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04-07-2013
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Flip Flops : Are They That Bad?
Your Flip-Flops Are Grossing Me Out

They’re unsightly, unhygienic, and unfit for public display.

“Some slow week in summer, I should write a tirade against flip-flops,” I unwisely remarked to my editor one disgusting August afternoon a few years back, as we walked back from lunch behind a woman whose street-blackened soles could be glimpsed anew with each schlapp!-ing step. Now, during an early-July lull between big summer movie releases, he’s gone and called my bluff. And the truth is, I’m not really one for composing tirades. I’m a live-and-let-live sort when it comes to personal grooming and style, and whatever qualities I’m remembered for at my funeral, I’m fairly certain neither hygiene nor chic will top the list. But the increasing prevalence of all-day urban flip-flop wear during the summer months is something we need to talk about as a culture.

I won’t deny that this ancient shoe design, which can be seen in Egyptian murals dating back to 4000 B.C. (the British Museum owns a 1,500-year-old pair made of papyrus) has its situational utility. On the beach, by the pool, showering at the gym, taking out the garbage, making a quick run to the Laundromat—all these are moments in which the advantages of lightweight, easy-to-don-and-doff footwear are self-evident (even if personally, as a non-fan of the feeling of rigid objects wedged between my toes, I’d prefer an across-the-foot “slide” in those moments). I understand, too, that there are parts of the world where the inexpensive, mass-produced flip-flop is widely worn for reasons other than aesthetic choice; in many circumstances, it may be the only shoe that’s both available and affordable. But we are not here to discuss the footwear choices of impoverished villagers, just-showered athletes, or Jimmy Buffett strumming his six-string on his front porch in Margaritaville. We’re talking about grown adults in affluent societies—people presumably in possession of at least one pair of actual shoes—who see fit to navigate the grimy sidewalks of large cities shod only in a loosely flapping, half-inch-thick slip of rubber. Those people—you, if you’re among them—need to face the reality that you are, in essence, going barefoot, and it’s grossing the rest of us out.

From what angle to approach the wrongness first? The crux of the flip-flop problem, for me, lies in the decoupling of footwear from foot with each step—and the attendant decoupling of the wearer’s behavior from the social contract. Extended flip-flop use seems to transport people across some sort of etiquette Rubicon where the distinction between public and private, inside and outside, shod and barefoot, breaks down entirely. I’ve witnessed flip-flop wearers on the New York City subway slip their “shoes” off altogether and cross their feet on the train-car floor with a contented sigh, as though they were already home and kicking back in front of a DVR’d Cheers marathon. We would all look askance at a person who removed his socks and sneakers on the train before ostentatiously propping his naked dogs in plain sight. Why do people get a break just because they happen to be wearing footgear that takes them 90 percent of the way there?

Then there’s the lack of support and protection the flip-flop offers its wearer’s foot. Of course, the same might be said of any flat, thin-soled shoe—but as soon as you slap a heel strap and a buckle onto that sad, flapping sole, my objections disappear. Individual sandals and clogs are subject to scrutiny as to their wearability and visual appeal: Tevas and Crocs may be aesthetic abominations unto the Lord, but at least they perform most of the basic functions of shoes. They permit the wearer to break into a run or take a step backward when needed (who can predict when you’ll need to sprint to catch a bus or help a friend move his couch on short notice?). And with their thicker soles and foot-harnessing straps, they at least go some way toward protecting the feet from the most egregious aggressors in the outside environment: broken glass, loose nails at construction sites, wads of gum, pools of motor oil, piles of dog poop, puddles of human effluvia. (If this unappetizing imagery is skeeving out you flip-flop loyalists, welcome to the mental world of everyone who looks at your feet.)

It’s tough to find hard numbers for the growing pervasiveness of flip-flops as city footwear, though the explosive growth of the popular, Brazilian-owned Havaianas brand over the past two decades suggests that wherever we’re choosing to wear them, we’re certainly buying more of the things than ever. But anecdotally, it’s evident that flip-flop culture is steadily gaining ground. In 2005, several members of the Northwestern women’s lacrosse team wore them on a visit to the Bush White House, sparking a national conversation about whether shoes originally worn to ward off fungus at the gym were also appropriate for trekking through the Oval Office. By 2011, the stigma had diminished to the extent that Obama became the first-ever president to be photographed wearing a pair of flip-flops (though to the president’s credit, the context—an ice-cream shop in his native Hawaii, where he was vacationing with his family—was entirely flip-flop appropriate. It’s not like he was meeting with foreign dignitaries).

I contacted some professionals to confirm my suspicion that flip-flops are not only unappealing and unsanitary, but actively bad for the health of the human foot. Dr. Richard Kushner, a podiatrist in New York City, stopped just short of committing to the condemnation of flip-flops per se—though he allowed that they left the foot more vulnerable to injury, and that any thin-soled, unsupportive shoe would encourage the eventual degradation of the structures that maintain the joints of the foot: “If the foot is too flat on the ground, there’s a clawing effect that happens with the toes.” Asked about the hygienic properties of the flip-flop as city street-wear, he replied, “That’s another matter. That’s something that I myself certainly wouldn’t …” He trailed off, joining me in a moment of anguished silence.

Jeff Gray, C. Ped., a pedorthist and director of education at the orthotics company Superfeet Worldwide in Ferndale, Wash., was more voluble in his condemnation of the rubber-soled scourge. “I see young people going through airports wearing flip-flops and I want to run after them and say ‘I can help you.’ And half their foot isn’t even on the shoe; it’s collapsed off the shoe. … I believe 20 years from now we’re going to see a whole generation who will have foot problems when they’re in their 30s and 40s—soft tissue problems, joint problems, arthritis.” I asked him to lay out the precise anatomical problem with locomotion via flip-flop: “Mother Nature knew that when your foot hit the ground it needed to be a loose bag of bones; then when you push off it converts to a rigid lever. Shoes are really a timing device that manages the transition between those two states.”

With the ordinary flip-flop, he continued, the “bag of bones” stage of the step lasts too long, leaving the foot in the pronated (inwardly rolled) position. (This would explain why flip-flop soles tend to wear out from the inside edge first, and why people walking in them often seem to have inwardly collapsing ankles.) Gray also believes that backless shoes in general are a major cause of injuries and falls, especially among older people, thanks to their lack of maneuverability: “Go and take the lug nuts off your car and see how well you corner.”

My final line of argument against flip-flops is a more nebulous one, having to do with their laziness and lack of character as footwear. Because of the ease with which they’re put on and removed—along, perhaps, with their generic ubiquity—flip-flops connote a sort of half-dressed slatternliness, a sense that the wearer has forgotten to do anything at all with his or her body from the ankles down. I was going to call them “foot underwear” (nomenclature that would be consistent with their older U.S. designation as “thongs,” a term still used in Australia) but that’s not quite right—after all, it’s not like you’re going to put a pair of real shoes on top. More precisely, flip-flops are foot robes, and seeing hundreds of strangers walk by in dirty, sidewalk-sweeping bathrobes barely held on with loosely tied belts (the analogy holds up all the way through) is no one’s idea of summer fun. Unless your daily commute is a stroll from your hammock across white sands to the piña colada stand you manage in Waikiki, please consider leaving the foot robes at home. (dana stevens/slate)

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05-07-2013
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Hahah, war on flipflops.

Personally, I would never wear my flip-flops around town in Paris or Tokyo (except once when I was locked out of my apartment after a quick trip to the corner store one August, and had to go to work like that...humiliated and apologizing profusely).

However, I don't see why it's "gross" that there is no back-strap or shows a lot of foot. She's just having a gut reaction, it's not a real argument. It's not like you can see less of the foot because there is a strap. Some delicate designer sandals show even more foot than flip-flops, and she makes no mention of them, mules nor clogs.

However, I was definitely among the most horrified and appalled when that infamous Lacrosse team wore them to the White House in 2005. Whatever one's political views, that was cringeworthy and embarrassingly style-ignorant.


Last edited by Melisande; 05-07-2013 at 08:11 AM.
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05-07-2013
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What a totally pretentious article.. I started to eye roll just as I read the description of the over-written article. Most of the article is nonsense anyway. The writer seems to have some serious issues.. and not just with footwear. Thanks for the laugh, lucy92.

I absolutly love the comments on Slate.com, regarding the article:

Quote:
Your snottiness is grosser than my flipflops.
slate.com

At the end of the day: who the hell cares? If you want to wear flip flops.. go ahead and wear flip flops. You only live once. Hell, I admit, I've worn a pair of Crocs whilst on holiday. *feels tFS member account slipping away for being very un-fashion.

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05-07-2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Melisande View Post

However, I don't see why it's "gross" that there is no back-strap or shows a lot of foot. She's just having a gut reaction, it's not a real argument.
About 50 different kinds of fungus live on the average healthy person's foot. That's why its not hygenic. and that's probably not including athlete foots and toenail fungus.

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05-07-2013
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Eh, considering that there are about a dozen other kinds of footwear that also exposes as much and more skin and/or offers just as little support for feet I think it's ridiculous to protest against flip flops. Feet get just as dirty in any kind of open footwear. And why walking barefoot is used as argument against flip flops is beyond me as well, there are people who are into that and that's fine. Besides, not too long ago there were professionals who advised against closed and restrictive footwear as it causes bone deformations, bunions and so much more and suggest open sandals and other foot-freeing variants of footwear. Now it's too opens and again health problems are predicted.
What nonsense.

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05-07-2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lucy92 View Post
About 50 different kinds of fungus live on the average healthy person's foot. That's why its not hygenic. and that's probably not including athlete foots and toenail fungus.
? Still doesn't make sense.

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05-07-2013
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I don't mind the sight of them, it's the sound that drives me mad.

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05-07-2013
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On a scale of zero to chic (chic = 100), flip flops score a 2.
For comparison, wearing sweatpants in public is a 1, Crocs rate a 6, UGGs are 8, an average non-fashion-conscious person probably gets about a 20 overall.

It's fine to wear flip flops in public! As long as you don't mind some people thinking you are a gross slob.

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05-07-2013
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^ How are crocs a 6? I find flip flops adequate for the beach or the pool. Where are crocs ever adequate?

(I've worn flip flops out when I had blisters on my feet and that worried me more than what other people may think... then again I live in a country where summer = flip flop season for most people.)


Last edited by barbaraaa; 05-07-2013 at 06:35 PM.
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05-07-2013
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^ It's subjective, of course; Crocs at least spare me the sight of people's poorly maintained toenails and/or bad hygiene. Crocs are appropriate for gardening just as flip flops are appropriate for the beach, they both have their uses, but considering them general-purpose shoes is WRONG.

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05-07-2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vogue28 View Post
I started to eye roll just as I read the description of the over-written article. Most of the article is nonsense anyway.
Me too. Yesterday I googled her and ugh.. with no intention of bashing at all, more like a nasty reminder of where most professions eventually head/fade, I saw solid education, and flip flop central background (meaning she was born there), and just closed the window for my own good... I understand the years of accumulated thoughts (it happens, I could write the bible of cowboy belts ) but not overlooking how extremely subjective is "urban streetwear" (which she seems to identify with dress codes inherent of cities that dominate aesthetically but not necessarily in something as simple as weather/infrastructure conditions). I figured how forced this feels is due to having to write something you don't even believe in just because there aren't that many gigs available these days... and that's depressing. It's like there's only Vestoj for challenging fashion journalism... and they don't pay.


Where I live everyone and their dog has a pair of flip flops... it's summer for a good portion of the year. I have HUGE tolerance for feet... gray feet, cracked feet, sand-covered feet, hair-covered feet... you take a teeth approach to it, pretend you didn't see anything, if you see someone with a broken flip flop, you know they'll be okay when they find a new pair on the next corner... I mostly wear flip flops out of respect, because it'd be rude showing up bare feet as I am most of my time.

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06-07-2013
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Hilarious! Look, let's cut to the quick here. Either you can tolerate people or you can't. It's not about flip-flops. That's just a codified way of saying that you wish ugly, poor people would stay home or in their cardboard boxes cos we're selling off social housing. I understand, I really do, as a recovering Nazi. I have days like that too, where I write reams of borderline hate prose before I remember that I am supposed to be recovering from wanting to impose euthanasia and eugenics on a grand scale and accepting people as they are, undersized sports and leisurewear and flip-flops included. But I try not to publish it or post it anywhere. Still, I think the remark about its being "over-written" was a tad harsh. As politically incorrect polemics/rants go, it isn't bad at all. My pet hate subject this weekend will be slack-jawed women shoving pushchairs full of future benefits consumers under the wheels of my motorcycle. In order to avoid this trigger, therefore, I shall be taking the metro.

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11-07-2013
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huffingtonpost

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11-07-2013
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Quote:
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as a recovering Nazi.


I need a map of the silly runway shoes that make models fall... I've never seen people twist their entire body just to stand on a flip flop.. I actually could go as far as saying that I prefer these over the gender embarrasement that is seeing someone literally trying to walk on pink toothpicks. *hides from bottles*

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20-07-2013
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For me it's rare to find fashionable shoes that offer comfort and support. I'm having trouble finding shoes that will work for me, because most of them give me blisters (constant blistering, not only when I wear them for the first time). Except for the flip flops. And Uggs.
To be honest I can't imagine a summer without them. I only wear Ipanema and Havaianas slim flip flops though. They're the best quality, soft and comfortable to wear. Of course I don't wear them at work, but they're my summer-time essential. No matter what articles like this say.

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