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For the Love of Flip Flop Shoes, or Is America a Flip Flops Nation?
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!
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' 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!
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!
If you love flip flops, customize your flip flops - DIY Style
Help determine flip flop preferences.
When wearing flip flops, what's your choice?
© 2016 Cynthia B Turner