Originally created 04/23/98

New contact lens technology offers new form of self-expression



FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- Move over, tattoos and body piercing.

Want to make sure you are really noticed?

Get yourself a pair of Wild Eyes and change the window to your soul.

You can now wow your friends and shock strangers when you wear "white out" contact lenses for a night on the town. The white lenses have a small dark circle in the middle. They can be fitted on many people who wear contacts or glasses already or on people who have good vision.

How about a pair of red and yellow wildfire lenses? Black and white circles for a hypnotic effect, a black 8-ball for pool sharks or a black and white camera shutter design called zoomin'.

If you like astrology, you might check out the black lenses decorated with a green star and a green moon sliver.

When you're wearing the contacts, you don't see the designs on them. The designs are painted on the part that covers the iris, the circle around the pupil. The small pupil in the center is not covered by the design. The pupil is what you see through.

The new soft contact lenses might not be for everybody. You will have to shell out $149, $169 or more just for the lenses. An eye exam, a fitting session and follow-up care can run from $89 to $125 more.

Wesley Jessen VisionCare Inc., manufacturer of Wild Eyes lenses, calls the fun contact lenses "the newest form of self-expression."

The company in Des Plaines, Ill., is one of several that provide the zany contacts. Wild Eyes have been on the market since Jan. 1.

For years, movie and stage stars and rock musicians have worn the custom-made contact lenses to create special effects. Sandy Fenner, vice president of sales for Custom Color Contacts in New York City, said that company furnished contacts for Tom Cruise's bloody and tired eyes for "Days of Thunder," "Far and Away" and "The Firm."

Other custom lenses included wolf eyes for Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer in "Wolf," mirrored eyes for Alec Baldwin in "The Shadow" and misdirected brown eyes for Brad Pitt in "Twelve Monkeys."

"They are all custom-made, all hand-painted soft lenses," Fenner said. "They are pretty much any color or any design and are $300 a pair and above." Custom Color Contacts can be ordered from optical offices.

Wild Eyes has six designs on the market.

"I think they will appeal to young people between 17 and 30 years old more," said Dr. Dan Stamps, an optometrist in Fayetteville.

If you have 20-20 vision, you can order the lenses plain. They can correct nearsightedness up to about a 20-200 or 20-400 level, but they won't correct farsightedness, he said.

"I think they will appeal to anyone who wants something different," says Dr. Eric Raynor, an optometrist in Hope Mills. "They are kind of bizarre."



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