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Step Back in Time to the Year 1997 and Tell Us What You See

The latest Spice Girls song is playing in your mind and you’re wearing a teal windbreaker as you step into an optical shop.




Step Back in Time to the Year 1997 and Tell Us What You See

Here’s an interesting fact for you: 1997 was 25 years ago.

A full quarter century somehow has elapsed since the murders of Gianni Versace, The Notorious B.I.G., and (for the first of many times) Kenny on South Park.

Basically, 1997, the year that brought Kylie Jenner unto the world, was a lifetime ago.

Some things aren’t so different:

  • There was a Democrat in the White House then as now.
  • The world mourned the loss of a British Royal in both years – Princess Diana then, and Queen Elizabeth now.
  • This year’s blockbuster movie Top Gun: Maverick recently moved past 1997’s The Titanic, among some other more recent titles, to reach No. 5 on the list of top-grossing films in the U.S.

Then again… things are irrevocably different.

For instance, we don’t all have long, sensitive ponytails and drink cheap coffee until two in the morning at greasy spoon diners while attempting to pen angsty poetry as the ashtray overflows with the remnants of spent cigarettes and the discarded remains of unconventional rhyming structures anymore.


(That’s an overly specific hypothetical.)

With nostalgia on the mind, we included this question in The Big Survey 2022: Imagine you traveled back in time 25 years. What would be the first thing that would alert you that you were in an optical in 1997?

Here’s what respondents had to say. (Interestingly, not one mentioned dudes with sensitive ponytails.)

The Sights

  • Darker, less lit optical and very, very small frames.
  • The lack of selection of frames.

They had some crusty old frame boards!

  • Neon signs marking the men’s and women’s boards.
  • The Glen Plake and Michael Jordan Oakley posters on the wall.

The Smells & Sounds

  • The smell of high index lenses being edged.

Muzak on the speakers, white walls, and dull opticians.

  • The smell of the tint unit in the back room.

The Work

  • No or minimal computer usage.
  • Most of the things being done manually.
  • Open frame boards you can browse through.
  • Lack of AR on every pair of eyewear!

The Frames

  • Smaller frames, paper charts and Guess frames.
  • Women wanting Sally’s frames.

Small round metal Ralph Lauren frames.

  • Neostyle eyeglass frames and Clip-on sunglasses.
  • The frame styles. Patients paying with cash and check instead of nearly 95% credit cards.

The Colors

  • The color motif. The pastel colors of the showcases, the light-colored wood panels. The small, round or rectangular frames.
  • Lots of wood in displays, the carpet, round metal frames, and dark colors.

Teeny tiny lenses and a strong use of the color teal. But wait, 1997 was 25 years ago?

More from 1997

Ready for a trip down memory lane? We uncovered a couple video recaps of good ol’ 1997. Both are worthwhile viewing though the each take a different approach.

News centric recap

Pop culture centric recap


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