Flip flops may seem like a modern invention, but they have actually been around for thousands of years. What’s most fascinating about them is that their basic construction has remained constant, while the materials and cultural associations have changed.
The flip flop is a sandal with open toes and a Y-shaped strap across the front. It’s worn by slipping the foot into the strap and placing the center connector between the big and second toes. Flip flops go by many names around the world: thongs, pluggers, jandals, step-ins, etc. Whatever you call them, their enduring place in fashion remains.
Early Egyptian Flip Flops Lead the Way
While it’s possible that flip flops have been around even longer, the earliest known versions of the flip flop came from Egypt and dated back to 4000 B.C.E. These ancient flip flops were made out of readily available materials like papyrus leaves, wood, yucca plants, and rice straw.
Later, a Japanese version of the footwear was created for young children learning to walk. These flip flops appeared around 1000 B.C.E. and eventually made its way to America after returning World War II soldiers brought them home.
How Flip Flops Got Their Cute Name
It wasn’t until the 1960s that flip flops started being called by that name. The alliterative title is due to the sound the shoes make when people walk in them. Since then, flip flops have been mass-produced in just about every color and pattern imaginable. They are popular as beach and shower shoes, but they are also common footwear for everyday use in warm weather.
In 2011, Barack Obama became the first United States president to be photographed wearing flip flops; he wore his while on vacation in his native Hawaii.
The Popularity Of Flip Flops Remains High Despite Controversy
Whether or not flip flops count as “proper” foot attire is a point of contention. In 2005, members of the Northwestern University women’s lacrosse team caused quite a stir by wearing flip flops to a White House event. Today, lower-stakes debates about the propriety of flip flops take place every summer.
While some people still maintain that flip flops are only suitable for the beach, many people continue to wear them no matter the setting.