Now & Then: The History of Flip Flops

Flip Flopping: Style over substance makes sense when it comes to this beach basic.

Welcome to the season of the flip flop. While the ability to change one’s mind gets political watchers steamed up, the ability to change out of your socks and enjoy the warmer days just makes good sense. For some, summer is all about the wedge, or even the gladiator, but for most of us – we’ll admit it – we’ll spend May thru September wearing our flip flops.

The Japanese Zori that inspired the modern flip flop style.

The simplest of footwear designs, just a flat footbed attached to a Y-shaped thong, the modern rubber flip flop is thought to have originated from a Japanese style called the zori. After soldiers returning from World War II brought them home from Japan as souvenirs, they were marketed towards women as slippers to be worn with their housecoats. They were named “jandals,” blending the words “Japanese” and “sandal.”  When John Cowie, a Hong Kong based businessmen began manufacturing cheap rubber versions, the style quickly caught on with beach goers in the 1950s and 1960s.

Brazilian flip-flop designers Havaianas have collaborated  with Missoni on a collection of eco-friendly styles for 2012 inspired by the Italian fashion house’s signature zigzag motif.

Brazilian company Havaianas became the rubber flip-flop fashion brand of choice after launching in 1962 with a secret rubber formula free of toxic EVA and PVC. Interpreting the traditional rice straw soled Zori, the sole of havianas have a textured rice pattern, one of the brands signature features.

Jackie Kennedy Onassis wearing her flip flops while shopping in Capri in the 70s.

Celebrities captured wearing flip flop styles include Jackie Kennedy Onassis in Capri in the 70s, the essence of vacation chic in her fitted tee, Canfora thongs, head scarf and oversized sunglasses. Jennifer Aniston, poster girl for a casual beach-loving style is often photographed wearing her Havaianas with papparazi in tow.

Jennifer Aniston suits flip flops’ free-wheelin’ style.

Want to catch up on some more fashion history?

Now & Then: The History of the Fedora

Now & Then: the History of the Ballet Flat

Now & Then: The History of Shorts

Now & Then: Met Ball’s Most Memorable Dresses

Now & Then: The History of the Breton Shirt

Now & Then: The History of the Platform Shoe

Now & Then: The History of Fitness Wear

Now & Then: The History of the Pencil Skirt

Now & Then: The History of the Cocktail Dress

Now & Then: The History of Skinny Jeans

Read more Now & Then articles here.

Rowena Ritchie

Rowena is EcoSalon’s West Coast Fashion Editor and currently resides in San Francisco, CA.