The emo-amblyopia controversy began when leading Australian Optometrist Andrew Hogan said, “If a young emo chap has a fringe covering one eye all the time, that eye won’t see a lot of detail…and if it happens from a young age, that eye can become amblyotic.” Dr. Hogan, serving three years as President of the Optometrists Association, and currently sitting on the National Executive, continued to explain, according to TheMercury, that the most vulnerable time for this to happen is before age seven, but he said new research shows vision could be affected even later.
At least two Australian newspapers reported the story, apparently originating on May 13, at or near midnight on May 14. Australia’s TheTelegraph published No fringe benefits for hairstyles that flop over one eye on May 14, 2012, at 12:00am, and Tasmania’s TheMercury released its Trendy hair may be a hazard one minute later, at 12:01am. The story spread quickly as The Huffington Post and other news media picked it later that day.
The pot was stirred when New Jersey Optometrist and co-author of the clinical practice guidelines on amblyopia for the American Optometric Association, Dr. Leonard Press, spoke with MSNBC’s The Body Odd reporter Brian Alexander. Dr. Press said, “The story would only be true if you had somebody young enough, and if that person never looked out of that eye — if it was blocked 24-7. The reason it’s false is that you don’t have that constant deprivation.” MSNBC reports that, according to Dr. Press, “the visual system ‘is so well-established’ after childhood, that ‘combing your hair over your eye will not do anything to that system.’”
The story received attention to an even more wide-spread audience when ABC’s Good Morining America featured it on May 16, asking if Justin Bieber’s haircut causes lazy eye.
Emo originated in the mid-1980’s with the hardcore punk movement of Washington, D.C., where it was known as “emotional hardcore” or “emocore,” but it didn’t break into the mainstream media until the summer of 2002, according to Wikipedia. “Today emo is commonly tied to both music and fashion,” Wikipedia explains. “In the early 2000s, emo fashion was associated with a clean cut look, but as the style spread to younger teenagers, the style has become darker, with long bangs.”
It is these long side-swept bangs that are at the heart of the current emo-amblyopia controversy. I’ve seen an occasional person paw their dangling locks away from their eyes as far back as I can remember, but the trend to peep through sweep fringes has never been as consistent as it is among many young people today. It will be interesting to see the outcome of these two opposing professional opinions, both from well-respected Optometrists, for which only time can give a certain outcome.