Now that they’ve been around for nearly two decades, New Year’s novelty fashion frames have become as integral a part of the annual December 31st festivities as watching the Times Square ball drop.
The New Year’s glasses date back to 1991 when two Seattle musicians conceived of and patented the idea and began selling the frames in Times Square each year on the big night. Since then, there has been an explosion of copycats, making slight tweaks to the entrepreneurs’ original idea, but the year 2011 presented a daunting challenge to all of them. For the first time, the numbers in the year, 2011, don’t present two obvious places for eyeholes.
The robust novelty eyewear industry isn’t dominated by one company and it doesn’t have any design standardization, so each company selling the glasses tackled the challenge of the lack of loopy letters in its own way. Throughout the 90’s and the 00’s, revelers around the world sipped champagne while peering through the double 9’s and 0’s of their new years glasses. Even 2010 had two zeroes, though they were not as optimally spaced.
This year, some designers have stuck the eyehole in the center of one of the ones, while others have nestled it between the ones, or between the zero and the first one. Some of these efforts are far less aesthetically appealing, but there seems to be an unspoken consensus that moving the numbers of the year above the eyeholes completely would wreck the appeal of the glasses.
The Wall Street Journal chronicled the ways that folks in the new years glasses industry have been dealing with the problem and Pat Shea, the general manager of an online novelty sunglasses store, told the paper she thinks the design challenge of the year 2011 is more blessing than curse. It could infuse the industry with some creativity and inspire people celebrating New Year’s Eve to choose some funkier eyewear.