In Hawaii, the flip flop, or slipper as it is known locally, is worn at all times of the year, on nearly all occasions. Among most Hawaii residents, putting on a shoe is a hassle and avoided when possible. For the rest of America, the flip flop is typically a summertime lounge footwear that serves as a more comfortable and breezy alternative to sneakers or sandals. Flip flop-style sandals have been around since as early as 4000 BC in Egypt with varying styles worn by the Romans and Mesopotamians.
The modern flip flop originated from the Japanese Zori, a thonged sandal with a straw sole. These were brought back by American soldiers as souvenirs from World War II and soon became popular as house slippers among American women. Due to the booming rubber industry in Japan and the rising demand in the states, rubber slippers were exported in great quantities. While most Americans continued to hate the Japanese they embraced the appropriated footwear. In the 1950s the flip flop blew up as a cheap, beach staple named for the sound it made when it slapped against the ground. In 1962, Brazilian company Havaianas entered the market and became what is now one of the most popular brands of flip flops. In addition to the fun patterns it releases every year, Havaianas set itself apart by using a special nontoxic rubber and maintaining the feel of the zori with a textured surface. The flip flop, raking in $2.6 billion a year domestically, has since become a cultural symbol of relaxation and the exclusive footwear for a day at the beach. Interestingly enough, the brand name means “Hawaiians” in Portuguese, as the local Hawaiian culture embodies the lifestyle that the brand represents. For my friends from home and me, the slipper represents comfort and a slower pace of life.