lenses hold absolute advantage to glasses. This table details some of the advantages and disadvantages.

Eyeglasses Contact Lenses
The distance between your eye and the lens sometimes creates distortion. This could spell trouble for athletes. Worn right on the eye, for more natural vision.
Poor peripheral (side) vision. Again, trouble for athletes. Your entire field of view is in focus. This is especially important in sports and in driving, where you need to see as much around you as possible.
Glasses fog up with changes in temperature, especially common with athlete’s breathing. Contacts don’t fog up.
Glasses are a distraction during games and sports. Athletes need to make sure they don’t fall, as well as to protect them from getting hit. No distractions, which makes contact lenses a favorite among athletes.
Fashionable and inexpensive non-prescription sunglasses are not an option if you wear eyeglasses. A whole wardrobe of fashionable, functional, affordable sunglasses is available to contact lens wearers.

Contacts hold similar advantages in the fashion industry, as many articles on this website have already detailed: the option to customize your appearance as you wish. However, this article aims to focus not only on the immediate advantages contacts over glasses, but the overarching societal effects of contact lenses since its creation.

No Contacts? Nerd Nation No More.

The Stanford Cardinal Football team defeated UCLA Bruins on November 30th, becoming the PAC-12 Champion, defying all prediction by sport analysts, and earning itself the title “Nerd Nation,” establishing itself as the athletic and educational powerhouse in the nation.

– Stanford Cardinal Tight End, Zach Ertz

What does this have anything to do at all with contacts, you ask?

A lot more than anyone thinks.

There is a trend in the United States that people are not quite aware of: Myopia (also known as nearsightedness) is on the rise. Susan Vitale compared the prevalence of myopia 1971-1972 to 1999-2004 in the journal Ophthalmology, and found that the estimated prevalence of myopia in persons aged 12 to 54 years was significantly higher in 1999 to 2004, with a 16.6% increase (41.6% vs 25.0%, respectively). This trend is even more apparent in countries known for their extreme academic rigor, such as China, which reports an astounding 77.3% myopia rate among high school students, and even higher rates among college students. Students are studying harder and getting smarter (as can be shown by the decreasing acceptance rate at elite colleges), but they are also bearing much bigger burden: Myopia.

Yet despite this increase, there is no impression among the general population that this happening, nor a perception that the nation is getting “nerdier.” Indeed, if you took a close look at recent trends of college admission, there is an trend among elite colleges to look beyond test scores and at the well-roundedness of the candidates, and the importance of being a scholar-athlete has been under increasing focus.

Just as there is a growing trend for colleges stress the athletic qualities of its scholars, there has also been a push by athletic programs to help their athletes to be more academic, as demonstrated by the following ad from NCAA.

How can contact lenses help explain this phenomenon?

It promotes students to become athletic and athletes more academic. Through its ease of use and other numerous advantages over glasses, contacts facilitates the transition for an near-sighted students to participate in a sport, whereas they may not have done so with glasses. It also helps existing athletes to focus on their studies, as they do not have worry about if their vision becomes impaired as the result of intensive studying. And most importantly, contacts gives athletes and students alike the illusion that they are fully healthy, in terms of vision. While glasses often gives off the image of nerdy individual, contacts completely eliminates that perception and puts everyone on the same board. This helps athletes to perform better and also protects them from Stereotype Threat, a psychological inhibition that could act against glasses-wearing athletes.

In essence, if contacts were not created, the emphasis we see today on becoming a well-rounded individual may not be as strong, as suggested by the importance of contacts in increasing importance of students athletes. Indeed, without contacts, we may have an increasing separation between the student and the athlete that could not simply damage the future of Stanford’s Rose Bowl hopes, but also sports industries everywhere.

Got swag? Hell yea

The other one of contact lenses’ significant contribution to our society comes in terms of fashion. Many of the individuals whom we interviewed felt more confident with their contacts. Indeed, one participant explained that she only took pictures of herself with contacts, even though she wears glasses most of the time.

This suggests that people treat their contacts as much more than concave plastic lenses that let them see better and look better. People uses contacts to channel a different self to others that they would normally show with their glasses. Furthermore, unlike glasses, which has only limited fashion compatibility, contacts can be paired with any kind of clothing, and colored contacts gives people even more of an option to express themselves differently. In a sense, contact lenses are a very important part of the Reset Button for many students who wishes to present a more attractive image of themselves (than the reserved, nerdy image their glasses lend to) to others.

Alternative Scenarios, then?

What could take place of contacts if they were never invented?

The glasses industry would certainly be larger, and the arrival of “fashionable eyewear” could have been quickened by at least several years. Another alternative to contacts is eye surgery, the most popular of which is Lasik surgery. It is very possible that these kind of surgery to completely cure a patient of myopia may become the standard procedure for optometrists, as contacts is now. However, there may further consequences if this was the case. While contact lenses and surgery both serves as ways to change one’s identity (or at least appearance), contacts do so as an simple accessory while surgery makes explicit changes to our body. As small of a difference this may seem, contacts reinforce the idea of self-integrity, surgery discards this altogether and allows people to change their anatomical self. If prevalence of such technology became dominant, it is possible that it could change the way people view body modification, just as contacts changed the way people viewed “nerds” and athletes. Indeed, such views would drive more people to have plastic surgery and to accept engineered beauty, and it wouldn’t be far down the road for genetic modification to become commonplace. While this may be an attractive road for many individuals, but this is certainly not an utopian vision for many of us.