Flip Flops

Flip Flops

There is something you may not know about those ubiquitous rubber-soled flip flops that emerge from millions of closets each summer. Also known as “jandals” or slippers, this footwear dates back more than 6000 years, although the term “flip flop” is actually a trademarked name belonging to German company who manufactures them. The Egyptians, especially the members of the royal and privilege classes, took great pride in their thong-style shoes. Upper-class Egyptian women adorned their sandals with jewelry, while the Pharaoh wore sandals that curved up more than those of commoners. We know about Egyptian flip flops from ancient cave paintings. Many other early civilizations use their footwear, including flip flops, to signify class position.

We might logically assume that because the shoes were worn by royalty, they would have been made from the best of materials. This, however, would be a mistake because flip flops throughout history have been fashion from an enormous variety of plant and animal materials, and even from wood! Rice, papyrus, palm leaves, canvas, and rawhide have also gone into flip-flops, with the choice of material largely depending on its availability in a particular culture. Egyptians may dare sandals of papyrus; the Romans, when providing footwear for their armies, made stronger flip flops of leather. Flip flops not only designated class; they were essential for protecting the feet and preventing diseases transmitted through the soil.

The basic flip flop style is that of a flat footed sandal wood-based draft securing it around a single toe. However, throughout history there have been many twists on that style. The choice of toes to which the footwear was attached has differed from culture to culture. Flip flops have been attached to the big, second, and middle toes.

The Japanese, to assist children in learning to walk, invented the woven “Zori” sandal. The Zori flip flop eventually made its way to the beaches of New Zealand in the early 1900s. From there, Zoris paved the way for the widespread introduction of flip-flops. They first made it to America with the return of World War II soldiers, and later arrived in rubber versions by soldiers returning from the Korean War. In the nearly 60 years since, the construction and durability of flip flops have made them essential footwear in popular culture.

Flip flops are so popular that they no longer signify anything about social standing. The army presence of flip flops on the beaches of California triggered a flip flop craze that extended across the entire US, making them the informal footwear of choice because of their remarkable affordability. That affordability has made flip flops ideal for third-world countries, where they can sell for under a dollar. Some flip flops are “green” footwear, being made from recycled tires and other disposables.

The flip-flops, like the blue jeans, of today have even evolved into design or fashion attire. Gold-accented British Havianas and other suede or leather jewel-decorated flip flops reside in many a Hollywood closet, where they wait to adorn the feet of both male and female supermodels and movie stars. They often show up at awards shows, and even at engagement parties on the feet of brides-to-be!

Flip flops have been around for centuries, and they are not going anywhere. They are shoes that can be used on both formal and informal occasions, and worn by people from all walks of life. They can be upscale fashion statements, and they can be the shoes you choose for that lazy day moping around the house. Flip flops, in other words, are affordable, attractive, comfortable, durable, and definitely here to stay!