For years, no Indian household was complete without a pair of blue and white Bata hawai chappals for each member of the family. But these were house slippers, and no one, ever, wore them outside the house. So when fashion magazines began raving about an accessory called flip flops and celebrity after celebrity was photographed wearing them, we took a little time to warm up to the idea.
But now we’ve caught up. Today, you’ll find flip flops everywhere, from the street shops of Linking Road in Mumbai to smart boutiques in Delhi. Agrees Sanjay Gangopadhyay, marketing director, Nike India Pvt Ltd, "We have seen a steady increase in the demand for flip flops. That’s why they are part of our core range."
People are flipping for flip flops for many reasons. Says lawyer Vipul Sharma who has been wearing them over the last few months, “Flip flops are not only comfortable, they are hassle-free as well. You just slip into them and take off. They also give my feet space to breathe. I don’t have smelly feet or corns anymore.”
Gangopadhyay agrees. “Most people opt for flip flops because they provide breathability and ventilation and are very light and portable,” he explains.
But it’s the comfort factor that converted stylist Reeta Mehta. “My work involves a lot of walking around to source clothes and accessories for fashion shoots,” explains the 26-year-old. “No matter how good your sandals are, they don’t match the comfort of flip flops. After I started wearing the latter, I felt awkward in sandals, even though they had only a slight heel. Flip flops are soft, so your feet just sink into them. Even if I wear them for long hours, my ankles, soles and heels don’t hurt.”
Mehta adds, “Since there are no ankle or back straps, and you don’t have to squeeze your feet in, the feet feel free.”
A matter of style
Wearing flip flops has now become synonymous with being cool and casual. Says Rajiv Mehta, MD, Puma, “They convey a carefree image and that’s why they connect very well with the youth. The perception about them has changed from ‘too casual’ to ‘stylish and cool’.”
Flip flops are also versatile – you can wear them on any casual occasion and with a range of Western clothes such as jeans, skirts, capris, shorts, bermudas, slacks and even track pants.
Says journalist Neha Sharma, “When I wear my denims, spaghetti-strap tops and flip flops, I feel I am creating a unique fashion statement. The thongs complement my casual attire and give me a bindaas and dressed-down look. On the other hand, sandals or even sports shoes add that touch of dressiness.”
Computer engineer Rehan Ahlawat agrees with Neha. “Sometimes, when you are hanging out with friends or going to a mall or even dropping in at a friend’s place, you want to look good, yet casual. Flip flops are ideal in a situation like that,” he explains.
As flip flops become more popular, companies are increasingly churning out styles in a variety of colours and designs. “Now, brands are offering flip flops in shades ranging from aqua blue, blood red and deep orange to pure white, fluorescent green, olive baby blue, light green and yellow,” says Deepika Mehra, owner of the shoe brand Vanilla Moon. She adds, “You can also get flip flops in rubber, leather and synthetic materials, and even dressy ones with sequins!”
Even sportswear manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon. Nike has sporty and bright models, while Puma’s Mehta says they have options for both men and women.
He adds, “We have lightweight flip flops with a sleek thong for everyday wear; these can be worn at the beach as well. Then, there are higher value flip flops that have a look of leather in classic colours. For women, we have a whole gamut of styles from summery flip flops to more classy styles, besides the classic gold, silver and black.”
Companies are also constantly using technology to make flip flops more comfortable. Rajiv Mehta says, “We have flip-flops made with a super soft EVA (Ethyl Vinyl Acetate) foot bed and a sleek thong strap for support. There’s also a variety of straps in rubber, leather or fabric to suit the buyer’s comfort.”
For those who prefer heels, there are flip-flops available with a slight elevation or platform. There are also flat thongs and ones that maintain the heel to toe curve. Flip flops are also available in a varied price range, from Rs 400 to Rs 2,000.
Back to basics
But here’s a word of caution: Don’t go overboard with this trend. Flip flops might be great but they are not suited to all occasions and outfits. They are extremely casual and are not to be worn in a formal environment, or with traditional attire.
Says fashion designer Nitin Bal Chauhan, “Flip flops are apt for casual and laidback occasions. You can wear them to the market, when out with friends, or on a casual visit to a friend’s house. But never wear them on any formal occasion. Wearing such casual footwear to client meetings, lunches, dinners with office colleagues or for a dinner/lunch to which you were invited gives others the signal that you are not to be taken seriously.”
Chauhan also advises against wearing flip flops day in and day out. “Rather, alternate between normal footwear and flip flops. The more you wear them, the more your feet will be exposed to dust and pollution,” he says. “Men should be especially careful as they don’t use sunscreen and excess exposure could discolour the skin. Also, avoid wearing them in the rains – your feet will get slippery and come in contact with germs and dirty water.”