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A pair of flip-flops Gone Barefootin' free creative commons (4615287172) (cropped).jpg
A pair of flip-flops
Flip-flops being worn 2010-07-10-gdansk-by-RalfR-087.jpg
Flip-flops being worn

Flip-flops are a type of light sandal, typically worn as a form of casual footwear. They consist of a flat sole held loosely on the foot by a Y-shaped strap known as a toe thong that passes between the first and second toes and around both sides of the foot or can be a rigid base with a strap across all the toes (these can also be called sliders or slides).


This style of footwear has been worn by the people of many cultures throughout the world, originating as early as the ancient Egyptians in 1,500 B.C.

In the United States the flip-flop has been popularized from the Japanese zōri , after World War II as soldiers brought them back from Japan. They became a prominent unisex summer footwear [1] starting in the 1960s.


Although the Beach Boys 1964 song All Summer Long mentions "T-shirts, cut-offs, and a pair of thongs", the term flip-flop has been used in American and British English since the 1960s to describe the thong or no-heel-strap sandal – This type of footwear is also known as "slides" or "sliders". [2] It is an onomatopoeia of the sound made by the sandals when walking in them. [3] They are called thongs (sometimes pluggers [4] ) in Australia, [5] jandals (originally a trademarked name derived from "Japanese sandals") in New Zealand, [6] slops or “plakkies” in South Africa [7] and Zimbabwe, and tsinelas in the Philippines (or, in some Visayan localities, "smagol", from the word smuggled).

Throughout the world, they are known by a variety of other names, including slippers in the Philippines, Hawaii, Bahamas, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago.


Pair of leather thong ancient sandals from the New Kingdom of Egypt (ca. 1550-1307 BC) Egyptian - Pair of Leather Sandals - Walters 73110.jpg
Pair of leather thong ancient sandals from the New Kingdom of Egypt (ca. 1550–1307 BC)
Zori (straw sandals) and Geta (wooden clogs) belonging to interned Japanese in the United States (1946), direct antecedents of modern-day flip-flops. Granada Relocation Center, Amache, Colorado. Zori (straw sandals) and Geta (wooden clogs) made at G . . . - NARA - 539914.jpg
Zori (straw sandals) and Geta (wooden clogs) belonging to interned Japanese in the United States (1946), direct antecedents of modern-day flip-flops.

Thong sandals have been worn for thousands of years, dating back to pictures of them in ancient Egyptian murals from 4,000 BC. A pair found in Europe was made of papyrus leaves and dated to be approximately 1,500 years old. These early versions of flip-flops were made from a wide variety of materials. Ancient Egyptian sandals were made from papyrus and palm leaves. The Maasai people of Africa made them out of rawhide. In India, they were made from wood. In China and Japan, rice straw was used. The leaves of the sisal plant were used to make twine for sandals in South America, while the natives of Mexico used the yucca plant. [8]

The Ancient Greeks and Romans wore versions of flip-flops as well. In Greek sandals, the toe strap was worn between the first and second toes, while Roman sandals had the strap between the second and third toes. These differ from the sandals worn by the Mesopotamians, with the strap between the third and fourth toes. In India, a related chappal ("toe knob") sandal was common, with no straps but a small knob sitting between the first and second toes. They are known as Padukas. [9]

The modern flip-flop became popular in the United States as soldiers returning from World War II brought Japanese zōri with them. It caught on in the 1950s during the postwar boom and after the end of hostilities of the Korean War. As they became adopted into American popular culture, the sandals were redesigned and changed into the bright colors that dominated 1950s design. [10] They quickly became popular due to their convenience and comfort, and were popular in beach-themed stores and as summer shoes. [11] During the 1960s, flip-flops became firmly associated with the beach lifestyle of California. As such, they were promoted as primarily a casual accessory, typically worn with shorts, bathing suits, or summer dresses. As they became more popular, some people started wearing them for dressier or more formal occasions. [9]

Havaianas thong (flip-flop) vending machine in Sydney, Australia Flip fop vending machine.jpg
Havaianas thong (flip-flop) vending machine in Sydney, Australia

In 1962, Alpargatas marketed a version of flip-flops known as Havaianas in Brazil. By 2010, more than 150 million pairs of Havaianas were produced each year. [12] Flip-flops quickly became popular as casual footwear of young adults. Girls would often decorate their flip-flops with metallic finishes, charms, chains, beads, rhinestones, or other jewelry. [13] Modern flip-flops are available in leather, suede, and synthetic materials. Platform and high-heeled variants of the sandals began to appear in the 1990s, [14] [15] [16] [17] and in the late 2010s, kitten heeled "kit-flops". [18] [19]

A minor controversy erupted in 2005 when some members of Northwestern University's national champion women's lacrosse team visited the White House wearing flip-flops. The team responded to critics by auctioning off their flip-flops on eBay, raising $1,653 USD for young cancer patient, Jaclyn Murphy of Hopewell Junction, New York, who was befriended by the team. [20] There is still a debate over whether this signaled a fundamental change in American culture — many youth feel that flip-flops are dressier and can be worn in a variety of social contexts, while older generations feel that wearing them at formal occasions signifies laziness and comfort over style. [9] In 2011, while vacationing in his native Hawaii, Barack Obama became the first President of the United States to be photographed wearing a pair of flip-flops. [21] [22] The Dalai Lama of Tibet is also a frequent wearer of flip-flops and has met with several U.S. presidents, including George W. Bush and Barack Obama, while wearing the sandals. [23] [24]

While exact sales figures for flip-flops are difficult to obtain due to the large number of stores and manufacturers involved, the Atlanta-based company Flip Flop Shops claimed that the shoes were responsible for a $20 billion industry in 2009. Furthermore, sales of flip-flops exceeded those of sneakers for the first time in 2006. If these figures are accurate, it is remarkable considering the low cost of most flip-flops. [25]

Design and custom

Parts of a flip-flop sandal Anatomy of Sandals.svg
Parts of a flip-flop sandal

The modern flip-flop has a straightforward design, consisting of a thin rubber sole with two straps running in a Y shape from the sides of the foot to the gap between the big toe and the one beside it. They typically do not have a strap around the heel, although heeled varieties are available, as well as flip-flops designed for sports, which come with added support common to athletic shoes, with the thong between the toes. Most modern flip-flops are inexpensive, costing as little as $5 USD or less in some parts of the world. [9]

They are made from a wide variety of materials, as were the ancient thong sandals. The modern sandals are made of more modern materials, such as rubber, foam, plastic, leather, suede, and even fabric. [9] Thongs made of polyurethane have caused some environmental concerns; because polyurethane is a number 7 resin, they can't be easily discarded, and they persist in landfills for a very long time. [26] In response to these concerns, some companies have begun selling flip-flops made from recycled rubber, such as that from used bicycle tires, or even hemp, [27] and some offer a recycling program for used flip flops. [28]

Japanese tabi socks, to be worn with zori sandals Flip-Flops socks.jpg
Japanese tabi socks, to be worn with zōri sandals

Because of the strap between the toes, flip-flops are typically not worn with socks. In colder weather, however, some people wear flip-flops with toe socks or merely pull standard socks forward and bunch them up between the toes. [29] The Japanese commonly wear tabi , a type of sock with a single slot for the thong, with their zōri . [30]

Health and medical implications and injuries

While flip-flops do provide the wearer with some mild protection from hazards on the ground, such as hot sand at the beach, glass, thumb tacks or even fungi and wart-causing viruses in locker rooms or community pools, their simple design is responsible for discomfort and injuries of the foot and lower leg. [31] [32]

Walking for long periods in flip-flops can be very tough on the feet, resulting in pain in the ankles, legs, and feet. [33] A 2009 study at Auburn University found that flip-flop wearers took shorter steps and their heels hit the ground with less vertical force than those wearing athletic shoes. [34] Individuals with flat feet or other foot issues are advised to wear a shoe with better support. [35]

The lack of support provided by thong sandals is thought by some to be a major cause of injuries. Some flip-flops have a spongy sole, causing the foot to roll further inward than normal when it hits the ground (over-pronation). Flip-flops can cause a person to overuse the tendons in their feet, resulting in tendonitis. [36]

Ankle sprains or broken bones are common injuries due to stepping off a curb or tumbling; the ankle bends, but the flip-flop neither holds on to nor supports it. [37] The flip-flop straps may cause frictional issues, such as rubbing, during walking. The open-toed nature of the thongs may result in cuts, scrapes, bruises, or stubbed toes. [38] Despite all of these issues, flip-flops do not have to be avoided completely. Many podiatrists recommend avoiding the inexpensive drug store varieties and spending more on sandals with thick-cushioned soles, as well as ones with a strap that's not canvas and that comes back almost to the ankle. [39]

See also

Related Research Articles

Shoe Durable type of footwear worn in most cultures

A shoe is an item of footwear intended to protect and comfort the human foot. Shoes are also used as an item of decoration and fashion. The design of shoes has varied enormously through time and from culture to culture, with form originally being tied to function. Though the human foot can adapt to varied terrains and climate conditions, it is still vulnerable to environmental hazards such as sharp rocks and temperature extremes, which shoes protect against. Some shoes are worn as safety equipment, such as steel-toe boots which are required footwear at industrial worksites.

Footwear Garments worn on feet

Footwear refers to garments worn on the feet, which typically serves the purpose of protection against adversities of the environment such as wear from ground textures and temperature. Footwear in the manner of shoes therefore primarily serves the purpose to ease locomotion and prevent injuries. Footwear can also be used for fashion and adornment as well as to indicate the status or rank of the person within a social structure. Socks and other hosiery are typically worn additionally between the feet and other footwear for further comfort and relief. Cultures have different customs regarding footwear. These include not using any in some situations, usually bearing a symbolic meaning. This can however also be imposed on specific individuals to place them at a practical disadvantage against shod people, if they are excluded from having footwear available or are prohibited from using any. This usually takes place in situations of captivity, such as imprisonment or slavery, where the groups are among other things distinctly divided by whether or whether not footwear is being worn.

Boot Type of footwear extending above the ankle joint

A boot is a type of footwear. Most boots mainly cover the foot and the ankle, while some also cover some part of the lower calf. Some boots extend up the leg, sometimes as far as the knee or even the hip. Most boots have a heel that is clearly distinguishable from the rest of the sole, even if the two are made of one piece. Traditionally made of leather or rubber, modern boots are made from a variety of materials.

<i>Tabi</i> Traditional Japanese sock with split-toed construction

Tabi are traditional Japanese socks worn with thonged footwear such as zori, dating back to the 15th century.

Clog Footwear made in part or completely of wood

Clogs are a type of footwear made in part or completely from wood. Used worldwide, their forms can vary by culture, but often remained unchanged for centuries within a culture.

Slipper Informal footwear

Slippers are light footwear that are easy to put on and off and are intended to be worn indoors, particularly at home. They provide comfort and protection for the feet when walking indoors.

Zori Flat Japanese sandals similar to flip-flops

Zori, also rendered as zōri, are thonged Japanese sandals made of rice straw, cloth, lacquered wood, leather, rubber, or—most commonly and informally—synthetic materials. They are a slip-on descendant of the tied-on waraji sandal.

Geta (footwear) Traditional Japanese open-topped wooden shoes

Geta (下駄) are traditional Japanese footwear resembling flip-flops. A kind of sandal, geta have a flat wooden base elevated with up to three "teeth", held on the foot with a fabric thong, which keeps the foot raised above the ground.

<i>Waraji</i> Tie-on Japanese straw sandals

Waraji are light tie-on sandals, made from ropemaking fibers, that were the standard footwear of the common people in Japan.

Platform shoe

Platform shoes are shoes, boots, or sandals with an obvious thick sole, usually in the range of 3–10 cm (1–4 in). Platform shoes may also be high heels, in which case the heel is raised significantly higher than the ball of the foot. Extreme heights, of both the sole and heel, can be found in fetish footwear such as ballet boots, where the sole may be up to 20 cm (8 in) high and the heels up to 40 cm (16 in) or more. The sole of a platform shoe can have a continuous uniform thickness, have a wedge, a separate block or a stiletto heel. Raising the ankle increases the risk of a sprained ankle.

Sandal Type of footwear with an open upper

Sandals are an open type of footwear, consisting of a sole held to the wearer's foot by straps going over the instep and around the ankle. Sandals can also have a heel. While the distinction between sandals and other types of footwear can sometimes be blurry, the common understanding is that a sandal leaves all or most of the foot exposed. People may choose to wear sandals for several reasons, among them comfort in warm weather, economy, and as a fashion choice.

Slide (footwear) Open-toed slip-on sandal

Slides or sliders are a type of light footwear that are characterized by having a loose heel that holds on to the foot from the front. Like flip-flops, they are typically employed in casual situations, in addition to being a unisex footgear worn by both sexes. Sliders are distinguished from flip-flops by their vamp strap which does not separate the big toe from the rest of the toes.

Deckers Outdoor Corporation Consumer retail company

Deckers Outdoor Corporation, doing business as Deckers Brands, is a footwear designer and distributor based in Goleta, California, United States. It was founded in 1973 by University of California, Santa Barbara alumni Doug Otto and Karl F. Lopker. In 1975, the company was incorporated in California under the name Deckers Corporation. In October 1993, Deckers initiated a public offering of stock in its company.


Opanci are traditional peasant shoes worn in Southeastern Europe. The attributes of the opanci are a construction of leather, lack of laces, durable, and various endings on toes. In Serbia, the design of the horn-like ending on toes indicates the region of origin, though this specific design is not exclusive to Serbia. The opanci are also considered as the traditional peasant footwear for people in the Balkan region. In Bulgaria they are referred to as "tsarvuli".

Toe socks

Toe socks are socks that have been knitted so that each toe is individually encased the same way as fingers within a glove.

Mary Jane (shoe) Closed, low-cut shoe with one or more straps

Mary Jane is an American term for a closed, low-cut shoe with one or more straps across the instep.

Dress shoe Shoe worn for formal or business dress

A dress shoe is a shoe to be worn at smart casual or more formal events. A dress shoe is typically contrasted to an athletic shoe.

<i>Jika-tabi</i> Traditional Japanese split-toe boots

Jika-tabi are a style of footwear with a divided toe, originating in Japan. They are similar to tabi socks in both appearance and construction. Though they can be worn with traditional thonged footwear such as geta and zōri, jika-tabi are mostly designed and made to be worn alone as outdoor footwear, resembling boots that reach roughly to the mid-calf. Jika-tabi are also known as 'tabi boots'.


Havaianas is a Brazilian brand of flip-flop sandals created and patented in 1962. It is currently owned by Brazilian manufacturing company Alpargatas S.A.. Inspired by Japanese zori sandals, Robert Fraser became the first to mass-produce flip-flops out of rubber. The name Havaianas is derived from the feminine form of the Portuguese word for "Hawaiians", and the pattern on the soles of the sandals is designed to resemble the straw soles of zori. Originally, all Havaianas featured white insoles with colored outsoles and straps. Because of their simplicity and low price, the sandals became rapidly popular with Brazil's lowest social classes. However, now their popularity is generalized and the brand controls 80% of the Brazilian rubber slippers market: in fact, of every three Brazilians, two on average consume a pair of "Havaianas" per year.

Peshawari chappal Footwear

The Peshawari chappal is a traditional type of footwear of Pashtuns, worn especially by Pashtuns in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region. The shoe takes its name from the city of Peshawar, where it originates. While chappal is the word for flip-flops or sandals in Urdu, locals in Peshawar call the Peshawari Tsaplay. The shoes are worn by men casually or formally, usually with the shalwar kameez. Because of their comfort, they are worn in place of sandals or slippers in Pakistan.


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