Written by: on June 7, 2021 @ 8:00 am

Join High Touch High Tech in Celebrating
National Flip-Flop Day
June 11th!

Image Source: Pixabay.com

Modern-day fashionistas may disparage flip-flops, and some doctors warn against wearing them constantly.  But aside from a few objections, the archaeological and historical record both testify to the fact that humans the world over have been rocking flip-flops and sandals, flip-flops’ close relatives, since before civilization even began.  The basic design of flip-flops and sandals, a sole covering held on to the foot with a rope or strap, is much older than the earliest known closed-toe leather shoes.  The oldest sandals on earth were found in Fort Rock, Oregon in the 1930’s.  Made of woven sagebrush ropes, the oldest Fort Rock Sandals date from about 13,000 years ago!

Another culture that had no problem with the flip-flop as fashion was the Ancient Egyptians, whose preferred style was anchored between the first and second toe just as modern people wear today.  Many Ancient Egyptian sandals were made of humble woven papyrus, or more upmarket leather, but they also could be covered in gold and gems depending on the status of the wearer.  It is said that the Pharaoh of Egypt even had a servant who did nothing but carry his sandals until needed.  The Ancient Greeks were huge fans of the sandal, and so were the Romans, although their designs often involved more straps and foot coverage than the minimalistic flip flop design that Ancient Egyptians and present-day people appreciate. 

With such a wealth of ancient footwear to draw from, which design and time period gave us the flip flop we use today?  Look no further than Japan.  Japanese traditional footwear has long been adapted towards the easy-on, easy-off design people prize in contemporary flip- flops.  Japanese homes often had floors covered in delicate reed tatami mats that could be easily damaged by shoes, and so an abundance of flip-flop-like designs emerged, including the geta and the zori.  After WW2, Japan’s decimated economy still held a large reserve of rubber from the Southeast Asian nations that Japan had attempted to colonize during the war.  Japanese manufacturing began to build back by using the rubber to create mass-produced zori, and thus the flip-flop as we know it was born.  Originally marketed as “Jandals,” a combination of “Japan” and “Sandals,” as the shoes gained popularity in the West, some time in the 1960’s they came to be called “flip-flops” for the ubiquitous sound they make when they strike the heel. 

Image Source: Pixabay.com

So go ahead and rock your flip-flops for National Flip-Flop Day this June 11th!  If anyone criticizes your toes as they catch the breeze, just remind them that flip-flops are one of the oldest human designs still in wide use. It is said that a great design is timeless, and in the case of flip-flops, that is definitely true!

So, grab your flip-flops and head to the beach for this week’s at-home experiment! Put your toes in the sand as you make sand observations and seashell imprints! Check out our lesson plan, collect your materials and investigate cool coastal science…all while sporting your favorite flip-flops!

Lesson Plan: https://sciencemadefun.net/downloads/EOTD_Sand_Seashells_Lesson.pdf

Sources:

The Great Flip-Flop Fashion Debate:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijEmTr9jdtM

The Fort Rock Sandals:
https://pages.uoregon.edu/connolly/FRsandals.htm

Worldwide use of Sandals through Cultures and Times: http://historyofsandals.blogspot.com/2010/10/egyptian-sandals_22.html

Introduction to Japanese Traditional Footwear:
https://www.japan-zone.com/culture/footwear.shtml

The Japanese Zori Industry and the Modern Flip-flop:
https://www.heddels.com/2018/04/history-flip-flop/

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