Before the 1990s, there was no such thing as a "layered" pool cue tip.
That means that Willies run of 526 in 1954 and every world Championship or big score before the nineties was accomplished hitting with a single layered tip.
So when did everyone decide that multi-layered tips were a better choice?
When single layered tips were the only kind available, a players only choice was between a very soft tip that held chalk well and allowed for greater spin with fewer miscues, or harder tips that hit a little better, but glazed over and hit like a marble and miscued frequently.
Experienced players knew that a cue tip played best if it started life as a very soft tip, but had been played with for many hours to compress the leather fibers and increase its density. Stories were common of champions and road players checking the cue tips on the house cues of rooms they played in and popping off the tips that played well to install on their own cues. They knew that a tip played best after it had been hit for a while.
In fact, I have found that cue tips play best just before they have to be replaced.
I have no idea when the first cue man figure out that pressing a cue tip in a vise or other tool before installing it worked as well or better than popping off an old house cue tip, but the practice goes back a long time. Pressing a pool cue tip before installing it makes it play like a broken in tip right away, reducing the need for a "break in" time and reduces house cue vandalism.
I also don't remember the first time I heard about "milk dud" tips, but soaking new pool cue tips in milk or other solutions is also wide spread, and common "milk duds' play as well as any multi-layered tip available today, and Caliber tips are a step up from a "milk dud".
So, if a $3 "milk dud" plays as well as a $25 multi-layered tip, why do so many people think multi layered tips are superior?
Quite simply put, It's common business economics.
Most players start learning about cue tip options at a fairly early stage when they have to trust someone with more experience to tell them what works best. And who do they ask? Usually whoever installs their next pool cue tip for them.
For the sake of argument, let's assume that all installers charge the same price for their work and mark the price of the new cue tip up by the same percentage, and lets assume that he charges $10 for the work and a 50% markup on the tip. For our example, we have him install new cue tips for two customers. Our first imaginary customer has our cue man install an Elk Master, and the second wants a premium layered tip.
For the first customer, the installer pays $1 for the tip, and charges $2 plus $10 for the work, which takes him about fifteen minutes for a total of $12. He has 15 minutes and $1 invested and makes $11.
For the second customer, he pays $12.50 for the tip and charges $25.00. He has the same fifteen minutes invested and charges the same $10 for his fifteen minutes of work and charges the customer $35.00. The installer makes a profit of $22.50.
With the first customer, the installer made about $44 per hour. For the second, he made about $94 per hour.
If a relatively inexperienced player shows up tomorrow, needing a new tip and says "I need a new tip. What do you recommend?" which tip do you think he will end up with?