As someone who has suffered poor vision from the age of 15, long and painful battles with ‘hard’ contact lenses in the 1970’s, a truly embarrassing selection of glasses choices (many photos have been destroyed), and the discovery of cataracts at the rather early age of 46, when it comes to my eyesight I am careful about who I entrust the care of my peepers to.
I admit, I did once try out one of the national high street opticians, simply because it was through a voucher scheme offered by my employer at the time. Now these establishments may be ok for some, but my personal experience was one of an excessive wait for the eye test, which was rather convenient for the sales staff (outnumbering the actual optical staff by 4 to 1) who bombarded me with ‘this season’s hottest styles’ (and prices!)
Contrast this with the personal service and wealth of experience offered by an independent optician and it’s easy to see why they continue to thrive in the face of big branded, heavily marketed competition.
One such independent we are fortunate to have in Queens Square, Haverhill is Billson Opticians. This family firm spans a full three generations since it was established in 1935. You cannot put a price on the knowledge and guidance passed down from generations over eight decades!
I find thinking about the history of Billson Opticians quite fascinating.
When they first started out in the early 1930’s I wonder if they sold pince nez to the distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the era? It seems at that time they were considered to portray an air of distinguished intellect as opposed to the perceived vulgarity of spectacles, which made no attempt to disguise the wearers’ visual impairment!
In the 1940’s glasses had become more acceptable, although most had fine wire frames and were generally unisex in design. After WWII however, horn rimmed and plastic frames became more popular, and more were designed purely with women in mind.
What must they have then thought when 1950’s glamour made its presence felt in the optical world! The most popular by far were the cat’s eye frames, daring not just in their style but in their wide range of colours and rhinestone adornments. Whilst women were looking for feminine glamour, men were taking the lead from the likes of Buddy Holly with his trademark plain black wayfarers.
The 1960’s hippy revolution saw an influx of geometrical shaped frames, in metal or plastic, with the psychedelic generation influencing wild colours and patterns as much as they would fit, alongside the monochrome styles influenced by the fashion of the day.
And there was of course Jackie O, whose huge black sunglasses quickly promised to cross the line into prescription glasses.
Throughout the 70’s the contrasting styles of small, round and by now often tinted glasses, as sported by John Lennon and the oversized owl effect frames much beloved by Deidre Barlow rubbed along nicely side by side.
By now Billson Opticians in Haverhill must have had to install a good many more display shelves! Did the second generation embrace the ever changing styles and trends being thrust upon them?
In the 1980’s many designers had recognised there was a growing market for them in the world of glasses, notably Ray Ban who enjoyed huge success with their Aviator range of sunglasses, largely thanks to Tom Cruise in the blockbuster film Top Gun. The popularity of the style switched effortlessly to prescription lenses and had the benefit of being a unisex style.
Just as all things that go around come around, wayfarers regained popularity in the 1980’s, often in bright neon colours (Timmy Mallet anyone?!).
We went a bit all things minimalist in the 1990’s, and that included a return to understated, sometimes almost invisible glasses, with innovative new materials allowing for the finest, frameless lenses and slender, more flexible arms. Sports sunglasses made an attempt to cross over to prescription lenses but many of the styles just didn’t make the transition well…I mean who wants wraparound reading glasses?!
Much of my musings have come from fond, and at times embarrassing memories. Some from a bit of internet research. But what is clear is that 21st century optical fashion is a combination of the old and the new.
Interestingly glasses are such a fashion accessory these days a large percentage of those worn by the hip, slick and trendy (following in celebrity footsteps as always) contain nothing other than clear glass. Geek chic has finally arrived, albeit 40 years too late for me.
And whilst all of the above has been going on, Billson Opticians in Haverhill have been there, keeping up with the changes and trends, and more importantly, the technology that has developed over the years to enable them to offer the highest level of optical care to each and every one of their customers.
For whilst fashion trends come and go, and whilst some opticians would capitalise on this by way of pushing sales, Billson Opticians' over-riding concern is a personal service that ensures you get the correct prescription for your needs.
Your eyesight is of prime importance to Billson Opticians, and whilst they will take care to help you select the correct style of glasses, fashion to them is secondary to making sure your glasses correct your vision to as close to perfect as it possibly can be.
You may think you already have perfect vision, but everyone can benefit from an eye examination from time to time as these can detect other issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, glaucoma and other conditions not automatically linked to eyesight.
Spending lengthy periods in front of a computer screen is a day to day issue for many people, and can leave you with dry, itchy eyes. Haverhill eye care specialists, Billson Opticians can offer a dry eye assessment to establish the cause and help with solutions.
And of course Billson Opticians offer a complete contact lens service from assessing your needs, selecting the right type of lenses for your lifestyle and advising you on care and use of your lenses to follow up appointments and aftercare.
Billson Opticians are a true family firm, and their eight decades of experience prove that they are a local, family business you can rely on.
Please click here for further information about Haverhill eyecare specialists, Billson Opticians.
Member since: 6th November 2012
I am a long-term resident of Haverhill and love sharing information and advice on the best places to visit, businesses to contact and people to speak to!