Flip-flop fanatics

Fancy or cheap, the flat rubbery sandal is chic and gaining popularity
Tuesday, May 22, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:58 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008
MU freshman Kate Miller owns 76 pairs of flip-flops. As a YMCA camp counselor last summer, she brought 20 pairs for a three-week camp, earning her the nickname “Flip-Flop.”

Thongs, chappals, zories, jandals, — whatever the name, flip-flops are cheap, flat, rubbery footwear. And they are taking over the world. Thongs are being substituted for other types of shoes, regardless of the weather. Saul Trevino, an orthopedic surgeon at University Hospital, moved here from Texas last month and quickly noticed that flip-flops were “the in thing.”

“In Missouri, it is not uncommon to wear shorts and sandals all year,” said Trevino. “It is a local custom, even when it is snowing and freezing outside.”

Avid shopper and MU freshman Kate Miller owns 76 pairs of flip-flops and she wants more.

“I did my first round of flip-flop buying and I bought about six pairs then,” said Miller. “But I really haven’t started searching yet.”

Although 76 pairs might seem like entirely too many, Miller won’t spend more than $10 a pair. “They are also pretty inexpensive, depending on what kind you buy,” Miller said. “I buy them because they are so comfortable and easy to put on and take off.” Miller even obtained the nickname, “Kate ‘Flip-Flop’ Miller” as a camp counselor with the YMCA last summer.

“It just so happened that I had packed over 20 pairs of flip-flops for a three-week stay at camp, so it really just seemed fitting,” said Miller. “Especially since everyone already had come to expect me to be wearing flip flops everywhere.”

Amanda Wasserman, a textiles and apparel management major at MU, said flip-flops have replaced the adjustable double-buckle Birkenstock sandals that were popular 10 years ago. “Everyone had a pair of the Birkenstocks, but they had more of an arch and sole than modern flip-flops,” said Wasserman. “They were also more expensive — my friends and I had the generic brands from Payless and Target.”

Flip-flops aren’t just for college students. Columbia resident Cecilia Holbrook, 55, bought two pair at a recent trip to Old Navy. She said she buys flip-flops because of the convenience; she likes to slip shoes on and off quickly.

But are flip-flops always socially acceptable? In July 2005, Northwestern University’s National Champion Women’s Lacrosse Team was photographed with President Bush at the White House. All of the women were in dresses and some wore pearls. Yet four of the nine players in the front row wore flip-flops. After the event The Chicago Tribune published an e-mail from player Kate Darmody’s brother, quoting him saying “You wore flip-flops to the White House?” Footwear expert Meghan Cleary even discussed the issue on MSNBC’s “Connected: Coast to Coast,” comparing it to the first time jeans were worn in public.

Like so many others who are too lazy to tie their shoes, Trevino agrees that there are benefits to wearing flip-flops. He said the sandals are simple to put on. “They put no pressure on the side of the foot and are inexpensive,” he said.

But flip-flops can also pile up and create extra clutter in the house, especially if the whole family wears them. Stay-at-home mom and avid flip-flop wearer Maggie Crawley thinks she has found the perfect solution to flip-flop clutter. Crawley has a patent pending for her own variation of the flip–flop. With a special snapping material normally used to attach drapery to windows, she has created an innovative flip-flop with detachable designs. The designs snap onto the tops of the thongs, making it quick and easy to keep your wardrobe versatile.

“I wear flip-flops all the time and that is one of the reasons that made my husband and I go with this creation over others,” said Crawley. Although her target demographic is ages 4 to 12, Crawley hopes to create specialty designs, including MU emblems and sorority logos, to target an older clientele.

But certain people should beware of the possible consequences of wearing flip-flops, Trevino said. “If there is a tendency for someone to have a flat foot, then you should not wear flip-flops,” he said. “They have no arch and are flat and spongy.” Yet he also said people should have no problem with the sandals as long as their foot alignment is good.

And no matter what the reason or what time of year, flip-flops continue to be popular footwear in Columbia. And if it turns cold, the Web site offers “flip-flop socks” in many colors for less than $10 a pair.

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