Flip flops have been a summer mainstay all over the US and Europe for decades. They can be seen on the feet of people young and old throughout the summer at the beach, at bars, along the boardwalk and more almost as soon as the summer sun arrives every year.
But are flip flops out of style? The simple answer to that question is no, in fact they are more popular than ever before, especially as they have evolved a lot since they were first introduced in the US by those returning from Japan after the Second World War.
How long have flip flops been around?
There is good archeological evidence that a flip flop style shoe has been around since Ancient Egyptian times, as far back as 1,500 B.C. The footwear reached the shores of the US, as we mentioned, courtesy of soldiers who had become accustomed to wearing them in Japan. It was not until the early 1960s though that the term ‘flip flops’ came into common use.
The word flip flop comes from the sound these light, open shoes make when the wearer walks. It’s used in the US and the UK, but they are called zori in Japan, dép xỏ ngón in Vietnam, chinelos in Brazil, japonki in Poland, infradito in Italy, djapanki (джапанки) in Bulgaria,”charlie wote” in Ghana, “japanke” in Croatia and vietnamki in Russia and Ukraine. But whatever you choose to call them they are some of the most popular, versatile and affordable types of footwear you can buy.
Most people reserve their outdoor use of flip flops to the warmer months only, but the Japanese are actually so fond of their zori that there they sell special socks with a separate big toe so that they can continue to wear their zori year round. So maybe socks and flip flops aren’t so unfashionable after all?
When should you wear flip flops?
Traditionally the flip flop has been thought of only as a casual shoe for summer wear. Some also choose to wear them as house slippers, but that too is usually only when they are home alone.
Or that’s the way it used to be. Things are changing. Women, especially, are beginning to rebel against the idea that they have to endure foot pain from high heels and tight, enclosed shoes to meet fashion standards and are embracing flatter, more comfortable options like flip flops.
Flip flops themselves are changing too. If you only have an image of the brightly colored plastic flip flops you might have worn to the beach as a child then you are a little out of touch, fashionwise. These days you can find flip flop styles that have wedge heels, styles that are highly embellished, that are offered by sports shoe manufacturers, and, as we’ll cover in greater detail in a moment, bridal flip flops are a truly popular ‘thing’ right now.
Can you wear jeans and flip flops?
Jeans and flip flops actually go very well together. The denim jean has evolved into a rather unique fashion item. When paired with a t shirt, and a shoe like a flip flop or sneaker they are the epitome of casual style for both men and women. However, add a more formal shirt or blouse, and dress shoes and you have an outfit that would pass muster in more formal settings – even a more relaxed office these days – and so yes, if you are going for a great casual look that will also be very comfortable, then jeans and flip flops are a great choice.
Can you wear leggings with flip flops?
Most health experts advise that if you are a gym goer you always ensure that you have something on your feet, especially in a shared locker room. Many people – both men and women – choose to keep a pair of flip flops especially for that use, and so in that setting, flip flops and leggings are a perfect pairing.
In terms of streetwear, it’s a matter of personal choice. Some feel that flip flops are best suited to summer and mid calf capri leggings – which really is a great look – but, depending on the style of flip flop they can look great with a full length legging too.
Can you wear flip flops to a bar?
Flip flops are almost a must at a beach bar, and that is perfectly acceptable. In other bar settings however, people sometimes run into trouble if they choose a flip flop style shoe for an evening out as they may violate a formal dress code. If a bar or nightclub states that jacketas must be worn, for example, then it’s a good bet that your flip flops will not really be welcomed either.
Again, however, times are changing. Most Millennials and Gen Z’ers have a far more relaxed attitude to evening wear and ‘going out’ fashion, so in bars where they make up the majority of patrons casual footwear like flip flops is perfectly acceptable. Not sure? Check with the management before you head out.
Can you wear flip flops to a wedding?
If you are a bride – or a bridesmaid – any wedding day can be a long and uncomfortable one. The big dresses, the heavy makeup, and, traditionally, the high heels and strappy sandals. Brides have begun to rebel at that notion however, and over the last few years bridal flip flops have become a wedding day staple for many.
In many ways, this makes a lot of sense. The average bridal gown is long enough that shoes are barely seen anyway, the reason that they are usually rather plain. For that reason, more and more brides, and their attendants, are choosing to spend their day more comfortably in flip flops.
Some brides choose to still wear formal shoes for their wedding ceremony and then switch to flip flops for the reception – as both Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle – reportedly did at their weddings – while others opt to wear them from the start, as they are determined to put their comfort and enjoyment of the day first, which, if you think about it, makes a lot of sense. Why spend tons of money on a wedding if you really won’t enjoy it all because your feet hurt?
The range of bridal flip flops available is huge. If you head to Etsy you will find page after page of handcrafted flip flops embellished with crystals, embroidery, feathers and much more (there really are some incredible choices created by some seriously talented craftspeople)
But you won’t just find bridal flip flops at Etsy. They are readily available at mass market bridal stores like David’s Bridal, in a number of different styles and very reasonably priced, and even some high end wedding designers, including Vera Wang and Christian Siriano have begun including bridal flip flops in their collections.
Are ‘fancy’ flip flops a thing?
They certainly are. There are an increasing number of flip flop styles available that could be classified as ‘fancy’ and they often have a price tag that far exceeds that of the $5 flip flops you might be used to choosing. Here’s a look at some of our favorite lines for both men and women:
Although the designer herself may no longer be with us, her fun and eclectic fashion line lives on, and now offers a range of flip flops that every Kate Spade fan will love.
There is a lot to choose from in terms of style. Models like the Rhett flip flop have chunky wedge heels and bright bold colors, while dantier options offer flat soles and pretty ribbons and jewels on the thong (the bit that goes between your toes) And, as you might expect, there are also flip flops that offer the bright, bold graphics that Kate Spade is so famous for. At $20-$90 they are obviously higher priced, but if you want to stand out on the beach, or anywhere else you choose to wear your flip flops, they are certainly worth a look.
Steve Madden flip flops for men and women
Long a favorite shoe designer of the Gen X and Millennial set, Steve Madden offer a number of great flip flop styles for both men and women.
For guys the Steve Madden Men’s Santee is a rugged rubber flip flip with a leather thong that would be suitable for wear everywhere from the beach to the bar or even a casual Friday at the office. Steve Madden Mens P-Tactic on the other hand are a more stylish take as they feature a soft brown leather upper and a molded white sole, making them look more like a nice driving moccasin than a flip flop.
For the ladies the Steve Madden P-Tye is a vision of minimalism in black leather and is a stylish alternative to more restrictive sandals that could be worn almost anywhere. And for those who like to stand out a little more the Steve Madden Boardwalk is a glittery gold leatherette style that would do that beautifully. The Steve Madden line of flip flops ranges in price from $20 for the simpler styles to $100 if you really want to get fancy.
Skechers flip flops
Another huge favorite with Millennials, Skechers also offer some great flip flop styles. Skechers Cali Women’s Meditation-ocean Breeze Flip Flop is a lacy leather bohemian style shoe that could almost have been made for Coachella and the Skechers Cali Women’s Vinyasa Bindu Flip Flop is a bejewelled leather flip flop that adds a wedge heel, making it a great ‘going out’ choice.
For guys the purposely distressed looking Skechers Men’s Bosnia Flip Flop, which is offered in a dark brown leather with durable cloth thong, is a great dressy casual look and the Skechers Fray Cotton Flip Flop offers the ultimate in surfer style chic.
Skechers flip flops range in price from $20-$80,so there is something to fit every budget as well as every taste!
Should flip flops be allowed in school?
We’ve talked a lot about how flip flops have become far more acceptable for everyday off the beach wear, especially among younger people. The one place they are usually not welcomed however, is school, and at most secondary schools the dress code actually forbids them.
Some schools say that this is for safety reasons, which makes sense, as flip flops and running down hallways can be a disastrous mix and school kids are always in a hurry. Other schools just seemly deem them inappropriate and too casual.
The one place that flip flops are usually allowed in school however, is the locker room. Research study after research study has proved how bacteria laden the average public locker room is and that leads to outbreaks of athlete’s foot, fungal infections and more.
In fact, one research study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found that it is not just foot infections that can be picked up by walking barefoot in high school locker rooms. Colds and flus can also be easily spread this way, and in some instances there was even evidence of the very harmful bacteria that can cause pneumonia and even resistant staph infections.
All of this means that wearing flip flops in the locker room is a must for public safety, something most schools take very seriously, so it is the one place that flip flops should never be against the rules!
And there you have it, our look at flip flops in the 21st century and the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about them. We hope it inspires you to take a second look at this most common of fashion footwear items and consider expanding your footwear options – and increasing your comfort – by considering wearing them for more than just a day trip to the beach.