Aaron Jackson of Flip Flop Daily magazine on how a simple sandal took the world by storm – and why it is the perfect footwear for free spirits
Though generally considered among the most inauspicious of footwear, the flip flop has divine origins. It was the footwear of the Gods… or at least Pharaoh. Sandals that look a lot like today’s flip flops are depicted in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. In fact, a pair of flip flops dating back to 1,500 BC, the oldest known surviving pair, are from Egypt and on display at the British Museum. They are made of papyrus and palm. Sandals and their flip flop varieties are known to have existed throughout the world in Mesopotamia, India, Greece and Asia.
The flip flops we know today derive their origins from the Japanese Zori and were brought to the United States by GIs returning home from WWII. Zori were originally made of rice and straw. With its economy in tatters and plenty of rubber on hand following the war, Japan began to manufacture and export rubber flip flops to the West. Originally called thongs when they arrived in the US in the early 1950s, the name was soon transformed to flip flops by the California surfer culture, for the sound they made when they slap against the foot. Flip flops have been synonymous with California surfer culture ever since and have grown into a $17.8 billion dollar industry as of 2019. The humble flip flop is expected to balloon into a $24 billion industry by 2025.
In an interesting twist to the story of the Zori, in 1957 New Zealander Morris Yock branded and marketed the Zori as “Jandals” in New Zealand (a combination of the words Japan and Sandals) and they’re still referred to as Jandals in the region today.
Starting in the 1970s, cheap flip flops began to be made of plastic. Given the very disposable nature of cheaply made flip flops they have grown into a serious environmental disaster with tons and tons of discarded flip flops washing ashore globally. By far, the world’s leading manufacturer of such flip flops is Brazilian brand Havaianas selling over 150 million pairs of flip flops every year. In an attempt to help reverse this alarming trend they have launched an eco-friendly line of flip flops called the IPE Collection and contribute about 7% of revenue to the cause. It’s yet to be seen whether this will have a genuine impact or is merely a marketing ploy. Other brands, such as Ocean Fresh are going even further and have begun manufacturing flip flops from 100% recyclable and biodegradable materials. A step in the right direction, for sure.
Today flip flops represent a state of mind, a lifestyle, a destination. Flip flops embody the fond memories of sun filled days spent on holidays of summers past, they embrace the warmth of summer now and they hold the promise of sun-soaked days spent beach side, in a hammock, yet to come. With its rich long history, the flip flop is simultaneously yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Flip flops are hope.
As evidence of this, early indicators show that the lockdown has boosted sales of flip flops. Adidas, for example, recently reported triple digit percent increases in sales of their “slides” flip flops during the first few months of lockdown. We need our flip flops.
Sole, toe post, and strap all merge to make a deceptively simple piece of footwear but flip flops are greater than the sum of their parts. They embody hope. Hope and comfort that the pandemic will wane, lockdown will end and we will one day again stroll along a beach, drink in hand, the melodies of the perfect song for that moment wafting on the breeze, flip flops on our feet.
Flipflopdaily.com is the world’s only flip flop lifestyle community devoted to living what we call the Flip Flop Life. Our “Do Life Right” philosophy drives our reviews and feature articles, taking a few good natured jabs along the way at those who might be pushing too hard on things that distract us from finding the true flip flop bliss of life. By pairing each flip flop we review with the perfect song and drink, we elevate the innate human need to embrace life, relax and make the most of our journey together. In addition to nearly one hundred flip flop reviews, we also feature flip flop life articles around topics such as the art of napping plus an advice column called “Ask Flip & Flop”.