“Velcro parents”, now that you have dropped your children off at college, chill. Even as you review your credit card bills complete with charges from Best Buy, Linen & Things,
Apple Store, etc., put things in perspective, you saved on footwear thanks to Flip Flops.
I was motivated by curiosity to pinpoint the origin of modern day flip flops and learned that they evolved from a plant based, flat and thonged Japanese sandal known as a Zōri. It is documented that the production of the rubber soled version were first produced in Kobe, Japan back in the early 1930s. Flip flops first appeared in America after World War II when soldiers bought back the Japanese Zōri, including the cheaper rubber soled editions as souvenirs. Historian Edward Tenner wrote in his book “Our Own Devices” that their low cost of production and consumer demand fueled Japan’s economic recovery post World War II.
The original designs of flip flops have virtually been unchanged for 80 years. It was in the 1950’s as “pop culture” evolved, bright colors were added and the name was coined thanks to the sound they made. At first, flip flops represented the informal lifestyle of California and surfing as kids wore them to the beach or to the pool. Rubber flip flops could be purchased everywhere – dime stores, surf stores and supermarkets. Then platforms became more stylized (e.g., wood, bamboo, leather) and by the 90s they were part of the fashion landscape, thus worn all the time.
Worldwide, especially in many countries with low GDPs, flip flops are a practical, affordable form of footwear that protects the soles of people that would otherwise walk around barefoot. Here in the US; the estimated overall market for footwear is $45 billion with flip flops accounting for $2 billion. One article I read indicated that with an average price of $10 per pair, $5 Wal-Mart specials to designer Gucci’s over $200, there are approximately 200 million pairs sold annually.
What? You just noticed on your credit card bill a $150 charge for a pair of Swarovski crystal studded Jean-Paul Gaultier flip flops. Cheer up! Think about how much money you will save on clothing when Target introduces unisex Kimonos next year.