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Flip Flop Fact File
(Being several things about flip flops you might not have realised)

The Traditional Flip Flop
When were flip flops invented?

It's hard to say how long humankind
has been flapping around with a
strap stuck between the toes -
budget footwear being a subject
that is largely neglected
by cultural historians.

The ancient Chinese are in
with a chance of getting in
the Guinness Book of Garments,
but there also seems to be
a very long history of the toe-post
in sandals of the Indian subcontinent.

As for the rubber flips flops
we know so well today,
it's probably safe to say
that things really took off
with material and technical
innovations in the manufacturing process
in the second half of the 20th century.
This is when the Big Non-Biodegradable
Flip Flop Factor emerged.

The Popular Flip Flop
Why are there so many flip flops?

Flip flops are arguably
the world's favourite footwear.
This is because they are
the bees knees in hot places
where most people live:
flip flops are lightweight,
airy, easy to slip on and off
and protect the soles of the feet
from most everyday spikey
and/or bumpy things.
If going barefoot feels good,
flip flopping is even safer
and makes a better noise.
They are also quite CHEAP
and simple repairs
can be carried out
with pins or thorns.

Yes but are they COOL?

Beyond the choked up streets of Bangkok,
dusty tropical truck-stops
or cool poolsides of Ipanema,
top fashion designers have been
making Hot Style Statements
with flip flops in recent months.
With funky flowers atop the strap,
flip flops provide echoes of
50s suburban barbecue chic;
platform flip flops come in
a range of bold post-feminist fabric prints
while upmarket styles in silky silver
or classic black velvet
provide an insouciant finish
to slinky cocktail wear.
Not only that,
flip flops for serious outdoor travel
have been given the high tech treatment
and are available in lightweight,
sturdy, unironic moulded materials
and in no way reduce the credibility
of people who choose
to buy their shoes
in tent shops.

The Eco Flip Flop
Are flip flops really that bad for the environment?

Compared to what?
Flip flops are blatantly
disposable and non-biodegradable,
while really environmentally sound products
should be built to last for years
and then rot away in an organic compost heap.
There again,
afloat on the ocean,
discarded flip flops can provide
a unique habitat niche for marine creatures
like goose barnacles.
And beyond being mere beach trash,
flip flops have been gathered by
Kenyan islanders, chopped into cushion filling
or carved into sea creature shapes for mobiles,
thus helping to generate income
for cash-poor fishing communities ...
which is good.
And then they go out and
conspicuously consume
flashy new flip flops ...
which (as flip flops are Traditional, Popular and Cool)
is only natural!

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