Although minimalist footwear that resembled the flip flop, sandal or slippah (as we know them today) can be traced all the way back to BC times when foot coverings (a more apt term) where made of rawhide and papyrus, the rubber slipper as beach wear (and then ultimately fashion wear) began its journey in Japan in the 1920′s.
The first term used for the traditional Y-shaped thong sandal comes from the Japanase word zori (which is also where the manufacturer of Locals Slippahs – Zori Zori – gets its name). The traditional zori was a woven-type of sandal that was used as beach footwear in Japan and the rest of the South Pacific in order to maximize comfort when walking through the sand in addition to minimizing clean-up. The Japanese were smart; getting sand out of shoes is the worst, and they realized it first!
It is suggested (but also slightly contested) that an English businessman by the name of John Cowie created a plastic version of the traditional zori and can also be credited with the creation of the word jandal, a combo of the words Japanese + Sandal. Cowie’s family moved to New Zealand, the country that can be credited with really starting the global desire for plastic or rubber sandals. NZ was the first country to start buying, wearing and ultimately producing sandals, starting in the 1950′s and 60′s.
Wikipedia provides us with an interesting story (original text here) that suggests that the US Troops in the 1850′s may have, in fact, been the first to ever wear flip flops (as we know them today). Although unsubstantiated, the following quotes from a letter to the editor of the New York Times regarding the ill-prepared troops suggest they were sporting this type of footwear: “The men were not in uniform, but very poorly dressed, — in many cases with flip-flap shoes…The men have not yet been supplied with shoes, and yet still march flip-flop. Why?” Cool, right?
World-Wide Popularity of the Rubber Slippah
Flip-flops are a common type of footwear throughout the world. They are immensely popular in both developed and developing countries. In countries like Australia, USA, Brazil and India, people wear rubber flip flops out of convenience in addition to style. In most developing countries throughout the world, however, people wear flip flops out of necessity, as they are the cheapest type of foot coverings available.
The rubber sandal and the Hawaiian Aloha have been inseparable dating back to when the Japanese first brought them over to the islands of Hawaii in the 1940′s. More about the link between Hawaii and the rubber slippah here.