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The DOs and DON'Ts of Flip Flops

Rules for Wearing the Most Casual of Sandals

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The DOs and DON'Ts of Flip Flops
David Franklin/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

The most casual of casual shoes, flip flops shouldn't really have a set of rules, should they?

The answer, of course, depends on who you ask. But no matter how you slice it, some people are always going to frown upon them. And, most other people will only frown on them some of the time.

Below, I give you the basics of flip flop etiquette. Before we get to that though, let's be sure we're on the same page as to what flip flops actually are.

Technically speaking, flip-flops are thong sandals. The terms are often used interchangeably, since both have the toe-separating component and "Y" shaped straps, and both make a "flip-flop" sound when you walk in them.

But there actually is a distinction made between the two styles.

Flip Flops or Thong Sandals?

Flip-flop sandals are far more casual in appearance; they're usually made of rubber, vinyl, foam, webbing, or some other sort of material that you might not mind getting wet; they're nearly always flat (or have wedge heels) and they're typically less expensive than dressier thong sandals.

Thong sandals on the other hand come in a wide variety of different materials, feature different heel types and heights, and can be quite extravagant -- in fact, you can even find women's evening shoes that also happen to be thongs.

But for the sake of this article, we're going to be talking about flat thongs and flip-flops. When to wear them, how to wear them -- and most importantly, when not to wear them.

When to Wear Flip Flops

Flip-flops get a bad rap, and some will tell you that they're never appropriate. But the fact of the matter is, there are times when flip-flops are not only appropriate, they're actually ideal.

At the Beach

Nothing beats a pair of flip-flops at the beach. While some will insist that heels or wedges make for a better look, don't buy it. A) Who wants to tread through the sand in heels? And B) Who wants to get their favorite shoes wet? If you plan on getting near the water, stick to basic waterproof flip-flops, but look for stylish options with patterns, colors and embellishments that set them apart from the crowd.

If a trip to the beach for you is more just about looking cute on the boardwalk for an hour or two and not going near the sand or water, then you can choose to put form over function and opt for a dressier thong.

Everyday Casual-Wear

When you're not at work, there's no reason you can't wear flip-flops during your daily routine. Trips to the post office, gas station, grocery store, deli, coffee shop, or just hanging out with friends all qualify as flip-flop friendly agendas in my world, but if you travel in more critical circles, step into a pair of dressier thong sandals.

What to Wear with Flip Flops

What to Wear with Flat Thong Sandals

When Not to Wear Flip Flops

A lot of offices have dress codes, and you're probably painfully aware of yours. But even if there's not a rule against flip flops in the office, they certainly don't provide the most professional look. They're easy to slip into a bag, making them great for wearing to and from work, but while you're at the office, it's definitely in your best interest to stick with more polished styles.

Unless otherwise specified beforehand by the person inviting you to the event, flip flops should generally not be worn to:
  • Restaurants with cloth napkins
  • Red carpet events
  • Churches
  • Funerals
  • Business meetings
  • First dates and blind dates
  • and of course, the white house.

Flip-Flops Poll: How often do you wear flip-flops?

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