Friday, June 02, 2006

Today's Salute: The Flip Flop

One of the world's greatest accomplishment is the Flip Flop shoe. This is not only the official shoe of third world nations, but the official footwear of Indiana, Kentucky, Southern Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia. The Flip Flop is singly responsible for lowering the rate of athlete's foot and tetanus. One would think it is named for the familiar sound of the shoe flopping against the wearer's heel, but no.

Footwear historian, Winston Hall provides us with information on the origin of the Flip Flop.

Spring break, warm temperatures, sunshine and longer days are all basically designed to bring about one thing: flip-flops. That’s correct. With the birth of spring comes the resurgence of the flip-flop. Anywhere on campus, if you pause and partake of the sounds, you can hear the whimsical pitter-patter of these wonderful warm-weather accessories. But, you cannot fully appreciate the uncluttered elegance of flip-flops without delving headfirst into the reasons behind their existence as well as the perils and bonuses of being the proud owner of some.

George & Ira Flop
Flip-flops were invented in 1956 by brothers George and Ira Flop. The brothers were inspired late one spring afternoon while frolicking on the beach. According the history books, Ira Flop, irritated by the complexity of everyday footwear, was motivated to find a new and unique way to protect his feet without housing them in confining things such as socks or loafers. He and George threw some ideas around and eventually the two inventors came up with the revolutionary idea of placing the support strap from a piece of foam BETWEEN the first two toes on your feet then having it loop loosely around the foot and connect again with the foam.



The lax nature of this restraint allowed pedal freedom unparalleled in modern times. The brothers knew what they had was gold, so they began marketing their invention immediately.

Initially, flip-flops were seen as unacceptable in public. They were labeled lude, vulgar, and even “the devil’s own handiwork.” Eventually, the free-spirited beachcombers of the West Coast discovered flip-flops. From there the popularity mushroomed.

 In the late 70’s, college students all around the nation discovered that by wearing flip-flops to class, they could conceivably gain 4-7 more minutes of sleep. Because of this, flip-flops have become a mainstay on the college scene.

You might ask yourself if there are any dangers in owning a pair of flip-flops. The answer may surprise you. According to a recent study by Reginald and Walker Research Firm, an astounding 78.9 % of America’s college students have experienced the socially demoralizing problem of “falling out” of their flip-flops. This has become a chronic problem in the past ten years. I can even vouch for this one on a personal level. Last week, while ascending the stairs in the Academic Building, I, too, fell out of my flip-flops. Had this occurred on level land, I might have been okay, but the fact is, I was on a series of progressive 90 degree angles in a pair of flip-flops.

As my ability to balance lessened with every second, I knew something must be done to prevent disaster. In both a literal and figurative attempt to save face, I quickly shoved both feet forward. While this did prevent me from falling up the stairs it also caused me to do something that, since the invention of the foot, has never been documented. I somehow managed to stub all ten of my toes simultaneously.



Eyewitnesses to this event were astounded that I could contort my feet to such an angle that this was physically possible. It did happen and I have the limp to prove it.

However, I was not deterred by this unfortunate incident simply because there are also many advantages to owning a pair of flip-flops. When considering the immense amount of responsibility that goes into the ownership of anything, the first thing you must consider is the price. Flip-flops, including original cost and maintenance, are actually cheaper than the average taco. In fact, flip-flops are SO cheap that, in many circles, they are considered disposable. In addition, flip-flops allow you to go weeks without washing socks. The end result: flip-flops save money as well as useless wear and tear on your washer and dryer.

Perhaps one of the most overlooked qualities of a flip-flop is that they always match. How many times have you ever heard the phrase, “That shirt clashes with your flip-flops?” I have never heard this. Flip-flops will never make an outfit mismatched. They will simply make it eclectic.

If you are debating whether or not flip-flops are in your future, you should probably just go ahead and buy some. Perhaps you aren’t ready to sink money into a pair of flip-flops just yet. That’s okay, too. Just take a set out for a test-flop. If anything, you will gain appreciation for all the other flip-flopper folks out there.

(For you English buffs out there, I just instantaneously morphed the word flip-flop into an adjective.)

However, there is no hurry. The flip-flop, a symbolic representation of American ideals, is not going away anytime soon. Appreciate what they stand for and why they exist. If you can understand these, nothing can stop you. So go to the nearest thrift store and start flopping today!

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