One company is trying an exclamation point to offset the dangly 2, with brightly colored LED lighting that blinks, glow-in-the-dark and glittery glasses that distract from the lack of balance. A traditional eyeglass bridge separates the first two digits from the second two on many.
"What you'll see on New Year's Eve is a lot of different styles from various overseas manufacturers who have taken different approaches to the double-zero problem," said Marybeth Smith, who sells novelty eyewear at Shadesoffun.com. "These are party glasses. You wear them for 10 minutes or 20 minutes and you're done. Looking like a fool is the idea."
The tradition of wearing the year on your face can be traced to Richard Sclafani Sr. and Peter Cicero, a couple of Seattle musicians who took out a patent for a glow-in-the-dark version of the glasses after coming up with the idea over beers one night in January 1990. They called their creations Glow-Year Glasses and got them out in time for New Year's 1991. The well-lubricated throng in Times Square loved them, with the tops of the 9s used for seeing. The partners also marketed the glasses to schools for happy graduates.
Everyone from David Letterman to Dick Clark and The New York Times took note, though few people knew Sclafani and Cicero by name. The new millennium offered the grace of plentiful zeros and a whole new reason to party large, but the '00s also brought competition.
"The first 10 years we made them we were pretty much the only ones and it was profitable," Sclafani said. "We sold about half a million in 2000, then after that there were just so many knockoffs."
In addition to far cheaper overseas versions siphoning profits, the World Trade Center terror attacks in 2001 had hotels, casinos and other large customers canceling New Year's parties, Sclafani said. So the partners called it quits with their 2009 glasses, choosing not to take on the added expense of a new mold to create a version for 2010 and beyond.
Over 19 years, Sclafani said he and Cicero made roughly $150,000 after expenses on sales of about 1.2 million. They had to dump thousands of unsold glasses after 2000. It would have cost up to $20,000 for a new mold for 2010, depending on the size and quality, he said.
"There was nothing on their faces before that," Sclafani said of his spot in the annals of party novelties. "It was just hats and noisemakers. It was the idea that you could wear the year on your face and look right through it. Now there are tiaras and all kinds of things with the year on it, but back then there wasn't."
Sclafani doesn't love most of the new eyeglass designs, but on another level he's happy.
"I'm glad it's continuing, sure," he said. "But they're pretty poor. They're really thin."
When Sclafani and Cicero left the biz, pop culturistas weren't sure if the tradition would survive — or if it should, considering the off-kilter nature of the new decade. Some, like Lenora Epstein at the style site Thefrisky.com, still aren't convinced.
"You'd think maybe that double-zero lens trend would just die out and become a bygone marker of the '00s," she wrote. "But, apparently, no one's ready to let go ..."