Every third Friday in June since 2007 the world celebrates ancient footwear that evokes the carefree lifestyle, spirit of warm weather, and dreams of ocean breezes. The flip flop. The fun holiday was started by Tropical Smoothie Cafe in the US. It was created to support their charity Camp Sunshine and if customer’s walked into a cafe wearing flip flops, they received a free smoothie. But, there is also certainly a lot of interesting history, facts and a dark-side to the world’s favourite thong-type shoe.
Actually, the flip flop, (sandal, thong, jandel) is one of the oldest forms of footwear dating back to the Egyptians in 4,000 BC. It is forever mortalized in Egyptian carvings and displayed throughout ancient Egyptian cultural history for men and women. In ancient times, the flip-flops were made from paper (papyrus) and were as disposable as they are today. Other early adopters of this carefree footwear were the Kenyan tribe, the Maasi, who made their “treads” from cow and other animal hides. The American Indians used wood to make their slipper-type shoes. And the most famous of the thong-like footwear were made in Asia using rice straw, the Zori. Even today you can still buy some of the original flip flop types in these countries and find them still being worn.
Our current generation of flip flops are more globally recognized as colourful, fun, decorated, varying in height and often made from a simple plastic rubber form. The modern flip flop has become an essential part of daily footwear around the globe. When you see people wearing flip flops you immediately think of the beach lifestyle. The adoption of this easy footwear is due to its waterproofness, ease of taking on and off and a shoe that didn’t get ‘sand in it at the beach.” By way of Australia, the flip flop cemented its forever position as the surfer’s shoe and continues today to be the most popular and purchased shoe type globally.
What the Flip Flop?
Although they are hugely popular, American’s alone spend over $2.5B a year on flip flops. Flip flops are made out of cheap non-decomposing plastic and EVA rubber. Over 3.5 billion people in SE Asia, China, India, Malaysia, South America, Caribbean and other hot emerging coastal communities, who cannot afford any other shoe, often buy 2-3 pairs a year and dispose of these non-decomposing plastic shoes into landfills.
Herein lies the problem. As carefree as they are for our feet and lifestyle, they are disastrous to our environment, by leaching chemicals and not decomposing in landfills, ultimately getting into our oceans. The environmental impact is just becoming to the forefront of conservation’s attention and mindset.
At Ocean Sole Africa we have been recycling flip flops into art since 2007. We advocate for the destruction that these plastic shoes make on the environment which includes reefs, marine life, clean water supplies, beaches and landfills. Today’s cheap, sometimes as low as $1, flip flops are made with toxic plastic and rubber in horrid working conditions to meet the demands of customers requiring a cheap option of footwear. We are often asked “how do you get so many flip flops on your beaches? Is it from people leaving a flip flop on the beach or it flying off the boat” The answer is NO. It is from the billions made each year for people who live in developing countries, who wear them as their sole shoe they dispose of them properly, but end up in landfills and migrate to our Oceans via rivers and waterways. You will see this all over Central America, the Caribbean, India. SE Asia, Africa and South Africa. It is a HUGE problem.
We love flip flops at Ocean Sole Africa. We just want them to be made from biodegradable materials. Our flip flop art is an option for people to display their commitment to the environment and ocean conservation by displaying our beautiful art in their homes, offices, boutiques or other places that require a happy statement piece. Our mission is to inform the world about the flip flop pollution problem that is ruining our oceans and marine life. We clean beaches weekly, we save trees, we make art to raise awareness and have a call to action around these disposable shoes.
We wish you a Happy Flip Flop Day - buy some art at Ocean Sole Africa and not another pair of flip flops. Flip the flop and help save the Ocean.
Fun facts about flip flops:
- For every $20 spent on flip flop art, we upcycle over 146 pounds off our beaches
- Ocean Sole Africa recycles over 1 TON a week of discarded flip flops we find in the Oceans and waterways
- President Obama is the first American President to be seen wearing flip flops in Martha’s Vineyard
- One company sold flip flops for $18,000 to benefit the Costa Rica rainforest
- Flip flops get their name from the sound they make when you walk -- clack clack
- After World War II, American soldiers brought the Japanese flip-flop type shoe back to the USA
- In 1962, Havianas was established in Brazil and now is the most successful flip-flop company in the world, selling over 250 million pairs a year
- In 2006, the ever-popular FitFlop footwear was established to help wearers with back and posture and has gone on to be a very popular type of flip flop
- There are biodegradable rubber flip flops on the market and are doubling their production yearly.