It’s a question that I get asked a lot at shows. The answer I always give is Columbia Resin!
Now I know a lot of different resins come out of Columbia but the one we are after is CR39 the plastic used to mould spectacle lenses. It was originally developed by Columbia Southern Chemical Co Inc which is where the CR comes from. The 39 comes from the fact that it was the 39th formula of a thermosetting plastic developed by the Columbia Resins project of PPG Industries back in 1940It had first been used during WWII in its uncured state, to coat the fuel tanks of bombers, as it would “self heal” if hit by flack. It was later used in its cured state to produce light, durable fuel tanks for the B17 bomber
Now although it has been used since 1947 to produce spectacle lenses it wasn’t really until the 1960’s that it became the backbone of spectacle fashion development. The 1960’s brought a freer look to spectacle fashion as it became an outward expression of the changes that society was experiencing. The light weight of CR39 and the fact that it could be molded into large blanks, that the lens for the frames could be cut from, unshackled designers to let their minds run free.
So as with the unshackling of many things in the 1960’s, we can see a direct link back to WWII.
As Bob Dylan sang
“Yes, 'n' how many times must a man look up before he can see the sky?....................
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,The answer is blogin' in the wind.”
Bob Dylan and Donovan (lover of big Spex)