Flip flops, also known as thongs, slip slaps, zories, jandals and many other terms, have been around for thousands of years. In fact, a pair made from papyrus and dating back to 1500 BC has been found and depictions of the shoe are found in murals in Egypt over four thousand years old. Normally seen with a single strap between the big toe and the rest of the feet, throughout the years different civilizations placed the strap in different locations. From Greece and Rome all the way through to present day, flip flops have remained a popular choice of footwear. And through all the centuries, the footwear itself has changed very little.
As for modern usage of thongs, they’ve been a common sight on the beaches of New Zealand since the 1930s. As soldiers returned home from World War 2, the Japanese style enjoyed a short popularity in this country. There is some debate as to just who designed the modern version of flip flops, with both a New Zealander and a British businessman living in Hong Kong laying claim to the title. Whoever was responsible, the shoes were patented and released in the late fifties and went into wide distribution shortly thereafter, rising in prominence in Australia after a debut in the Melbourne Olympics where the Australian swimming team wore them proudly.
In America, it was the Korean War that made flip flops a popular item. Unlike the brief popularity that the shoes enjoyed after WW2, servicemen who returned from Korea brought cheap versions of the shoes home with them. From there, they took off. Initially they were marketed as a facet of the Californian surfer culture, made from rubber and filled with bright colours. Their inexpensive nature and rising popularity helped them appear at practically every beach and pool in the nation. And as their popularity spread, the shoe evolved somewhat. Rubber gave way to bamboo and leather designs but the simple design of the shoe itself remained unchanged.
Today the shoes are still as popular as ever, and even more popular, in fact. Originally a summer shoe, today they are as common as blue jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers. Countless styles exist beyond the basic flat, rubber sandal. Flip flops with heels or wedges, for example, are common, and the material used in the shoe can be practically anything. Three dollar versions can be bought in discount stores, and two hundred dollar designs constantly show up on the fashion runways around the world. Over six thousand years old, flip flops show no sign of waning in popularity.