ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
On a military procurement manifest, they are S-9s, but when the quarter master at boot camp hands you your new eyeglasses, you are holding a pair of BCGs. That's short for birth control glasses; thick-framed with large lenses said to make the wearer so unattractive, the chances of connecting with a member of the opposite sex are vanishingly small.
Well now, the military is offering a new style - a nod to the fact that the standard-issue spectacles are so ugly, many troops stuff them in the back of their trunk as soon as they leave training.
Well, joining me now is Edward Grout, a retired Navy optometrist who now practices in Jacksonville, Florida.
Welcome to the program, Dr.
DR. EDWARD GROUT: Thank you and my pleasure to be here.
SIEGEL: Tell us, first of all about BCGs. Do they deserve that unfortunate name?
GROUT: Well, I believe that they do. Over the years, you know, when I entered the Navy, initially, we had some gray frames and then we went to some black frames. When the brown frames came out, we were all a little disappointed in the appearance and, judging by the expression that I would see on the active duty people when they were picking up the glasses, I would have to say that that designation of birth control glasses was appropriate.
SIEGEL: So you were not making these people feel cool when they got their glasses. What about the choices that are available now?
GROUT: Well, I think time will probably tell whether or not the new 5A frame will be considered an improvement. I believe that it will because of the fact that, nowadays, it seems to be a little more stylish for a lot of individuals to go back to that Buddy Holly appearance.
SIEGEL: So the new frames, which are black...
SIEGEL: ...are different in color from the brown ones that...
SIEGEL: But, in shape and size, are they remarkably different?
GROUT: You know, they are a little bit different. I believe that there's possibly a little less vertical dimension to the lens.
SIEGEL: A little less Harry Potter look there in the glasses?
GROUT: Yes, exactly. And they will come, obviously, in several different frame sizes.
SIEGEL: You know, your observation about Buddy Holly-like frames - and I was reading recently about the fact that John Lennon made granny glasses chic. They were the free glasses the Brits got from the National Health Service for poor people.
SIEGEL: This would suggest that, if you're going to take anywhere from the mid-'90s until 2012 for the military to introduce new frames, why bother? By that time, the old styles could come back.
GROUT: Well, you know, that is true. The only thing that I would say is that, from the mid-'90s on, the active duty, once they got out of their basic training, did have a little bit of a choice. It was mainly the recruits, the people that were entry level people, were the ones that had absolutely no choice, were given that S9 frame. That's probably why, maybe, that it wasn't possibly the highest priority item to work on.
SIEGEL: Well, Dr. Grout, thank you very much for talking with us about the military and eyeglass frames.
GROUT: Well, thank you for having me.
SIEGEL: Dr. Grout is an optometrist in Jacksonville, Florida, and he is a retired Navy optometrist. We're talking about the military's replacement of the old S9s with new - not brown, but black - eyeglass frames.
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SIEGEL: While the old BCG frames might not have inspired many romances, they did inspire this YouTube video.
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SIEGEL: It was produced by midshipmen at the Naval Academy celebrating the military's iconic ugly and now retired eyeglass frames.
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