What Are Eyeglass Retainers?
While not the most exciting of subjects, the topic of eyeglass retainers is a curious one, especially since there is no corresponding Wikipedia article on it, at least not at the time of this article.
And yet, while there is no Wikipedia article concerning it, a quick search using Google produces an abundant amount of links to stores both online and offline selling said eyeglass retainers.
But the mystery deepens as the term “eyeglass retainer” seems to take on different meaning depending upon which store or shop you visit.
Therefore, the following article aims to take the reader through three different areas of regarding eyeglass retainer knowledge namely:
- The word “retainer” as it applies to eyeglasses
- The history and evolution of eyeglass retainers leading to the manifestation of the different objects sold online
- Popular brand names and the advantages and disadvantages of each kind of eyeglass retainer
The purpose of going into such detail regarding this non-spectacular topic results from the absence of such knowledge on the Internet and the hopes that this article will serve as a reference source for a future Wikipedia article on eyeglass retainers, which is in itself seen as a reference source.
The Word “Retainer” As It Applies To Eyeglasses
Currently, the most common usage of the word “retainer” as it applies to daily living is associated with Orthodontics of which an article in Wikipedia does exist although it is far from exhaustive. We are told that dental retainers are devices made of wires or plastic which are worn to realign the teeth. While there are no official statistics regarding the actual percentage of orthodontic retainer wearers globally, experientially, most of us at one time or another know of someone who has worn them.
And so we take a step back and consult the dictionary in search of a contextual meaning for “retainer” and Merriam-Webster obliges us with the following definition: a device or structure that holds something in place. And naturally, as an example it references dental retainers to illustrate its meaning.
Thus we (referring to those of us who actually wear glasses) slowly start to see how retainers come into play in regards to eyeglasses. Eyeglass retainers hold the glasses in place. Which begs the question: in what way do eyeglasses have to be held in place?
The answer is that with extended wear, eyeglasses tend to slip down our noses and the result is that many of us spend a large proportion of our day pushing up our falling eyeglasses. So much so that it isn’t uncommon to be pushing up one’s glasses at least once every two or three minutes, which easily works out to several hundred times per day if we subtract the sleeping hours.
Now before we proceed, let us allow, that pertaining to falling eyeglasses, we use the term eyeglass to refer to not only prescription lenses with frames, but to mean all such frames and lenses whether common wear or sunglasses, prescription or otherwise.
So pertaining to our first of three discussions: eyeglass retainers are devices which prevent eyeglasses from slipping down your nose.
The History And Evolution Of Eyeglass Retainers Leading To The Manifestation Of Different Objects Sold Online
Any attempt at a relevant history of eyeglass retainers should begin with Cause. As mentioned in the previous section, the need for eyeglass retainers came about because eyeglass wearers found themselves in a very uncomfortable position: their eyeglasses continually slipped down their faces. But why do glasses slip in the first place? Below we list and go briefly into the top twelve reasons:
- Ill-fitted or non-fitted eyeglasses
- Cheap quality glasses
- Deformed eyeglasses
- Abnormal head shape
- Asymmetrical ear to nose distance
- Flat noses
- Lack of nose pads
- Heavy prescriptions
- Paddle temples
- Temple tips
- Oily complexion
Ill-fitted or non-fitted eyeglasses
For those who are able to spend upwards of a thousand dollars on a pair of quality frames, improperly-fitted glasses aren’t a problem. In these instances, a veteran optometrist or eye care professional carefully considers the shape of your head, the placement of left and right ear, and makes adjustments to the frames with special tools and heating apparatus to customize them for your personal comfort. The fitting process often takes about 10-15 minutes and as a result, your eyeglasses sit properly on your head. While such careful fitting does rule out slipping glasses in most situations, individual factors like perspiration and physical activity still cause eyeglasses to slip regardless of how expertly the glasses were fitted in the first place.
Cheap quality glasses
And then there’s the rest of us. Most of us opt for inexpensive glasses, bought from low end stores or possibly online where fitting is either not done properly or not done at all. As a result, eyeglass slipping is prevalent.
Daily wear and tear causes glasses to be deformed especially for kids and teenagers with their rough and tumble modes of existence such as being struck in the glasses with a ball or negligently sitting on one’s glasses. As a result the child corrects any deformities with brute force causing the glasses to be out of shape, but still functional. Otherwise, a parent helps bend the glasses back into shape, either because the process of bringing the glasses to an eyecare professional is too inconvenient or not possible (as in the case with glasses bought online). Either way, the result is the same. Glasses that are deformed and guaranteed to slip.
Abnormal head shape
We’d all like to think that we are perfect and that our skulls are perfectly egg-shaped but the fact is that no two skulls are alike. As a result, standard glasses fit better for some than others. These differences lead to different degrees of eyeglass slipping.
Asymmetrical ear to nose distance
Along the same lines of abnormal head shape, it’s natural to think that the distance from our left ear to our nose is the same distance as our right ear to our nose, but this just isn’t the case. Just as one of arms is longer than the other, one of our eyes is bigger than the other, one of our legs is longer than the other, so it goes that the left ear nose distance and the right ear nose distance isn’t the same. But eyeglass temples (the arms that go over your ears) weren’t built that way. Eyeglass frame manufacturers make glasses as if the world was symmetrical and the degree by which you are asymmetrical determines how much and how often your glasses slip down your face.
Depending on the style of eyeglass frame and type of lens, eyeglasses can be very heavy. This is particularly true of gold-tinted frames from high end brands like Cartier and heavy prescription glass lenses. Of the three areas by which eyeglasses make contact with our heads, namely both ears and nose, it is the nose which bears the majority of eyeglass weight. People with flat noses aren’t able to support the full weight of their glasses and hence suffer from falling eyeglasses to a greater extreme.
Lack of nose pads
Many sports and plastic frames come with bridges which don’t facilitate nose pads for comfort and custom support. Of the four bridge types: keyhole, saddle, double, and adjustable, only the last type offers nose pads for better protection against slipping glasses.
If you have really bad eyesight and you choose glass lenses, then your eyeglasses will be very front heavy. That causes the front to rear ratio to be very high and further leads to eyeglass slipping.
Of the five types of temples, which are the parts of the frames which go over the ears, namely: skull, comfort-cable, riding bow, spring-hinge, and library, those who choose the last expose themselves to the greatest degree of eyeglass slipping because library temple, also known as paddle temples, are straight so they can be put on and removed easily. The ease by which they can be removed is equaled the by ease by which they slip of your nose because they don’t hook and thus wrap around your ears for added stability..
Temple tips are the plastic coating which goes over the temples. This plastic coating is smooth and naturally slippery, more so when oil and sweat come into play creating the foundation for excessively slipping eyeglasses.
It’s a natural fact about human physiology that some people are more glandular than others. Hence, in the heady world of woman’s beauty products there is a whole area of skin care related to suppressing facial oil most commonly through the use blotting or astringent type products. While useful for the T-zone, slipping glasses result from oily skin in the skull area above and behind the ears.
Possibly the single biggest reason for eyeglass slipping is from sweating. Sweating causes the area around your ears and nose to become slippery. In all three areas, points of contact are already marked by slippery surfaces. The plastic temple tips become more slippery when wet, as do the nose pads. Sweating happens to all of us at one time or another, but the problem of slipping glasses is even more profound for Hyperhidrosis sufferers who sweat because they’re nervous which makes them more nervous resulting in a vicious positive feedback loop.
Now that we’ve gotten the cause out of the way, let’s look at the evolutionary development of strategies to deal with slipping eyeglasses from a historical standpoint.
During the 70s and 80s, we saw the rise of eyeglass chains as a preventative measure against eyeglass slipping. Though eyeglass chains have been around much longer than that, their purpose and as a result their usage was much different before this time. Prior to the last several decades, eyeglass chains were used by people to stay connected with their glasses. Older eyeglass wearers wore eyeglass chains so they wouldn’t forget where they put their glasses. The actual mechanism by which the chains attached to your temples was by means of loops at the end of the chain which fit over the temple tips. Imagine a lasso over a fencepost.
With the gradual increase of eyeglass wearers and the need for eyeglass chains, enterprising individuals sought to replace eyeglass chains made of metal with eyeglass cords made with cloth. The overriding reason was of course cost savings. Again, the actual mechanism by which the cords attached to your temples was the same as that used by eyeglass chains, through the use of loops, often made of plastic or cloth at the ends of the cords which fit over the temple tips. Imagine a lasso over a fencepost.
A decade later, saw the ushering in of a new eyeglass anti-slipping device: eyeglass straps. Where chains and cords were primarily available from optometrists and pharmacies, eyeglass straps were also sold in sporting goods stores too, opening up retainers to a larger audience. In time, eyeglass wearers were comforted to know they could enjoy leisurely activities like canoeing, badminton, golfing without the need to buy special goggles or sports glasses. What’s more, eyeglass straps were very cheap to produce given that there were made from rubber derivatives like neoprene. In contrast to the loop style of attachment as seen with chains and cords, both ends of the strap were furnished with drinking straw like enclosures which slipped onto your eyeglass frames.
It is interesting to note that the proliferation of early eyeglass retainers was a direct result of cost savings associated with being able to wear your daily glasses while enjoying recreational activities. Buying prescription sports goggles might cost several hundred dollars while the cost of an eyeglass strap, chain, or cord was in the range of five to ten dollars depending on style and composition.
In the last decade, we saw the development of eyeglass retainer attachments as an alternative to string type eyeglass retainers. Whereas straps, cords, and chains are single piece items, attachments are made of cloth, come in pairs, and slide over the temple tips. There is no intervening rope-like connection between the two temple ends.
Incorporating a completely design philosophy over rope type retainers, temple grips come in pairs and go over each temple. While similar to temple attachments, they differ in shape. Temple grips are basically rubber tubes which slide over the eyeglass temples.
Rope-type retainers saw a bit of comeback recently with the introduction of eyeglass retainer cables. Distinct from past styles, they do not fall on your neck, but stay suspended in the air due to their rigid material composition.
Eyeglass Retainer Hooks
The most current generation of eyeglass retainer, popularized in the last few years, are retainer hooks which are a further development of temple grips utilizing innovation in shape, size, material composition, and discreetness. Whereas temple grips are long tubes, retainer hooks are boomerang or L-shaped. The unique shape helps them go on your eyeglasses easier. What’s more, the hook part fits over your ears as an extra layer of anti-slip prevention. Finally because of design innovation they are compact and come in transparent materials to not draw attention to the wearer.
Popular Brand Names And The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Each Kind Of Eyeglass Retainer
Popular Brands: Moonbabies
Familiarity is the biggest reason to choose an eyeglass chain to prevent glasses from slipping. They’ve literally been around forever and can be found at most eyeglass stores. What’s more, you will never misplace your glasses as they are suspended around your neck by way of your eyeglass chain.
Usually they are more expensive than eyeglass cords or straps. In addition because they are usually associated with an older demographic, young people may feel uncomfortable wearing them from a self-esteem perspective. Furthermore, as noted above, two “onboard” reasons why eyeglasses slip are because they are slippery at the temple tips portion and they are front heavy because of the lenses. While eyeglass chains hold the glasses in place and offer a counterbalance to front heavy balance, they do not really address the issue of slippery temple tips. As a result, eyeglass slipping isn’t effectively dealt with. Furthermore, when glasses are worn, the chain falls on the back of the neck and creates a friction drag effect on clothes thereby rendering eyeglass chains somewhat uncomfortable. Some people stay away from these types of retainers for fear of people coming from behind and pulling on them as a prank or joke.
Popular Brands: Chums
Availability, being cheap and plentiful are some of the biggest reasons to wear eyeglass cords. And just like with eyeglass chains, you will never lose your glasses since they’re hanging around your neck when you’re not wearing them.
Eyeglass cords appeal to an older demographic and are usually out of favor by young people. What’s more, working professionals tend to stay away from this type of eyeglass retainer because it draws attention to the wearer and looks out of place when worn with a business suit. Finally, as with eyeglass chains, the two “onboard” reasons why eyeglasses slip is because they are slippery at the temple tips section and they are front heavy. While eyeglass cords hold the glasses in place and offer a counterbalance to front heavy balance, they do not really address the issue of slippery temple tips. As a result, eyeglass slipping isn’t effectively avoided. Newer generation cords, slip over the entire temple so that the cord is worn over your ears but the cord ends don’t adhere to the temple surface very well. This leads to your glass slipping out of the cord sockets. Again, slipping is not effectively avoided. Furthermore, when glasses are worn, the cord falls on the back of the neck and creates a drag friction effect on clothes thereby rendering them somewhat uncomfortable. Finally, because eyeglass cords are usually made of cloth, they pick up smells originating from human sweat and can quickly become unhygienic requiring frequent washings. Some people stay away from these types of retainers for fear of people coming from behind and pulling on them as a prank or joke.
Popular Brands: Croakies, Chums
Very inexpensive and light-weight. Easy to store, easy to use and remove. Made of neoprene or other “prene” type materials so they don’t absorb smells like cloth does. What’s more, since the strap ends go over the temple tips and over your ears they provide cushioning which is an added benefit when your eyeglasses are really heavy.
Unlike eyeglass chains or cords, straps aren’t ideal for hanging your glasses on your neck. If you tried that chances are they’d fall out of the strap sockets. What’s more, working professionals tend to stay away from this type of eyeglass retainer because it draws attention to the wearer and looks out of place when worn with a business suit. About material composition, neoprene on temple plastic doesn’t create enough friction so although the strap ends which are in contact with your ears don’t slip, the temples might and usually do slip from within the sockets of the strap ends. Later generations have tried to deal with this problem using rubber strap ends. Finally, as the strap lies on your neck when your glasses are worn, a drag effect is created when the straps make contact with your shirt collar or clothes. This restricts movement and can be irksome. Once again as with other string-type retainers, some people stay away from eyeglass straps for fear of people coming from behind and pulling on them as a prank or joke.
Popular Brands: Wedgees
Very affordable and easy to use. Temple attachment are made of cloth and resemble mini-oven mitts you slip over the temples of your glasses.
Because they are made of cloth, they tend to absorb sweat and odors and require frequent washing (daily) which quickly frays the material causing deterioration.
Popular Brands: Templegrips
Very inexpensive. Good anti-slipping device as once in place they provide a non-slippery surface contact with your ears.
Because temple grips are basically long rubber tubes, it is sometimes a little difficult to put them on. You basically have to run the entire rubber length over your temple ends and this becomes a problem because of the friction involved.
Popular Brands: Cablz, Croakies
Newer generation technology based on rope type eyewear retainer designs, they look fashionable and futuristic. Has two socket ends which slide over temples for snugness. Doesn’t sit on neck so there is no restriction of movement. High-durability since they are made of surgical steel.
Prices are double compared to most other retainers. Also very noticeable so definitely not an option for business or formal occasions. Some people stay away from these types of retainers for fear of people coming from behind and pulling on them as a prank or joke.
Eyeglass Retainer Hooks
Popular Brands: Keepons
Very inexpensive, eyeglass retainer hooks attach easily by sliding onto your eyeglass temples. They have a hollow aperture which is shorter in length compared to temple grips, making them much easier to attach. The top portion of the rubber hook makes contact with your ears and won’t slip even when your head is sweaty. The bottom portion of the retainer wraps around your ears for better fit and hook functioning, a feature lacking on temple grips which are tube shaped and not L-hook shaped. What’s more, because most retainer hooks are compact and transparent, it is difficult for people to notice you’re wearing them making them ideal for all occasions especially business or formal settings.
Unlike eyeglass chains, cords, straps, and cables, eyeglass retainer hooks do not allow you the convenience of hanging your glasses off your neck.
While definitely not the stuff of page-turning thrillers, eyeglass retainers have a long and rich social and economic history as it relates to man’s struggle against the discomfort of slipping glasses. Take it away, Wikipedia!