Originally published 01/2019
What do YOU call them?
Depending on where you ask the question, you might get a world of different responses. We wanted to share some of the names we have come across in our travels and experiences with friends around the world.
For the sake of this article, and based on the fact that I am American, I generally refer to them as "flip flops". Not only because it is fun to say, but in the US and other parts of North America, it can mean only one thing. The name originates from the sound they sometimes make when walking. In the US we also use the term "sandals" often but that name can refer to a number of different styles of footwear. Here at The Sole Workshop, we are only concerned with our favorite style.... the Flip Flop.
As is typical with the English speaking world, not all of us agree on what to call them. For once, the British do however side with the Americans on this topic. We may mix up our chips and fries but if you find yourself in a British surf shop asking for a pair of flip flops, it won't cause a stir or get you laughed out the door.
"As is typical with the English speaking world, not all of us agree on what to call them."
In the land down under, Aussies have a different name for them. They call them "Thongs" which seems to work well in Australia, but if you ask for that in another country you might get a surprise. I guess the name has something to do with the strap sitting between your toes just like thong underwear sits, well you get the idea.
Hop over to the islands of New Zealand next door and you will hear the Kiwis call them "Jandals". The name is literally a combination of the words Japanese + Sandal. Although the name seems to refer to the Japanese footwear, Kiwis wear the normal styles of flip flops as most of the world. They are not actually wearing the "Zori" style of Japan.
Zori and Geta
The country of Japan has a long and interesting history with flip flop styles of footwear. Zori are simple with a unique aesthetic and can be made of wood and other natural materials. Then there are "Geta", also typically in wood, which I could only describe as a combination of platform shoes and stilts. They can be found in all shapes and heights. They don't look easy to walk in but having never tried, I could be wrong.
**Japan has also given something else to the flip flop world. Some might see it as a big fashion faux pas (ourselves included), while others might totally understand it's practicality. Whichever side of the line you are on there is no denying the fact that everyone, at some point in their life, will be confronted with the urgent need to step into a pair of flip flops while already wearing socks. And for this very reason, the clever Japanese have invented "Tabi", the toe socks with a gap between the big toe and the rest (think mittens for your feet). They can even be worn for formal occasions in Japan but I don't think anyone could pull that off in the western world!
In Hawaii, they are called "slippers" or "slippahs". The exotic 50th state of the US always does things a bit differently so it's no surprise they have their own unique name. Rightfully so because in Hawaii they wear their slippers daily and for that reason we are a big fan of Hawaii!
The name slippers is not unique to Hawaii. This is a common name in some parts of the Caribbean as well as the Netherlands.
And here at The Sole Workshop, we are located just under the Netherlands in the place where Dutch and French converge. Our workshop is located in Flanders, the Dutch speaking northern part of Belgium. I guess we could easily say that we are making slippers here as well.
If we head a few km south from The Sole Workshop we are in the French speaking part of Belgium. I have been told by some Belgian friends that here they can be called "Slash" because of the sound they make. However, generally in the french speaking parts and the country of France they are known as "Tongs". Imagine a French and an Australian speaking about their favorite shoes. Just insert the French accent when saying thongs and you can easily see why they are called "tongs". Voilla!
The flip flop is one of the oldest and most popular styles of footwear worn all around the world. I have only touched on a few that I have come across and know. With every language comes at least one or more unique and interesting names and we simply have not yet been able to discover them all. If you know of an interesting name or style we haven't mentioned, please tell us on our facebook page or in the comments below as we would love to hear from you!