Deconstructing: Flip Flops

Now de rigueur for any trip to the beach, flip-flops – those rubbery sandals held in place by a strap between the toes – have, in fact, been around for hundreds of years

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The British Museum has an Egyptian pair made from papyrus and dating back to 1500BC. Ancient Greeks wore the Y-shaped sandals between the first and second toes, the Romans between the second and third toes, and in Mesopotamia, the third and fourth toes were used to hold on the shoes. In India, the carved wooden padukas used a round knob between the first and second toes. The Maasai tribesmen traditionally wore similar styles fashioned from rawhide, while both China and Japan have enjoyed a long history of raised wooden sandals held on with straps. 

While the American moniker was earned from the distinctive flapping sound made when walking, flip-flops sport different names all over the world: Australians call them thongs, South Africans refert to them as slops, Filipinos call them tsinelas, while in Somalia they are dacas. Ghanaians call them charlie wotes and in Brazil they are chinelos.

The Japanese version, known as zori, were brought back by returning American soldiers after the Second World War, resulting in a US craze for the new footwear. By the 1950s, they were redesigned using bright colours, and in 1962 the Brazilian company Alpargatas began to manufacture them under the brand name Havaianas. By 2006, sales of flip-flops had outstripped trainers and by 2009, the industry was thought to be worth Dh73.5 billion worldwide. Today, flip-flops are becoming environmentally aware, with many companies choosing to use recycled materials instead of the non-biodegradable polyurethane.

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