Why Flip-Flops Are The Worst: One Lucky Editor's Rant

Associate Digital Editor

via Kyle Ericksen for WWD

Flip-flops have a long, storied history dating back thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians crafted the open sandal from papyrus leaves, and painted it on figures in their famously detailed murals. It was the footwear of choice for both Greeks and Romans—perhaps Homer wore them as he wrote The Odyssey?—although apparently the two civilizations placed the middle strap between different toes. (Well, what do you expect? They couldn't even agree on one name for Zeus…er, Jupiter?) Japan's treasured geisha community has been devoted to the style for centuries as well, wearing it platform-style with socks for tea party entertaining.

Anthropologists have discovered early versions of the shoe from former civilizations in China (made of rice straw), as well as India (wood), Africa (rawhide) and Mexico (yucca). But, of course, the flip-flop you're probably most familiar with is the plastic slip-on beach sandal that first hit the United States around 1950, when American soldiers brought it over from Japan. An instant hit, it managed to become even more popular when Havaianas hit the scene (fun fact: it was Humberto Leon and Carol Lim of Opening Ceremony that originally introduced the Brazilian brand to US customers), and well, you know the rest. These days, everyone in the country—right down to our commander-in-chief—owns a humble pair of thongs.

I do not care about any of that. I loathe flip-flops. With the mighty, burning, fiery passion of a thousand Khaleesi-born dragons.

My first—and biggest—complaint (of so, so many) is that the style is unavoidably sloppy. There's simply no way to polish it up: one-strap sandals make all casual outfits seem even less pulled together, and they just plain ruin dressier ones. Really, it's so heartbreaking to see an otherwise perfect ensemble completely fall flat because of gussied-up shower shoes. No one can ever look sophisticated or chic in footwear that noisily flaps up and down while they move.

Even so-called "fancy" flip-flops get me (yes, including the bow-topped ones from Prada Spring 2013); something about being in public with a completely exposed foot seems like such a waste. Like, think of all the millions of amazing—equally comfortable, equally convenient—footwear options in the world! And you choose those? Shoes that guarantee you'll have dirty black toes and heels in 10 minutes' time? You willingly decided to subject yourself to a day's worth of uncomfortable chafing between your first and second toes, and the very real possibly of tripping every time you speed up over uneven terrain? (Because that happens with flip-flops, you know: try to run in thongs and you'll end up one shoe short, pedicure trashed.)

Even worse than the way a pair of toe-strap sandals snags on every street grate and sidewalk crack is its lack of support. Thin and pancake-flat, it might feel easy on the feet while standing around, but kills after any actual walking. That's when your heels, then your ankles, then your legs will start to ache, and you'll start thinking about how nice it would be to slip some Dr. Scholl's insoles in there. But you can't, remember? Those only work with real shoes.

Now, all that said, even I can admit there are some occasions when flip-flops make sense. They really come in handy, for instance, right after a pedicure, when you want to be absolutely, positively sure the polish is dry. An aversion to thong-style shoes is definitely not worth ruining a $30 nail job for. Gym and pool bathrooms and their bacteria-ridden floors are also perfect places for the sandal; it's an easy defense against athlete's foot. And while I personally prefer a cute little pair of canvas Soludos or slide sandals on the beach, I get why some people do flip-flops instead: when you're dealing with sand, sun and water in excess, disposable footwear is a good way to go.

So flip-flop fans of the world, I'm not saying you need to throw out your beloved summer shoe of choice or anything. Just maybe, possibly—please—next time you want to put a pair on, ask yourself if there's a better choice in your closet. Nine times out of 10, I promise the answer is yes.

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