What are they on about?

14th April 2000 at 01:00
David Newnham spends too much time on the internet

Have you heard about all these young people being shot in the eye? Thousands are killed or blinded by stray bullets that pass directly through the lenses of their sunglasses.

You haven't read about it, or seen the harrowing close-ups on television ("this report includes scenes that some viewers may find disturbing")? Me neither. But I assume it's happening, because a manufacturer called Gargoyles now advertises the fact that its lenses are bullet-proof.

I was drifting aimlessly through cyberspace the other day when I collided with a Florida-based company that sells sunglasses on the Internet. And I have to say it was a real eye-opener (I have to say that because I can't resist cheap wordplay).

You thought that kids who paid through the nose for two bits of tinted plastic to hook in front of their eyes were concerned primarily with their looks? So did I. But it seems there's more to sunglasses than meets the eye (listen, I promise I'll stop it now, okay?).

A firm called Spy Optics sells products with names like Nomad, Victor and Nikita, and at first I thought this was simply a way of creating an image for customers to uy into. But then I read on. Spy says it is "committed to providing the most technically advanced eyewear on the planet", and to this end it employs "an eclectic mix of engineers who aren't afraid to work overtime". The result of all this after-hours endeavour is a lens coating that will "manipulate the light spectrum similar to the way a graphic equalizer manipulates sound".

What's going on here? Why do these kids need such "unique vision-enhancing characteristics"? I can only make wild guesses. But the website hints at the types of hazards its customers might be facing. There are references to mountains and marlin, to impact resistance and "extremes of the marine environment". The Gargoyles range includes such names as Cyclone and Tsunami, and a firm called Killer Loop sells models called Coup, Rebellion, Molotov and The Heist. Whatever these kids are doing, it isn't scrumping.

Is it any wonder their homework is occasionally late? Even owning "eyewear" can be aperilous business. "Theft is up dramatically," says Vuarnet, and this manufacturer warns customers to beware "off-guard" situations and to "keep a close eye on your sunglasses". Sorry, but it really does say that.

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