The Flip Flop

Flip Flops are an open type of outdoor footwear, consisting of a flat sole held loosely on the foot by a Y-shaped strap, like a thin thong, that passes between the first (big) and second toes and around either side of the foot. Unlike sandals, flip-flops do not secure the ankle.[3]

History

Thongs were encouraged by the traditional woven soled z?ri or “Jonge sandals“, (hence “jandals”). Woven Japanese z?ri had been used as beach wear in New Zealand in the 1930s.[7] In the post war period in both New Zealand and America, versions were briefly popularized by servicemen returning from occupied Japan. The idea of making sandals from plastics did not occur for another decade.

The latest design was invented in Auckland, New Zealand by Morris Yock in the 50s and patented in 1957. However, this claim has recently been contested by the children of John Cowie. John Cowie was an England-raised businessman who started a plastics manufacturing business in Hong Kong after the war. His children claim that it was Cowie that started manufacturing a plastic version of the sandals in the late 1940s and that Yock was just a New Zealand importer.[8] The children also say that their father claimed to have invented the name ‘jandal’ from a shortened form of ‘Japanese Sandal’. John Cowie and his family emigrated to New Zealand in 1959.

Despite ‘jandal’ being commonly used in New Zealand to describe any manufacturer’s brand, the word Jandal is actually a trademark since 1957, for a long time owned by the Skellerup company.

In countries other than New Zealand, jandals are known by other names.

In Australia they are known as thongs. The first pair were manufactured there by Skellerup rival Dunlop in 1960. Thongs became popular there after being worn by the Australian Olympic swimming team at the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956[citation needed].

In the UK and U.S. they are most commonly known as flip-flops.

Flip-flops may have been familiar in the United States in the mid-19th century. An 1861 letter to the editor of The New York Times mentioned poorly equipped troops in the Seventh Regiment Volunteers wearing “flip-flaps”: “The men were not in uniform, but very poorly dressed, — in many cases with flip-flap shoes. The business-like air with which they marched rapidly through the deep mud of the Third-avenue was the more remarkable.” Later the letter reads: “The men have not yet been supplied with shoes, and yet still march flip-flop. Why?”[9] The letter does not describe the men’s shoes in detail, so it is not clear whether it is referring to footwear of the flip-flop style, or perhaps to the poor state of their shoes.

Thongs now come in a variety of shoe styles other than the traditional flat sandal, such as women’s heels, slides, and wedges.

The shoes gained popularity as celebrities started wearing them and high end designers started producing them. Kari Sigerson and Miranda Morrison, founders of Sigerson Morrison, added a kitten heel to flip-flops.

Havaianas is a Brazilian brand of flip-flop that gained world recognition in 1998 after the company developed a style of the sandals for the World Cup that featured the Brazilian flag. Although Havaianas flip-flops have only become wildy popular in the United States in the last five years after many celebrities were seen wearing them,[10] the brand has been around since 1962. The brand’s famous slogan “Havaianas. The Real Ones.” originated in the 1970s as a response to other companies making knock-off versions of the flip-flops. The shoes are known for their comfortable soles and straps. The name Havaianas means Hawaiians in Portuguese.

Uses and Fashion

Flip-flops are a very basic type of footwear. They are essentially a thin rubber sole with two simple straps running in a Y shape from the sides of the foot to the join between the big toe and next toe. Some include a strap along the back heel. The popular use of flip-flops is a simple warm climate beach or outdoor wear which has spread through much of the world, although it is most common in India (where it is immensely popular and is called a Hawaii chappal), Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, USA, Brazil, Panama, the Pacific Islands, and Southeast Asia.

In most developing countries, rubber flip-flops are the cheapest footwear available, often typically costing less than $1. Some measures may be used to reduce cost, such as making them out of recycled tires.[4] Because of their low cost they are very widely used in these countries as typical footwear instead of a fashion statement. Despite their disposable design, street vendors will repair worn sandals for a small fee

However in many developed countries flip-flops are typically treated as annual or seasonal, short lasting footwear. Depending on the material makeup of the shoe, the average pair of flip-flops lasts a year or less. The strap between the toes can snap very easily after moderate use, and although this problem can be solved by using replacement straps that are easily “snapped” into the flip-flop, most people do not bother to repair flip-flops because they are very inexpensive and easily replaced.

These disposal habits may pose an environmental problem because most flip-flops are made with polyurethane, which comes from crude oil. This material is a number seven resin and cannot usually be recycled in small amounts.[5] Because of growing environmental concerns, some companies have begun to sell flip-flops made from recycled inner tubes or car tires, as well as sustainable materials like hemp, cotton and coconut.

Flip flops are also popular with those who enjoy being barefoot but need to wear shoes, because they allow the foot to be out in the open but still constitute a shoe for wear in places such as restaurants or on city streets, and can be quickly and easily removed. They are also popular because they are easy to carry.

Northwestern Women’s Lacrosse team at the White House. Four of the women in the front row are wearing thong sandals that were labeled “flip-flops” by critics.

On July 19, 2005, some members of Northwestern University‘s national champion women’s lacrosse team were criticized for wearing “flip-flops” to the White House to meet with President George W. Bush. The women pointed out that their shoes were not “beach shoes,” but were dressier thong sandals.[6]

The use of flip-flops has also been encouraged in some branches of European and North American military as sanitary footwear in communal showers, where wearing flip-flops slows the spread of fungal infections. Following on from this, some soldiers and other trampers or hikers have begun carrying flip-flops, or a pair of flip-flop soles sewn to socks, as a lightweight emergency replacement for damaged boots.[citation needed]

The Indian manifestation of the flip-flop, the chappal, has even been known to be deployed as a weapon, both as a truncheon and a missile, although it is more commonly merely a threat. It is not unheard of for people to whip off their chappals in the heat of an argument, in order to make their aggravation more palpable to the other party. (Touching the shoes or feet of another, in some Indian cultures, is a sign of respect or submission).