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For the Love of Flip Flop Shoes, or Is America a Flip Flops Nation?

Updated on November 12, 2017
Cyndi10 profile image

Cynthia - a freelance writer believing in the power of words. She writes about travel, family, business, gardening and health and wellness..


Flip Flops Are Timeless

Nearly everyone loves flip flops! They are fun, versatile, and if you find a great pair, they are über comfortable and because they are so easy to wear. They are timeless and universal. There is probably an alien or two wearing a pair, showing off their three-toed pedicure somewhere! They are certainly an undeniable part of American shoe culture.

Called zori, it is a shoe, of sorts, that hit American shores (and stores) straight out of the land of the rising sun, transported here by soldiers returning from Japan in the 40s and Korea in the 50s and, like magic, America’s love of flip flops began.

Flip flops have their roots as far back as 4000 B. C Egypt. In all probability, because of their simplicity, they were the very first footwear design. They have stuck around since the first "shoemaker" slapped them on. Those first flip flops were made from a variety of local materials and, with the exception of plastic and the elimination of papyrus, doesn’t deviate much from what they are made of today. In ancient Egypt, papyrus was readily available and was, therefore, the material of choice. In Japan and China, the staple was rice straw. As you can see, the culture’s primary crops seemed to contribute to the choice of material to make flip flops.

As for how the flip flop got its American name? The term flip flops, as applied to what was then primarily beach wear, found its way into the general American vernacular in the 70s, that ultimate cool decade when music was loud, funky and irreverent; clothes were breaking all the rules; and hair was long and bouncy or big and bold. Fittingly, the term flip flops emerged...and stuck. Why wouldn't it? It so accurately describes the unmistakable "flap, flap, flap" sound the shoes make when the wearer walks. Besides, some words are just fun to say and flip flops is one (or is it two?) of them!

Ancient Egyptian flip flops made of papyrus
Ancient Egyptian flip flops made of papyrus | Source
Bride wearing flip flops.
Bride wearing flip flops. | Source

Where to Wear Flip Flops

For the love of flip flops! They show up everywhere and anywhere! Let the temperature climb, and out they pop.

Today, appropriate or not, you can find the ultimate in comfort-wear "blinged out" in their dressiest incarnation, attending formal affairs (wedding reception or meeting POTUS) or you find them down to their basic form: a staple on the beaches, flapping around resort towns, or even presented as gifts to the wedding guests at a beachfront wedding - just a simple plastic or cloth thong between the toes and you are styling. Anyway or anywhere you wear them, they are a pedicurist’s dream showcase.

One bride I know handed out flip flops to each guests at her Laguna Beach wedding reception so that they could dance the night away in comfort. She even ditched her beautiful, elegant, designer, six inch heels for a pair of flip flops as the night went splendidly on.

At the trials for the 2016 Rio Olympics, signing a giant flip flop was a part of the swimming and diving team prequalifying ritual. When they qualified for the team, swimmers and divers signed the giant flip flop designed with the Olympic year, 2016, and the Brazilian country's flag colors. I have seen a fan or two have their individual flip flop signed by an Olympian. For Olympic pin lovers and traders, there were pins with flip flops as part of their design.

Few items have an easier, more straight forward design than flip flops. It’s a mere thong strap between the toes, attached to a slab of something - rubber, bamboo, hemp, wood, or whatever. Yet, they are sold in a myriad of styles and have any number of designer names attached to them. The styles are suitable for male or female, young or old. There are even DIYs on how to make and decorate the thong to make a pair of flip flops uniquely your design. That's the ultimate in customization.

Here’s an added bonus: If you have a “no shoes rule” in your house, as I do, hand your guests a pair of flip flops to wear while they visit. They can be so inexpensive that you can break out a new pair with each guest and they can leave for home with a parting gift. Keep a basket by the door, full of flip flops in various sizes and colors.

Flip flops for wedding guests.
Flip flops for wedding guests. | Source

Flip Flops' Walk on the Dark Side

For the sake of transparency, I have heard of some who truly don't like flip flops and refuse to even put on a pair. Some have blogs devoted to hating flip flops, others have Facebook pages. Their dislikes include:

  • they don't like the sound they make,
  • they don't like their feet exposed,
  • they feel they are too casual for their lifestyle.

However, very few have a reason to dislike flip flops the way that a podiatrist dislikes seeing us wear them. The darker side of flip flops make them a podiatrist’s nightmare, with reason. There’s the pain of stubbed toes, sprained (sometimes broken) ankles, stress fractures, fallen arches, and other broken bones attributed to trips, falls and missteps, not to mention various other mishaps, associated with a shoe that is all open toes and flimsy design. The very design that makes them comfortable also makes them potentially dangerous. Those thong straps that slide between the toes have even caused chaffing and sores if the the wearer ignores the obvious pain and doesn’t ditch the flip flops.

In addition, driving in flip flops is not recommended because the shoe may get caught between the pedals making braking and/or acceleration difficult. That could be an accident waiting to happen.

Podiatrists recommend that if you love flip flops and must wear them, spend a little extra for thicker soles. Have some arch to the design. The biggest no no is wearing them all the time. Some do, you know. But, let’s face it, dark side or not, they are here to stay with no waning in popularity. After all, who can resist the ease of sliding our feet up through the thonged toe and flapping our way-out the door on a bright sunny day.

And podiatrist do have a positive: They often suggest you wear them when in hotel rooms and public showers to avoid picking up any unwanted foot diseases like athletes foot. Yuk!

Customized Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. flip flops and another great pedicure!
Customized Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. flip flops and another great pedicure! | Source
Cold weather doesn't stop flip flop lovers. They just add socks. Nerdy but warm.
Cold weather doesn't stop flip flop lovers. They just add socks. Nerdy but warm. | Source

When shopping for flip flops, take a little time to look for earth friendly material rather than the plastic, landfill candidates. Materials such as hemp, recycled bicycle tire rubber, or bamboo are great substitutes for the indestructible plastic type.

While they are typically warm weather apparel, flip flops are adaptable to colder climes when socks are added. The wearers are quite proud of their abilities to walk comfortably with socks between wedged between the toes. There are socks with the big toe separated from the rest, specifically made for wearing flip flops called tabi socks.

It's worth repeating: Flip flops are easy to love because they are comfortable and fun to wear, in addition to being a great way to show off a rocking pedicure. They seem to be here to stay. It’s reported that in the US alone, sales of flip flops are into the 2 billion dollar mark. They are marketed just about everywhere, from high end boutiques with flip flops carrying designer names like Kate Spade and Michael Kors, to convenience and grocery stores or corner markets.

Flip flops are called "thongs" in Australia, according to writer Jodah Hansen. In Australia, they are so popular you can purchase your next pair of flip flops from the Havaianas vending machines. The next question is, "Are they next to the soft drinks?"

They were also called "thongs" when they found their way to the American Midwest in the 60s, according to one midwestern octogenarian. He remembers quite well when flip flops slapped their way it into American culture.

It is obvious that Americans love flip flops. In recognition of that fact and as a part of its fundraising and childhood Cancer Awareness campaign, Tropical Smoothie Cafe even designated the 3rd Friday of every June as National Flip Flop Day. In 2017, that date was June 16. Every customer who enters Tropical Smoothie Cafe wearing flip flops on National Flip Flop Day will get a free smoothie. A clever way to raise funds.

And here's a flip flop bonus (at least it is to me): With the rainbow of colors, variety of designer choices and their (usually) low price point, flip flops can help, somewhat, to satisfy shoe cravings. Besides, having multiple flip flops doesn't present nearly the storage problems of other shoes. I have heard of occasional instances where, like the proverbial one sock, a single flip flop will go missing missing and you are stuck with only the right or the left.

Flip flops are easy to love because of their simplicity, which makes them timeless and universal so, for the love of flip flops, buy a pair or two! Then simply line them up, match them to the outfit, spread your big toe, slip them on and wear them out!

Flip flops show off a great pedicure!
Flip flops show off a great pedicure! | Source

If you love flip flops, customize your flip flops - DIY Style

Help determine flip flop preferences.

When wearing flip flops, what's your choice?

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© 2016 Cynthia B Turner


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    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 22 months ago from Georgia

      Hi Billy, You seem like a flip flops wearing kind of guy - taking it one day at a time. Cool.

      The toe stubs are the worst for me, but those pebbles and little twigs, too, are irritating. Tread carefully....and take care.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I've had mine on for 32 straight days. LOL I take them off for bed, of course, but that's it. The only thing I hate about them is the little pebbles that sneak in under your feet occasionally. THEY HURT!!!!

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 22 months ago from Georgia

      Hello ARussell, I so glad you enjoyed reading about flip flops. They have been around forever, it seems. After I wrote the article, I really started to see them everywhere. I've even seen some wearers who are holding onto their flip flops even though the soles are practically none existent and the thong is barely attached. Thanks for reading. Take care.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 22 months ago from Georgia

      Hi Kaili, Looks like flip flops are your shoes of choice. I love it that you have a pair with the fake rhinestones for "special" occasions. Isn't it something that nearly everyone has flip flops designated for specific activities. I have my "inside" flip flops and then there are the flip flops I will wear outside.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 22 months ago from Georgia

      Hi Rachel, Wow! A special shelf in your closet. Amazing! I would love to see that. Someone asked how to store them. I think basket, but that could get to be too confusing unless you put a rubber band around the pair to keep them together. A shelf seems like a good solution. Maybe that person will see your solution.

      Do you wear socks with your flip flops in winter? I know it gets cold where you are and I hate to think of blue toes, but then, I guess you could always find a pair of flip flops to match :-). Take care and thank you for reading.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 22 months ago from Georgia

      Hi FlourishAnyway, I guess if there are vending machines for iPods, then why not flip flops? They are great fun to wear and it's amazing that their popularity never seems to wane. Take care.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 22 months ago from Georgia

      Hi Don, Oh I love it! "Good crafted leather..." But what about the colors. They come in so many colors and they are everywhere! Its so hard to resist just picking up a pair. As for the Crocs.... Thank you so much for leaving this wonderful comment. Take care and tread carefully in your flip flops.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 22 months ago from Georgia

      Hi RTalloni, Yes, vending machines. I guess that's a great way to keep the flip flops handy for that last minute trip to the beach or.... :-) I glad you enjoyed the read. Thanks so much for leaving a comment. Take care. Cyndi

    • profile image

      ARussell 22 months ago

      Enjoyed reading about the advent of the flip flop. Will keep its history in mind the next time I step into mine. Thanks Cynthia !

    • Kaili Bisson profile image

      Kaili Bisson 22 months ago from Canada

      What a fun topic! I love my Joe Fresh flip flops, and slip them on to run to the garage, walk the dogs or do errands. Nothing beats them in the summer! I have some white ones that have fake rhinestones on them for "special" occasions :-)

    • Rachel L Alba profile image

      Rachel L Alba 22 months ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      Hi Cynthia, A hub of one of my favorite things. What could be better? lol I love flip flops. I wear them all year round and I live in NE PA. Of course in the winter I just wear them in the house but I still wear them. I love all of the colors you show. I have so many I had to make a shelf in my closet for them. Some of them are so old, but I don't want to get rid of them. lol Thanks for this fun hub.

      Blessings to you.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 22 months ago from USA

      I love flip flops. I thought it was funny they are called things in Australia and can be purchased from vending machines.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 22 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      AS a Floridian, I have three types flip-flops, my dress ones which are made of very good crafted leather. Then I have my everyday flip-flops, which are comfortable and formed to my feet and also provide some arch support. Then there are my everyday flip-flops, which range from shower shoes, walking flops, and those for doing outside work.

      And then, there is the world of Croc's! LOL!


    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 22 months ago from the short journey

      Vending machines–that's great. :) A fun yet practical look at flip flops, and a neat read.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 22 months ago from Georgia

      Hi Frank, Ok, if you're going to dig out the old flip flops, be sure they are not worn out. Podiatrists say that worn out flip flops give you no cushion and no protection at all. They might even fall apart as you are walking in them. You can always run to the 7-Eleven and pick up another pair on the cheap.:-)

      Thanks for leaving a comment. Remember, it's summer; get into that flip flops state of mind.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 22 months ago from Georgia

      Hi Jodah, Thank you for sharing the information about flip flops or thongs as you call them. I think that's an interesting piece of information to add to the article. In American thongs refer to underwear - that could get confusing.

      Thank you for reading and commenting. Take care.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 22 months ago from Queensland Australia

      They are very popular in Australia too and somewhat of a national icon along with meat pies and vegemite, although we call them "thongs" not "flip flops." Very interesting hub.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 22 months ago from Shelton

      im gonna have to dig out my old flip flops.. I haven't worn them for a long time.. But I do recall the comfort... Thanks for this share.. and good to see you :) Frank