The rubber soled thong sandals known as flip-flops-referred to as jandals or slippers in some other cultures- have existed in one way or another for over 6,000 years, although the vernacular term "flip flop" attributed to them is of recent lineage, and is actually a trademark term owned by a German company who produces them in their product line. The precursor to the modern flip flop dates back to ancient cultures, where Egyptians wore these thong shoes as a sign of royalty and privilege, with some women decking their particular sandals with jewels and Pharaohs wearing a style of the sandals that were turned up slightly more than those worn by the common man. Depictions of this footwear can be found in ancient Egyptian cave paintings. Footwear in many early cultures was a sign of rank and position in society, and flip flops were certainly no exception.


Given the status accorded these ancient shoes, it might be assumed that only the finest materials were always used, however this was not always the case with these sandals worn throughout history. While today's flip flops are usually made of rubber construction, different cultures created flip flops using varied materials such as papyrus, palm leaves, rice, raw hide, canvas and wood, to name a few. The materials used were simply an extension of the culture's available textile and agricultural supply. Egypt would most likely use papyrus while Rome would use leather to create sturdy flip flips that military generals could wear. In addition to social status, flip flops provided protection and a defense against diseases easily transmitted through contact with the soil.


While the basic style of a flip flop remained the same-a flat footed sandal with one strap around one of the toes-there were variations on the basic theme. Some ancient cultures placed the strap around the big toe while others used the second or the middle toe. The Japanese developed a form of the sandal called the "Zori" which they used in teaching children how to walk. Modern forms of this woven flip flop appeared on the beaches of New Zealand in the early 20th century.


Zoris continued in prominence as a key catalyst for introducing flip flops into common culture, beginning in World War II when soldiers brought them back as keepsakes, and then after the Korean War when rubber versions of the sandals were brought back by soldiers as well. From that time in the 1950's on, flip flops became part of the rage in popular culture as their construction and durability made them usable as common footwear.


After flip flops entered popular culture soon everyone was seen sporting these inexpensive styles of footwear, regardless of individual status in society. California in particular made flip flops prevalent on the beaches and as more and more people wore them eventually the flip flop craze spread across the nation. They continued as a largely informal style of footwear worn by everyone, and because of their inexpensive construction proved to be ideal for people in developing countries as well, often selling for less than $1 and in some cases being constructed from disposable materials such as recycled tires.


As with blue jeans, which started out as informal attire worn in public and gradually attracted the attention of fashion designers, flip flops have evolved into fashion statements of their own. Dressier versions of the sandals such as the British Havaianas have some gold studded versions of the footwear, and other styles are made of leather and suede and are decked with jewels. Hollywood's stars and supermodels have been known to wear these dressier, more expensive versions to premier events and there are also flip flops created for men, and those for brides to be as well. Flip flops will continue to be used in one way or another. They can function as informal or formal accessories, depending upon the occasion, and are appropriate for people in all classes of society. Whether you decide to use them as expensive fashion statements or just to flop around the house, flip flops are a versatile and durable form of footwear that are here to stay.


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