Actress Marianne Denicourt attends the 'Les Nuits En Or 2018' dinner gala in flip flops. The event was held at UNESCO on June 11, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Marc Piasecki/Getty Images)
Flip-flops are the go-to footwear for women and men during the summer months…and all year round. You can find super cheap, one-dollar flip-flops and ultra-chic, expensive, designer flip-flops, and all price points in between. This style of footwear may be extremely popular, but there is a lot of history behind the flip-flop that you probably didn’t know.
1) Flip-Flops By Any Other Name…
Although flip-flops have been around for a lot longer, the name wasn’t assigned to this style of footwear until the 1960s. The term flip-flop was used to describe the clapping sound that is produced with the shoe slaps against the heel when you are walking. They could have easily been called slappies or cluckers or snap-snaps, but the term flip-flop stuck.
2) There is a National Flip-Flop Day
Yes, National Flip-Flop Day is a thing. It is held on the third Friday in June every year since it was created in 2007. On this day, everyone is encouraged to wear their flip-flops and share pics of their favorite footwear on social media sites, using the hashtag #NationalFlipFlopDay. You may even find some retail locations getting in on the action by hosting in-store sales on flip-flops.
An ancient Egyptian carving shows a person in flip flops.
3) Flip-Flops: The Footwear Our Ancestors Wore
The flip-flop is one of the oldest forms of footwear. Murals in Egypt depict ancient Egyptians wearing flip-flops as far back as 4,000 B.C. These Egyptian flip-flops were made with papyrus and reeds. Early African flip-flops were crafted from animal hides, Indian flip-flops were wooden and in China and Japan, the footwear was made using rice straw.
4) Between the Toes
Today’s flip-flops are worn with the strap between the first and second toes, but that wasn’t always the case. Many early cultures, including the Romans and the Mesopotamians, wore their flip-flops with the strap between the second and third toes. We can thank the ancient Greeks for showing us that the most comfortable way to wear flip-flops is with the strap between the first and second toes. The flip-flops of ancient Greece were more closely aligned with modern flip-flops than any of the footwear that came before.
5) Flip-Flops in the Post-War Era
U.S. soldiers returning home from deployments in Japan during World War II brought back pairs of Japanese zori, a type of flip-flop made with rice straw. These became wildly popular in the United States. By the 1950s, U.S. manufacturers were making their own version of the Japanese zori, using rubber instead of rice straw. Soon, people could buy flip-flops in any color imaginable and the style of footwear became a fashion trend of the 1950s and 1960s.
In 2011, then-president Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to be photographed wearing flip-flops. This was, most likely, the first time the people of the United States saw a president’s toes. While the media had a field day condemning the president for his casual footwear, University of Pennsylvania’s Kathleen Hall Jamieson had the perfect retort when she said, “If you were born in Hawaii, if you grew up in Hawaii, if you vacation in Hawaii and you don’t wear flip-flops, then there is something seriously wrong with you.”
7) Flip-Flops are Big Business
Americans love their flip-flops. Last year alone, they spent more than $2.5 billion on just this one variety of footwear, making flip-flops the best selling sandal in the country.
8) Flip-Flops for a Cause
Although Gucci and Crystalishious make costly flip-flops for discerning customers, the most expensive flip-flop on the market is produced by the eco-friendly company, Chipkos. Their uniquely-shaped, square flip-flop with hand-painted 18-karat gold designs, sell for whopping $18,000 a pair. These shoes are part of the footwear company’s Stand for Square Feet campaign. Money from the purchase of these flip flops goes toward the protection of 100,000 square feet of endangered rainforest habitat in Costa Rica. The flip-flops even come with their own clear display case for those who want to show off their footwear instead of wearing them out to walk the dog.
9) Sing the Song of the Flip-Flops
Flip flops can occasionally be found in the lyrics of songs, but only one song (so far) have mentioned America’s favorite footwear in the title of the song. Country artist Kenny Chesney included the song, “Flip Flop Summer” on his ninth album, the 2005 The Road and the Radio album. Among the lyrics of this tune is the chorus that says, “It’s gonna be another flip-flop summer, kick off your shoes and call up your lover.” Elsewhere in the song, Chesney sings “We’re going to take us a long vacation, mix us up some strong libations. No worries, just good vibrations, and lazy days in style. It’s a flip-flop summer, it’s a flip-flop summer.”