By Anna Kim
For over a century, the Navy’s medical system offered a certain type of eyewear known as “birth control glasses.” While it’s

not a legitimate form of contraception

, the joke is that they’re hideous to the point where they wouldn't attract anyone romantically.

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What Are Birth Control Glasses?

During basic training, candidates must undergo an eye examination to test their vision and see if they need glasses. If they’re in need of glasses, they’ll be assigned to wear birth control glasses: less-than-attractive specs issued by the military during basic training.

History of Birth Control Glasses

Military birth control glasses can be dated back to 1917 when the U.S. military realized that not every military member would possess perfect vision. In response to this, the Subcommittee of Ophthalmology worked on creating standardized glasses, as before 1917, the military wasn’t required to provide glasses to troops at all. During this time, the Army gave out free eyeglasses to enlisted personnel through a new program. While this program only lasted about a year, the need for standardized eyewear became a concern with World War I raging. In May of 1941, the Medical Department received news that 75 military men had broken glasses and could not afford replacements, while other members had prescriptions but could not afford to buy the actual glasses. Less than a month later, the Medical Department provided eyeglasses, replacements, and repairs to those who needed them.

The Makeup of BCGs

The Army learned that having the frames of the military glasses be made of only 10% nickel silver would cause dermatitis if they came in contact with heat. So, they decided to make the frames 18% nickel silver, instead. At first, the American Optical Co. was chosen as the supplier out of eight other companies. They were to deliver 200,000 pairs of glasses to those who needed them; however, the company failed the production needs, making Bausch and Lomb the suppliers, as they were the only ones who could handle wide-scale production of the glasses. The military’s need for the glasses was underestimated, as in 1943, 250,000 pairs were estimated, while 2,250,000 were later issued. While the glasses were free of charge initially, after 1922, they were no longer free. After World War II, these military-issue glasses were thick-rimmed and had cellulose acetate frames that were black. The wire frames weren’t particularly flattering, and one person even went so far as to say, “They make you so ugly that no one wants to sleep with you.” In the mid-1970s, they were changed to brown, and the lens shape was changed to “S9.”

The New and Improved Glasses

Because the original glasses had thick frames and large lenses, this made them unflattering, meaning there was little chance of someone wearing the birth control glasses attracting romantic partners. The glasses that came after weren’t as bad, as the style was smaller and sleeker with black frames. The 5A frame can be considered an improvement and more stylish than the original birth control glasses. However, the old S9 glasses are still being sold by current eyewear companies, so are they really that bad?

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Image: ftmmagazine




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