The Timeline: Flip-flops

Kathryn Cain
Friday 30 July 2010 00:00 BST

First steps, 4,000 BC

Flip-flops, the simplest sandals around, are thought to have originated in Ancient Egypt around 4,000 BC. They appeared in murals that depicted jewel-encrusted designs being worn by Pharaohs. The oldest surviving flip-flop is currently on display in the British Museum and dates from around 1,500 BC. Over time, the materials used to make flip-flops has changed from papyrus, palm leaves and straw to plastic and rubber. The ancient shoe made its first appearance in Western culture after the Second World War, and later the Korean War, when soldiers brought them back from Japan as souvenirs. Modern rubberised versions were worn mainly to the beach or swimming pool throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

Name game, 1960

The sandal changes its name from country to country. While in Japan it is known as the zori, and is used to teach children to walk, in other cultures it is called a plugger, jandal or thong. The use of the word flip-flop is a relatively modern term dating from the 1960s where the shoes were worn both as a fashion statement and to stay cool in hot weather.

The Brazilian, 1962

First created in 1962 by Brazilian company Alpargatas, Havaianas has become the most popular brand of flip-flops in the world, with more than 150 million pairs being produced every year. Styled on the Japanese zori, people began wearing the rubber sandal all the time, replacing more conventional footwear such as trainers. This boom was undoubtedly helped by the popularity of the Brazilian flip-flop with people of all ages, genders and cultures. The brand is booming around the world due to the wide range of colours and different styles on offer.

Let's get physical, 2006

Although the flip-flop remains essentially the same in the 21st century, new technology has now been developed that claims to strengthen leg muscles while you walk. FitFlop footwear, engineered by Dr David Cook and Darren James at London South Bank University in 2006, is sold as a way to increase muscle activity, posture and muscle tone. Wearers of the flip-flop claim that they have experienced relief from problems such as chronic back pain and osteoarthritis.

Agony of the feet, 2010

Although they are comfortable to wear in the short-term, constantly wearing flip-flops can have a damaging effect on the health of your feet. According to recent statistics, the NHS spends £40m a year treating injuries caused by the wearing of flip-flops, while GPs report that more than 200,000 people a year complain of flip-flop related problems or even end up in hospital after a fall or long term injury. According to chiropodists, wearing them over a prolonged period of time can increase the risk of developing shin splints and joint pains as the design of the shoe causes people to change the way that they walk, putting pressure on the outside of their foot rather than the heel.

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