Go back to article: Rather unspectacular: design choices in National Health Service glasses

A design innovation…

The main purpose of spectacles is to enable the wearer to see clearly, so the problem of lower eye-rims obscuring the field of vision was of concern. Neville Chappell addressed this issue and invented a new frame shape with a visible brow bar that had the lenses held in place with invisible straps.[46] This style was called the Supra and was the first fundamental change in spectacle frame types. The Second World War had seen developments in plastics, and especially a new clear strong plastic thread called Nylon. This was the ideal material to invisibly suspend lenses to the upper frame. Technical advances in the form of diamond impregnated copper bonded wheels made it possible to cut a small groove in the glass lens so that they could be suspended by the clear thread (Optician, 1989). Due to the post-war limitations on the optical industry in Britain there was little scope for manufacturers to produce this innovative new style of frame and there was no major production in Britain. Chappell allowed licence for production to companies abroad and the invention received huge popularity both in Europe and the United States and Optician referred to the Supra frame design as ‘a worldwide success’.[47]

Figure 8

Colour print advertisement showing a man wearing Nylor supra frame spectacles and holding a cigarette

Nylor Supra frame designed by Neville Chappell. Trade Advert for German manufacturer Essel 1957

The design ideas behind this were used in other frame styles and developments in the colouring of plastic enabled an entire plastic frame to be tinted on the top yet left clear on the lower eye-rim to give a clearer field of vision. Frames such as the Brow-line and the Two-tone were produced on the private market; these two-tone frames were often called ‘the poor man’s Supra’ (Optician, 1989). 

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/170703/007