The flip-flop frenzy

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Recently we took the kids to an amusement park. While the boys and I rode the big stuff, Tom chaperoned Kate on kiddie rides because his stomach is less forgiving and he has a healthier respect for gravity.

As the boys and I climbed onto rides and roller coasters, I noticed that there are now flip-flop storage cubbies at the front of the lines. Ride attendants announce that you should stow your flip-flops and other loose items into a cubby so you won’t lose them.

Inevitably, when the flip-flop announcement was made, half the people in line slid out of their so-called shoes and tucked them into the cubbies where they would then retrieve them after the ride.

Being a rational person with a healthy curiosity, I couldn’t help but wonder: “Why would someone wear flip-flops to an amusement park?”

Flip-flops to the beach? Sure, that makes sense because the flip-floppy action makes it easy to shake sand out from between your toes.

But flip-flops in a place where you’re likely to turn upside down while experiencing G-forces? Not to mention the miles of walking from one end of the park to the other? Have flip-floppers lost their minds along with any sense of appropriate footwear.

I hate to sound like a snob but, let’s face it, the flip-flop is a poor excuse for a shoe. It’s a slab of flimsy rubber attached to a wimpy, y-shaped strap. There’s not even a hint of arch support or toe protection. (And yes, I’m aware of how old and un-hip it sounds to be advocating for sensible shoes.) Nevertheless, I say the flip-flop is a shoe slacker – a foot freeloader.

When someone loses a toenail during the summer, you can almost bet a flip-flop was involved. The day shoe design technology was being handed out, flip-flops were off smoking weed at the beach.

That being said, there’s no denying the wild appeal flip-flops have for millions of people. Flip-flop lovers claim they’re the most comfortable shoes in the world. But I never liked the feeling of a strap between my toes any more than I like the idea of thong underwear running through other more personal valleys of my anatomy. Just feels wrong. If that makes me a shoe prude, then so be it.

In my mind, the flip-flop’s greatest asset is the ease in which you can be in or out of them. It makes them handy for fetching the newspaper and checking the mailbox. But if, God forbid, you should need to break into a sudden sprint to run from danger (a snake, perhaps), flip-flops are not your friend. They will flip and flop right off your feet as you flee.

Despite what I see as their many faults, flip-flops have cultivated a loyal, almost fanatical base, having grown into a 2 billion dollar industry in America. Long before people in amusement parks wore them, the ancient Egyptians flipped and flopped around the Middle East in them. Flip-flops have even been found depicted in cave drawings.

Research shows they caught on in America in the 1950s after soldiers brought them home from Japan as souvenirs. In Japan, they were called Zori’s but Americans renamed them for the signature sound they make as they smack up against bare feet.

Flip-flops have come a long way since then and, I’ll admit, there are some really cute ones out there, bedazzled with jewels, sequins, polka-dots, flowers and more. Some brides are even ditching their heels for fancy bridal flip-flops.

But I, for one, still haven’t flipped for them. In my book, they’re all flop.

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3 Replies

  1. Beth Wilkerson

    I enjoy your commentary each week in the Buffalo Reflex. This week, I felt compelled to reply. I whole-heartedly agree with you on the issue of flip-flops (thongs in my day…and I’m not THAT old). I am a teacher and am surprised at the number of “professionals” that wear flip-flops (the $2.00 shoes) to work. Recently, we hired a new administrator who banned flip-flops. She said we could wear decorative flops. I knew what she meant; but many thought they would have to start purchasing $10.00 flops instead ( which are basically the $2.00 flop with a bead or two or maybe a rhinestone). It kills me to see how poorly our educators today are dressed, yet they want to be considered professionals. I have vented…thank you. And (yes, I know I started a sentence with “and”) maybe I’ve given you an idea for “Flip-flops: Part 2.”

    1. Gwen

      Beth,
      Thanks so much for your kind words about the column in the Buffalo Reflex. I couldn’t agree more with your “venting,” and I say flip-flops are not dressy no matter how many rhinestones are hot glued to them. :-)
      And I start sentences with the word “And” all the time. My writing rule is “As long as you know the rules, then you can break them on purpose.”
      I hope you’ll stop back by here to comment again sometime soon. Thank you!

    2. Helen Lewis

      Hooray! I finally get to read your article. Thanks so much. It’s like talking to you in person, which I wish I were at this very minute. So homesick I can’t stand it. These visits to Fayetteville, fun as they may be, leave huge holes in my heart as I pull away and cross the Mighty Mississippi headed for KY. I’m still struggling with the issue of moving back. Wish the good fairy would just appear and point the way. I know where my heart is, and they say home is where your heart is. So I guess I’ve already received my answer. And then there are grandchildren…………

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