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Glossary of Shoe Styles: Flip-Flops

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First produced in 1962, and manufactured in Brazil, Havaianas is one of the most popular brands of flip flops in the world. While some people use the word "havaianas" interchangeably with the term "flip flops," the former is actually a brand name.

Image courtesy of Zappos.com (Buy Direct)

Definition: In the world of footwear, flip flops are casual sandals that have two thin straps as their uppers. The straps form a v-shape, with their joining point separating the big toe from the other toes.

Open-backed shoes with thong straps like these are also referred to as "thong sandals," but flip-flops are typically made from rubber, plastic, or other inexpensive (and often man-made) material.

Flip flop sandals are popular in many parts of the world (though they go by other names in some places), and they are available for women, kids, and men.

The History of the Flip Flop

The term "flip flop" was given to these shoes because of the flip-flopping sound that is made by the sandals as one walks in them, and the phrase is said to have been coined in the early 1970s. And, though thong sandals themselves -- presumably, along with the flip-flopping sounds they make -- have actually been around for centuries, what we currently refer to as "flip flops" are most closely linked to the "Jandals" that became popular in New Zealand in the late 1950s.

There is some controversy surrounding the "invention" of Jandals -- a word which was derived by shortening the English term for the shoes after which they were modeled: "Japanese sandals."

New Zealander Morris Yock filed for a patent on the plastic, thong-strapped sandals as beachwear in 1957, but he had been importing the shoes from an English-raised businessman named John Cowie who, according to his family, had been manufacturing a plastic version of the wooden sandals worn in Japan at his plastics plant in Hong Kong since the late 1940s.

Yock claimed that the concept for Jandals was his own, and his son says that the shoes were originally manufactured in his garage, and later had to be imported from Hong Kong. Cowie's children maintain that the name "Jandals" was created by their father, and that Yock was merely an importer of the plastic shoes that their dad had already been producing.

Footwear Usage of the Term

"Flip flops" is one of those terms that is often used differently by different of people, and given its loose status as an onomatopoeia, could technically be used to describe any type of shoe or sandal that makes that flip-flopping sound. However, in relation to shoes and in the United States, the name is always used in reference to casual sandals, and the only real debatable points are: A) Whether or not non-thong sandals (for example, flat slide sandals) could be considered "flip flops;" and B) Whether or not sandals made of more expensive materials; made by different methods; or carrying a designer label or higher price tag could also be considered flip-flops, or should be referred by their by their more conservative name: thong sandals.

 

Also Known As: flip-flops, thongs, jandals, go-aheads, chappals, Hawai chappal, Hawaiian chappals, air sandals, zori, chinelos, chinelo, japonki, slippers, slops, slip-slaps, slip slaps, pluggers, Havaianas (brand name)

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