The flip flop is an open-toed sandal with a flat sole and y-shaped strap. The strap, which passes between the big and second toes and back to both sides, holds the sandal onto the foot. Traditionally used as casual shoes, the sound of flip-flops are heard nearly everywhere these days.
Most people do not know about the history of flip-flops. Since they’re so common, it might be interesting to learn more about this particular design of shoes. Read on to find out some fascinating facts about this humble footwear:
Egyptian Flip Flops
Even though most people think of flip-flops as a modern invention, there are images of flip-flop-like shoes on Egyptian murals dating back to 4,000 B.C. In fact, some experts believe this type of footwear has been around since even earlier than that.
Ancient thongs, also known as flip-flops, still survive. A pair of flip-flops made from papyrus leaf is on display in the British Museum. These are from 1,500 B.C. In addition to papyrus leaf, people made this type of shoe from a variety of materials. Papyrus leaves, palm leaves, leather, wood, sisal, rice straw, and yucca plants are just a few of the materials used. It’s believed that people throughout the ancient world wore this type of shoe.
Japanese Flip Flops
The Japanese, during Heian period between 794-1185 B.C., used a flip flop type shoe called a zori. According to the Encyclopedia of History of Japanese Manners and Customs, Japanese children used these shoes when first learning to walk. Soldiers returning from World War II first brought these sandals to the United States.
By the 1950s, flip-flops became more popular in the developed world, with the older style sisal sandal changing to a more modern design. Natural materials gave way to synthetic materials. Manufacturers began making the shoe with rubber soles and straps that could be made in any color. The results were also printed in all kinds of colored designs, which were also utilized for advertisement purposes.
By the 1960s, most people used flip-flops exclusively for casual use. Those at the beach wore flip-flops while walking from their vehicles to the beach to protect their feet from the hot sand. As these sandals became more popular, people even began wearing them for more formal events. Now, it is common to see people wearing them for formal events, as new flip flops are dressier.
Brazilian Flip Flops
Another country that was instrumental in changing flip flops from the casual sandal to footwear for the red carpet is Brazil. The Havaianas was popular among peasants, housekeepers and several other parties in San Paulo. Supermodels and actors in the country were also seen wearing flip-flops.
This popularity might have been partly due to the fact that flip-flops are generally inexpensive, at less than $10 a pair. However, they can also cost $150 or even more depending on the designer.
Flip Flops Today
Today, flip-flops are a favorite option for beachgoers due to their casual look and waterproof construction. The same features have made them suitable for wearing in bathrooms, swimming pool areas, and any place where there’s water around. Of course, the more high-end designs are more suited to casual parties and similar events.
The Debate on Flip Flops
While flip-flops may be a popular option for many individuals, they’re also the subject of many controversies. Their casual look is also behind most of the issues, but there’s also the fact that such shoes don’t have much grip. They’re not contoured along the curves of the feet, and hence don’t really provide much support. There’s also the fact that flip-flops can be a downright danger, causing many people injuries due to their lack of friction.
In 2005, there was quite a controversy surrounding the use of flip-flops. This occurred when the women’s lacrosse team from Northwestern University wore flip-flops on a trip to none other than the White House. The exposed feet and casual appearance of this footwear was deemed improper and even disrespectful. The controversy may have died down since then, but the flip flop remains an issue when it comes to dress codes, uniforms, etc.
From Sandals to Flip Flops
The sandal was one of the earliest recorded shoes and was actually fund across several civilizations. It’s believed that this is where our modern flip flops come from. Each kind of sandal had its thing rest in a somewhat different place. For instance, it was between the first and second toes in Greece, while the Romans had the same thing between their second and third toes on their feet. In Mesopotamia, the thing was usually between the third and fourth toes.
We now know that the modern flip flop actually originated from Japan. This country has several traditional sandals with a rich history. This is because after World War II, the Japanese found a new way to utilize their newfound rubber resources in Southeast Asia. While the country was ravaged by loss, they still succeeded in building a cheap yet successful flip flop industry for rebuilding the economy. The simplest kind of Japanese footwear was hence mass-produced until it resulted in the most recognizable form of flip flop known today.
Whether all these styles and designs are actually of Japanese origin alone remains a topic of debate. Still, the Japanese Zori is one kind of flip flop that’s gaining popularity in several parts of the globe.
This is a geta sandal that traditionally has a platform made of wood. These are usually worn with black or white socks called tabi. When someone wears this kind of flip flop, they have their big toe separate from the other ones. The symbolism of zori is also utilized in Japanese media, with some posters having the hero wear socks with them while the villain has none.
Flip flops have come a long way from their origins. Interestingly, while the basic shoe remains the same, this sandal has changed from a shoe worn by peasants to being shown off by those in high society. Opponents of this type of footwear claim it causes flat feet, tendonitis and other injuries to the feet, ankles and lower legs. These concerns aside, with on going strong sales, it looks like the flip flop is here to stay.