The Return of ‘The Me Decade’

By

By ANDREW KARP GROUP EDITOR, LENSES AND TECHNOLOGY

Remember The Me Decade? That famous phrase, coined by novelist Tom Wolfe in a 1976 New York magazine article, aptly described the introspective mood and emphasis on self-awareness that permeated American society and culture in the 1970s.

As we approach the year 2010, the optical industry seems as though it’s about to launch its own “me decade.” This time, though, it’s all about the personalization trend now sweeping through every sector of our industry. Whether it’s frames, lenses, sunwear or diagnostic equipment, the emphasis is on providing customers with options that allow them to personalize their look or enhance their vision. Let’s call it the new introspection.

Walking through the exhibit halls at Vision Expo West, I noticed a number of companies touting products or services offering varying degrees of customization. Several vendors offered frames with interchangeable temples, and one company offered one-of-a-kind, “bespoke” eyewear based on a customer’s head measurements, coloring and facial features.

One sunwear vendor debuted an interchangeable lens system that lets wearers choose a lens to match their activity, and several offered custom clip-ons. All the major spectacle lens makers fielded digitally designed and manufactured free-form lenses that incorporate personalized measurements based on frame fit and facial wrap into the patient’s Rx.

Several manufacturers of lens finishing equipment showed finishing systems that allow for customization of lens shapes. A supplier of diagnostic equipment demonstrated a new system that maps your retina. Talk about personal.

It will be fascinating to see how far the personalization trend will go and to what extent different types of consumers embrace it. Although the new Me Decade is quite different from the previous one, it does bring to mind Burger King’s ’70s ad slogan “Have it your way.” ■

—Andrew Karp
akarp@jobson.com