This weekend marks the opening of the summer season, with Memorial Day in the US and the Spring Bank Holiday in the UK. Summer is here, at least in the fashion world, meaning that flip-flop season has also begun. Flip-flops are an open-toed sandal with a flat sole —usually rubber—loosely held together on the foot by two straps that form the shape of a “Y” at the instep of the foot. The term “flip-flop” is an onomatopoeic word to describe the sound the sole makes on contact with the floor when walking. They also must be the laziest footwear in history.
Dating back to the Ancient Egyptians in 4,000 B.C., flip-flops have been worn across ancient cultures for millennia; there is no part of the world that did not have its own interpretation of this particular footwear item. The modern, American version of the flip-flop was not seen until after WWII when returning soldiers brought the Japanese version, Zōri, back to the U.S. The postwar boom of the 1950s and the end of the Korean War meant that the 1960s popular culture in the form of Frankie Avalon & Annette Funicello beach movies (the two actors spawned a new subgenre of films released between 1963 and 1968 called “Beach party movies”) helped to usher in this footwear as part of the beach lifestyle of California. Due to this characterization, these shoes were casual wear only, worn most often with beachwear.
Meanwhile, in 1962, the Brazilian footwear giant, Alpargatas, released a version of flip-flops known as Havaianas (also based on the Japanese Zōri). These are now staples in Brazil, with more than 150 million pairs being sold each year. The flip-flop industry is now at least a $20 billion industry and for the first time ever sales of flip-flops exceeded sales of sneakers in 2006.
You may get the impression that I don’t like flip-flops—and you would be wrong because I despise flip-flops. They can ruin an outfit in a heartbeat by taking it to subterranean levels of taste and grace. And people do this all the time in favour of ease. How much more difficulty could there be to slip your feet into sandals or a perforated loafer (I had a pair from JCrew last year and I tap danced down the street with them like a fool because the comfort level was that dope)? I don’t understand.
Another reason flip-flops are the debasement of summer footwear is that they keep your feet looking stingy and dirty. First, its stingy nature can be understood with this simple fashion truth: the level of your outfit is only as good as the shoes on your feet. In other words, you can have a banging outfit, a beat face, accessories on fleek and flip-flops would put all that good work to waste because Bella went basic. On men—who have yet to discover the grooming essential that is the pedicure—their yellow-nailed, hairy-toed, calloused feet in footwear known to keep the nastiness of the bottom of your feet in the spotlight, are not the images I want to see.
Flip-flops have to be one of the most dangerous shoes around. It has zero support for the feet or ankles; the spongy bottom causes the foot to over-pronate (foot turns excessively inward) as it strikes the ground.
“Those who over-pronate tend to push off almost completely from the big toe and second toe. As a result, the shock from the foot’s impact doesn’t spread evenly throughout the foot and the ankle has trouble stabilizing the rest of the body. Additionally, an unnatural angle forms between the foot and ankle and the foot splays out abnormally. It is common even for people who pronate normally to have some angle between the foot and the ankle, but not to the extent seen in those who over-pronate. In normal pronation the weight distributes evenly throughout the foot.”—Wikipedia
This increases the occurrence of shin splints and knee pain. I always found that my first two toes take the brunt of impact and stress incurred while walking in flip-flops. This is due to the over-pronation of the feet.
Their abject disregard for cleanliness and hygiene is another reason flip-flops are dangerous. The dirt that accumulates on your feet at the end of flip-flop-clopping around the city (or even the country) is some dangerous stuff. Imagine this: you cut your foot on a shard of glass while wearing flip-flops (this has happened to me, so don’t think it’s a remote possibility) and then pick up some cute and cuddly Staph bacteria, which eventually make their way into your bloodstream. The Mayo Clinic describes what could potentially happen:
“But staph infections can turn deadly if the bacteria invade deeper into your body, entering your bloodstream, joints, bones, lungs or heart. A growing number of otherwise healthy people are developing life-threatening staph infections.”—Mayo Clinic
After all this flip-flop shade, I do think there is a place for them in stylish society. Flip-flops should only be worn:
- At the beach;
- Public showers;
- The pool or waterpark;
- In your own backyard;
- Right after a pedicure, so that the polish can dry;
- Camping (I don’t camp, so I’ll leave this one open).
I even believe there are great flip-flops out there. Tory Burch, Kate Spade or even Nine West make pretty ones—so pretty that I don’t even call them flip-flops, I call them tongs.
Please take care of your feet. They need you to take their feelings and fashion into consideration. And within this context, I call on another fashion truth: substituting Tevas or Crocs for flip-flops is not the way forward.
You have to know the rules to break the rules