Almost every culture has worn the flip flop shoe for thousands of years. The world’s love affair with this free spirited foot apparel dates back to the days of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs and Japanese royalty. All you have to do is hop on a plane and travel from one end of the earth to the other to discover that this shoe is no respecter of persons. According to Wikipedia.com, a sandal dating as old as 9,000 years was discovered in Fort Rock Cave, in Oregon. According to a story by David Gonzales at ezinearticles.com, rock paintings have shown foot coverings like sandals as far back as 15,000 years ago.
Tour Egypt tells us that Hieroglyphics in Egypt chronicle something worn on the feet of both the common man and the upper crust of society. They would have been constructed of leather and reeds, or grasses such as papyrus or even palm leaves. But in this and other early cultures of the world, this shoe would have been named the English equivalent of the “sandal“. In the Bible, sandals are referred as foot coverings many times. Sandals in the ancient days were also a sign of a free person and often could be found with jewels or other high priced adornments. Egyptian mummies were found to be wearing sandals, which would protect their feet as they passed into the next world. Sandals were decorated with pure gold, were found on a mummy believed to be that of King Tutankhamun, by British explorer, Howard Carter, in 1922.
An article in Mi Magazine tells us that after World War II, soldiers would bring back Japanese “zoris” as souvenirs. Zoris dated back to at least the year 794. This sandal would eventually transform into a rubber nightmare for some. Who can forget nursing countless layers of blisters between their toes as they toughened their feet for the rest of the summer? Around 1957, the rubber thong became a popular shoe for the frugal shopper. It is believed to have been developed by New Zealander, Maurice Yock. Americans would soon catch on. You could find them in every dime store across America. Eventually higher end versions would also find their place in America’s closets, as well as expensive designer wear in Europe.
Depending on what part of the world the open toed, backless shoe is worn, the American term of “flip flop” is derived from the apparent sound it makes while it’s wearer is walking. In the Hawaiian islands, flip flops are referred to as “slippers“. They protect your feet from the hot sand and pavement, while keeping them cool and comfortable. Easy to slip on and off, everyone from preschoolers to surfers adore the flip flop shoe.
Found on the catwalk and the red carpet of the Oscars, celebrities are no strangers to the beloved flip flops. About.com: Shoes claims A-listers like Julia Roberts, Jessica Simpson and Reese Witherspoon know how to strut their stuff in comfort and style. One major detail makes this fashion choice work. Attention to good footcare and a proper pedicure is absolutely essential
Jimmy Buffett reminds us in his 1977 hit song, “Margaritaville”, of not maintaining your flip flops, “…blew out my flip flop, stepped on a pop top…”. Of course, he finally blamed it on himself! Something tells me this parrot head could afford to pick up another pair. Today, average prices range from 50 cents to over $300.
Go to any hobby store and you’ll find a whole row of decorative additions for the Plain Jane flip flops. Now if you have money to burn, how about a Brazilian pair created through a team effort from Brazilian jewelers, H.Stern, and Havaianas, a popular Brazililian flip flop brand? These exclusive “sandálias“fetch a top price of $19,840.
The US has indeed become a Flip Flop Nation. But other countries have their own names and versions of these comfortable summer shoes. Wikipedia gives us a long list of what other countries name their comfy backless shoes. Among these are: French refer to them as “tongs“, while the Greeks call them “sagionares“. In India, “chappals” can sometimes be found with a strap supporting the big toe. This offers more support and does not overstress the delicate tendons of the foot. In Mexico, “chanclas” are popular due to the long hot summers. The US Army calls them “shower shoes”, and for good reason. This tradition is a good way to avoid spreading athletes foot in common showers. Italians refer to their sandals as “infradito“, meaning inter-toes. In the Netherlands they are called “teenslippers”, although I don’t think teenagers are the only ones wearing them. New Zealanders call their sandals, “jandals”, a clever reference to the shoes originating in Japan. And the list goes on.
Sandals are synonymous with summer fun, relaxation and cool comfort. It’s no wonder one of the world’s most popular all-inclusive resorts, Sandals, equates their franchise with this age-old shoe. The flip flop just reminds us of a more laid back time. We all relate to our childhood days of getting that new pair or two of rubber flip flops, to wear with our shorts and sundresses. Tanned little feet with white v-striped lines were a mark of outdoor play. As we grew older, our tastes broadened and we graduated to leather sandals. But the fashion never grows out of style. We may pay more for them these days, but we will always love our flip flops.
“Fort Rock Cave”, Wikipedia
The Tutankhamun Exhibit, Tour Egypt
John Warren, Howard Carter, Tour Egypt
Anna Swainson, Zori – The culture of the Japanese sandal, Mi Magazine
Hot Fashion News, Havaianas
Jimmy Buffett, “Margaritaville”, Margaritaville.com – Online State of Mind
Desiree Stimpert, “Sassy Tootsies Flip Flops – A Hot New Twist on Flip Flop Sandals”, About.com: Shoes
David Gonzales, “Sandals a Simple, Comfortable Shoe With a Long History”, Ezine Articles