AKA: thongs, jandals, pluggers, go-aheads, slaps, slides, step-ins, chankla etc.

How to say it: flip-flop

Traditional Features: 

Flip Flops

  • traditionally have a flat sole, but can be a heel or wedge
  • held loosely to the foot with a Y-shaped strap that starts between the first and second toe, splits and passes over the foot, attaching to the sole on either side
  • generally made from rubber

21st Century Flip-Flops

Flip-flops, love them or hate them, they have become a staple footwear style in the 21st century. High-end designers and cheaper chain stores alike are producing flip-flops in various styles, colours and materials to fulfil the modern woman’s desire for the comfortable, versatile sandal.

Billabong Havaianas

Billabong, Havaianas

Ipanema Tory Burch

Ipanema, Tory Burch


…of the style: The flip-flop style is an old one, dating back to the Ancient Egyptians around 4000 BC. Throughout history they have been worn around the world and have been made from different materials (the Egyptians used papyrus, the Maasai of Africa used rawhide, while Chinese and Japanese versions were made from rice straw), but the iconic Y-shaped strap between the toes has remained a constant through the years.

Despite the style having existed for centuries, the flip-flop didn’t enter modern fashion until after WWII. The style became popular in America after soldiers returning from Japan brought with them the Japanese zōri, a flip-flop-esque sandal that is part of traditional Japanese clothing (more on that later this month). The sandal became popular in the 1950s and quickly evolved to fit in with fashions of the day, appearing in brightly coloured versions that were comfortable and convenient.

In the 1960s the flip-flop became synonymous with the beach lifestyle of California, cementing the sandal as a casual, summer must-have for men and women alike, but as the popularity of the style grew, the flip-flop continued to evolve and began to be worn at more formal occasions.

This push into the realm of dressy or formal wear has continued into the 21st century and flip-flops can be found in many different materials – ranging from the traditional and casual rubber, to more formal (maybe) versions in leather. The dressy-ness of the flip-flop is a widely contentious issue, as younger generations feel that a the flip-flop is an appropriate style of footwear to wear to a formal occasions, while older generations often disagree, claiming the flip-flop is a casual and lazy way of dressing, completely inappropriate for formal occasions. This argument has reached as far as the White House. In 2005, some members of Northwestern University‘s national champion women’s lacrosse team visited the White House wearing flip-flops and were widely criticised for their choice of footwear. The team responded by selling their flip-flops on eBay and raised $1,653 for a young cancer patient who was a friend of the team.

The appropriateness of the flip-flop in various social contexts continues to create debate, but regardless of where it should or should not be worn, no one can argue the popularity of the simple style. One look at the modern footwear landscape will ensure anyone who cares that the flip-flop has a secure hold on a large chunk of the market and is unlikely to give it up anytime soon.

…of the name: The term ‘flip-flop’ comes from the sound the shoe makes as it slaps the foot while the wearer is walking. The term has been used since approximately 1972.

Random Facts

For more info on Flip-Flops try Wikipedia, StyleList, International Business Times or the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

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