Flip-Flops – A Brief History

August 31st, 2013

Flip-flops have been a beach staple for as long as we can remember. Over the past decade, this classic form of footwear is now being used by men and women of all ages. Almost every home in every country has them, or have tried one at least once in their lives. The footwear business is a billion dollar industry and wholesale flip flops is a big business that doesn’t seem like it will be out of style anytime soon. Did you ever wonder how the history of flip-flops has evolved and how we get to enjoy the sandals that we do today? Read on to discover the humble beginnings of this classic bestseller.

The term “flip-flop” dates back to almost 50 years ago, but in reality, this has been enjoyed by men and women for over six thousand years! “Flip flap” was also a popular term used in 1529. It is quite amazing to know that the Stone Age paintings and Egyptian murals already have early illustrations of flip flops on rocks, tombs and temples. This dates back to as early as 4000 B.C.

Papyrus leaves were the material of choice in 1500 B.C. The natural fabrics used actually vary, depending on the region: Palm leaves and papyrus were popular in Egypt, rawhide was used in Africa and India preferred wearing their flip-flops made of wooden material. China and Japan enjoy rice straw sandals. Other countries have also used plants, such as the yucca plant in Mexico and the sisal plant in South America.

The old version of the sandals we use today did not always have the distinct band on the largest toe. Certain civilizations had different preferences on where to put the toe strap. Mesopotamians liked it in their third toe, the Romans used the second toe and Greeks were the first to use the big toe for the band strap. These were the first flip-flop styles in the world.

It was in Japan that the thong sandal started to gain popularity. Initially used by Japanese children to help them learn how to walk, the “zori” (Japanese for the thong-style slippers) is now the footwear of choice in almost every country in the world.

The Japanese were responsible for bringing the flip-flops to America. They gave out the “zori” as souvenirs. Soldiers were some of the first sandal users, but the material was stiff and cheap that they ended up having blisters. American pop culture caught on, and it evolved into the bright designs that we see today. First seen in California surfers and beach lovers, materials of different kinds have started to emerge.

Flip flops are like the jeans of footwear – they never go out of style. The past twenty years have really put the flip flops along with high fashion; from simple rubber versions to studded Swarovski crystals to famous brands like Havaianas flip flops, this well-loved sandal is here to stay.

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