Having grown up in a tropical country, I can assure you that flip-flops are an essential accessory, whether young or old. We all own a pair. In Brazil, my home country, we even have a renowned national brand that offers a wide range of designs and colors.
As I have come to realize, flip-flops were not just a staple for tropical living; they are also the unofficial footwear of choice for beach outings and summer days. Who would’ve guessed that a simple piece of Y-shaped strap attached to a sole could meet the needs of every summer lover?
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If you share my passion for the ocean, chances are you are also a devoted fan of flip-flops. I adore them so much that recently, I found myself pondering their origin. I could have sworn that some Brazilian national invented them, but is that actually correct?
Intrigued, I decided to dig a little deeper and stumbled upon some interesting facts about flip-flops. I thought it would be a great blog post topic. So, here are some entertaining and lesser-known facts about flip-flops that you probably don’t know.
An Ancient Artifact
And that is the first thing I was wrong about regarding flip-flops. In my head, this simple yet effective design could have been a contemporary invention. As it turns out, it is over 15,000 years old. Can you believe it?
Unfortunately, nobody can pinpoint the person or culture that invented them. However, ancient civilizations such as Egypt, Greece, and Rome were among the early adopters, at least around 4,000 BC.
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In ancient Egyptian murals and artifacts depict flip-flop-like sandals made of palm and papyrus leaves. Meanwhile, the ancient Greeks and Romans had their own variations, known as “sandalia” and “soleae,” respectively. These early examples provide the first glimpses into the widespread use of flip-flop-like footwear across different cultures.
Beyond the Mediterranean, flip-flop-like sandals also found their place in East Asian cultures, such as China and Japan. Traditional Japanese “zori” and Chinese “Zhongli” featured a similar design with thong straps and flat soles.
The Californian Boom
After World War II, returning soldiers introduced the casual and comfy appeal of flip-flops from the Pacific. However, the booming surfing and Californian beach culture between the 1960s and 1970s solidified their popularity.
Surfers and beachgoers embraced flip-flops as their go-to footwear. Flip-flops suited their laid-back lifestyle associated with sun, sand, and waves. However, the modern flip flop we know today draws inspiration from Zōri, a Japanese sandal style made of rice straw.
There is a National Flip-flop Day
Okay, this one gave me a minor headache trying to grasp the exact date. But it is a fact! National Flip-flop Day is observed in the United States on the third Friday in June since 2007. However, it is not a worldwide acknowledged holiday, and the dates might vary in different countries.
The occasion seems to have been created by Tropical Smoothie Cafe, a chain of restaurants in the US. Their goal was twofold: to raise funds and to increase awareness for Camp Sunshine, a non-profit organization that provides memorable experiences for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. The exact details of how National Flip-flop Day came to be are not widely documented.
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I Guess Haters Are Everywhere
That one took me by surprise. Apparently, not everyone appreciates flip-flops, as it appears podiatrists are not big fans. Their argument? Flip-flops lack proper foot support, possibly leading to various foot issues, such as plantar fasciitis and other problems.
So, to ensure foot comfort, it is advised to avoid wearing flip-flops for long walks and extended periods.
Do a quick Google search for “What is the Most Worn Shoe in the World?” The first answer you’ll likely find is “Flip-flops.” These comfortable shoes have gained popularity worldwide, particularly among beach lovers and residents of tropical countries.
What began with papyrus and palm leaves has evolved into various materials, shapes, and colors. Flip-flops have become a staple in cultures around the world. While we Brazilians didn’t invent them, it is great to witness the endurance of such ancient footwear. It’s remarkable how such a simple concept has resulted in the perfect design.
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