Flip flops, thongs, sandals, jandals, chanclas, chappals, chinelos, slip-slops, slaps, step-ins, go-forwards, clam-diggers, slippers…they’re called many things in different parts of the world, but they all roughly translate to mean “comfort on one’s foot when walking or lying on beach, or when enjoying weekend sunshine on patio with friends.” At least that’s the most popular translation.
Two straps, a toe post and a sole are the basic requirements of the flip flop, but never has such a simple item of footwear brought so much joy to the masses, or maybe better said, brought the masses to the joy. So, who first thought of this ingenious piece of footwear? DaVinci? Edison? Jeff Spicoli? Nah…think pyramids.
That’s right, you can thank the Egyptians for your flip flops…or at least that’s where the record starts, beginning with the flip flop’s forerunner, the sandal. Not the bastions of soft-squeeze rubber, memory foam and cushioned support they are today, the Egyptians crafted their sandals from reeds, papyrus, wood, and even gold, for the “well heeled” of the bunch.
And, feet weren’t comfortably cradled & swaddled in wick-away moisture straps as much as they were tied up & strapped-in for the duration of the ride in their day. For the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans…they were all lovers of the corset-like, strap-heavy sandal, as were the ancient people of Jerusalem, Mesopotamia and Africa. But, how did this utilitarian footwear option evolve into what we know as the flip flop today?
Sadly, Hari Mari’s anthropological footwear grants ran dry during this long & exhaustive search, but thankfully our well-connected friends at Google and The New York Times provided some guidance on the subject, and it seems Japan is the most recent birthplace of the modern flop…and from the pics of the Japanese zori (below), it’s easy to see the connection.
Cue the rise of the beach culture in post-World War II America, and combine it with trend toward more casual daily attire, and a growing need for a more suitable footwear option at the ocean’s sandy edge over Oxfords and heels (pure Hari Mari editorial speculation), and America adopts the zori with speed, and an even quicker name change.
Rebranded as the “flip flop” for the harmonious thwack-thwack-thwack sound the sandal makes when it slaps the heel…history comes full circle, and a footwear legend is born. Some sixty-years later, if that wasn’t enough, Hari Mari threw in memory foam toe pieces, cupped heels and form-fitting mid-soles to add its own graffiti to history’s wall.
Spicoli would be proud…