306: The Flip That Flopped

306: The Flip That Flopped

Brain Junk
Brain Junk
306: The Flip That Flopped

Call them slippahs, flip flops, chanclas, slops, plakkies, slaps, pantofles, or thongs…whatever word you choose says a lot about your age and what part of the world you grew up in. We came up with this episode topic as kind of a joke. Turns out there’s way more about to know about these summer shoes than we thought.

Show Notes:

Wikipedia on the history of flip flops

The Paduka

Kanye West being weird as usual with diamond studded flips

Satra: History of the flip flop

Forbes: This Brand Reinvented Flip-Flops (And Made Them A Sustainable Product)

Business Wire: Global Flip Flops Market to Reach $28.5 Billion by 2030, Fueled by Work-from-Home Trend and Growing Demand in Developing Countries – ResearchAndMarkets.com

Obama first US President photoed in slippahs

Guinness account on X: Andre Ortolf running in flip flops

Longest flip flop throw

Flip Flops History and Production Process

Harper’s Bazaar

YouTube: Mexican Moms play chancla or no chancla

Washington Post Flip Flop vs Thongs

recycled rubber flops


[00:00:03] Speaker A: Welcome to brain junk. I’m Trace Kerr.

[00:00:05] Speaker B: And I’m Amy Barton. And today we’re going to be discussing everything you never knew you wanted to know about flip flops.

Flip flop.

[00:00:15] Speaker A: Or is it thongs? And then all the gen Z’s cringed.

[00:00:19] Speaker B: I know. And it is the very first thing I think of every time you say flip flops. For the longest time, I remember the first time somebody corrected my wrong term use. They’re like, oh. And I’m like, oh, all right. So the flip flop, for me, the quintessential flip flop, is the black sole, the rainbow striped straps. Oh, I love those things. My aunts had them out at the lake, and they were the coolest.

[00:00:45] Speaker A: I was just trying to think. I once had flip flops that I wore to camp on an overnight. And I can remember that the middle bit tore out of the bottom of the shoe.

[00:00:56] Speaker B: You suffered for 36 hours was limping.

[00:01:00] Speaker A: Along with one flip flop. Oh, it was traumatic.

[00:01:03] Speaker B: Yes. Everybody’s like, we could fix that with tape.

No, you can’t. It’s just gone. It’s over. What adult let you do?

[00:01:13] Speaker A: You know, I bet you they had told me to wear something else, but I was like, blah, blah, blah, whatever. I’m eight.

[00:01:21] Speaker B: Yeah, we have that discussion in our house now, and I’m like, you just have to bring it with you because I said so. There you go.

[00:01:29] Speaker A: I like that.

[00:01:30] Speaker B: Exactly. So do you want to tell us about that term switch, or do you want me to tell you about what we call them now around the world? Oh, let’s do the term switch.

[00:01:40] Speaker A: Yeah, let’s start with that term switch. So Japan. Japan started it all with the zori zori.

And we had Usgis coming back from World War II calling it a thong over the strap because that’s the strap that went between the toes. That is technically a thong. And I mean, flip flops have been around forever. Egypt, way back, people. It’s a flat thing. You put a strap, you keep it on your foot.

[00:02:05] Speaker B: Yeah, like 4000 bc old.

[00:02:07] Speaker A: Yeah, forever, but. Okay, so the thong, it’s coming back with the gis. As a kiddo in the seattle, we called them thongs.

[00:02:18] Speaker B: Yes. Me too. Here in spokaloo.

[00:02:20] Speaker A: Yeah. And then there was a ton of speculation when and why we switched to using flip flop. But according to Heddles, which was a magazine, an article that I was reading starting in the late 60s, depending on where you lived, they were called flip flops or thongs. But once we had the strappy underwear called a thong with the strap that goes between your butt cheeks. Super cozy, super comfy. Once we had that, they were like, okay, we can’t call these sandals that anymore.

[00:02:49] Speaker B: It ruined it for everyone.

[00:02:51] Speaker A: They really did. But there’s this hilarious story that I read in the Washington Post of a nurse in 2008 who was muttering about where her thongs were, and all the 20 something nurses were just laughing hysterically because they thought she’d lost her underwear.

No, they didn’t.

[00:03:15] Speaker B: Awesome. I read something that they still call them thongs in Australia, but also sometimes pluggers.

[00:03:22] Speaker A: I also saw pluggers, and that just makes me laugh so hard, and I don’t know why it’s a funny.

[00:03:29] Speaker B: Wear my pluggers down to the market. Okay.

They also call them slops or plaqueies. Plakies is what they call it in Zimbabwe.

[00:03:40] Speaker A: Ooh. I liked in Hawaii, they wrote it out that they call them slippers.

[00:03:44] Speaker B: Yes, I did too. And they also call them slippers in the Bahamas, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago. They’re cinelas in the Philippines, chapal in India. And that’s traditionally a leather one. So that’s the good ones in India.

[00:04:03] Speaker A: Got it. And then you can’t talk about flip flops and not mention the chunkla.

[00:04:09] Speaker B: Yes. That’s next on my list. I’m like, that’s a good one.

[00:04:12] Speaker A: Right?

[00:04:13] Speaker B: Because as soon as you search that term, because I started looking up the terms just to be sure, it was a flip flop. And you know what the first image was, right?

[00:04:21] Speaker A: A woman throwing her chocolate at one of her children.

[00:04:24] Speaker B: Yeah. The woman with the flip flop in her hand by her head and a threatening look on her face, and they’re all over.

[00:04:32] Speaker A: One of my favorite TikToks is it’s a guy that says, I trust my wife. And then he’s sitting around with things on his head, and she is hurling her chunkla at this thing. Like, she knocks an apple off his head. She knocks a trash can off his head, and he’s never looking. It’s death defying feats of. They fly very accurately.

[00:04:53] Speaker B: It’s kind of got the physics of the flip flop and the form down. Yes, I like that.

[00:05:02] Speaker A: I do too.

[00:05:02] Speaker B: It’s one of those weird hobbies. An unexpected skill.

[00:05:06] Speaker A: Yeah. There was even a YouTube video. And I’ll have this in the notes of mexican moms. They were playing this game. It was three of them called chocolate or no chocolate. And they were asking them questions like, if your kid forgets to turn off the beans, chunkla or no chunkla.

[00:05:21] Speaker B: Chunkla. Wasting food.

[00:05:24] Speaker A: And I got to tell you, one of those moms, I pity her children because she held that. She had it in her hand. She was waving it aggressively the whole time.

[00:05:32] Speaker B: And did she have a nice beefy one? Because there are the $1 ones that are almost as skinny as the pedicure flip flops. And then there’s, like, choco makes some. And those choco soles are hefty.

That’s what I have.

[00:05:50] Speaker A: Yeah, the really thick ones. Chaz stole my flip flops.

[00:05:53] Speaker B: That’s an egregious sin.

[00:05:55] Speaker A: Well, I mean. Okay, so they tell you with flip flops. Plantar fasciitis.

[00:06:00] Speaker B: Oh, they’re not great.

[00:06:02] Speaker A: No. And it was killing my feet. And these were so are. These were a little fancy. I’d gotten them as a gift, and they had on the strap on the thong.

Running chocolate labs.

[00:06:13] Speaker B: Oh, I love that. So cute.

[00:06:16] Speaker A: And so I would occasionally wear them. Well, then Chaz was, like, sliding into them to go out into the backyard, sliding into them to go get the mail. Suddenly they don’t belong to me anymore.

[00:06:27] Speaker B: Yeah. Once they do something that’s a little dusty and sweaty and you’re looking in there and you’re like, that’s not my foot dust.

[00:06:33] Speaker A: No. Yeah. I think he’s on his fourth iteration of the Labrador flip flop.

[00:06:42] Speaker B: That’s happy.

I like that. Can we talk about where the strap is?

[00:06:48] Speaker A: Yes.

[00:06:49] Speaker B: Modern day. I suspect we’ve all kind of rolled toward between the first and second toes.

[00:06:53] Speaker A: Yeah, right there. Smack in the. Okay. Yeah.

[00:06:56] Speaker B: Roman sandals, second and third toes. No, thank you. But here’s the real crime against people. The Mesopotamians were doing it between the third and fourth toe. So not the pinky. The one right before that. Gross. I’m trying to feel it right now, and it’s terrible.

So touch your pinky and then the two next to it.

[00:07:20] Speaker A: Yeah, no, I kind of feel the same way about that. And, yes, I know a lot of the world does. Like, a fancy sock with a flip flop. And I’m happy for you, but, like, Chaz will just have regular socks and.

[00:07:34] Speaker B: Then just cram his foot into the o.

[00:07:37] Speaker A: And I’m like, I have too much autism for.

[00:07:43] Speaker B: No, no, thank you.

[00:07:44] Speaker A: It gives me trouble every time I see him do it.

[00:07:48] Speaker B: Yes. You can’t not feel what that’s like and feel worried about his feet.

Here’s another sensory thing that would be very troubling to me in India. And again, I’m sorry I didn’t look up dates. This might be a thing. Still, they have a style with a toe knob, instead of the thong between the toes, it comes up from the footbed of the sandal in what we now would consider the traditional between the big toe and the first toe, the first littler toe. But it’s a knob, so you just have to hang on with your toes.


[00:08:26] Speaker A: Those are called paducas, toe peg sandals.

[00:08:30] Speaker B: Oh.

[00:08:30] Speaker A: It’s like a wooden knob between your.

[00:08:32] Speaker B: Kind of cool. They look neat, but I feel worried about how it would feel.

[00:08:38] Speaker A: Well, okay, but here’s the thing, though.

You were saying a knob, and I was thinking, like, there was a cup that went over your big toe, and I was like, well, that sounds terrible.

[00:08:47] Speaker B: That sounds even worse.

[00:08:48] Speaker A: But though, the wooden knob, if you were wearing them, it would get nice and smooth.

[00:08:54] Speaker B: Maybe that’s true. Yes.

And if they were crafted well, that’s true.

[00:09:00] Speaker A: I’m thinking of. I mean, it’s so funny how the flip flop has been traditionally considered, like, a lower class shoe. It’s the working man’s shoe. Right.

But then I came across in 2022, Harper’s Bazaar. Everyone at fashion week was wearing flip flops.

[00:09:18] Speaker B: Oh, yes. But they were probably. Were they fancy leather?

[00:09:22] Speaker A: No. Here’s the thing. No, it’s spring 2023 show. So this is in the fall for spring, right?

[00:09:28] Speaker B: Yeah.

[00:09:28] Speaker A: All these fancy people, designer clothes, the velvets, the this, the that, and then plain black flip flops.

[00:09:36] Speaker B: Like the dollar store kind.

[00:09:38] Speaker A: Yeah. They looked like ankles down, basic flip flop.

[00:09:42] Speaker B: Like they’re headed to the pool.

[00:09:44] Speaker A: Yeah. And apparently it caused quite a stir. People were going, is this casual? Are we descending into chaos? What is happening? Yeah.

[00:09:52] Speaker B: Can you imagine the very high fashion always suited up people?

[00:09:57] Speaker A: Yeah.

Although then there were people saying, but know, we want to be cozy. We want to be comfy now. And there were, like, people in the audience. There was a bunch of kerfuffle because I think Kanye had himself some diamond studded flip flops. I mean, there were people that were taking know really far the other direction, but most of the models on the Runway, it did look like somebody just ran down to JCPenney and was like.

[00:10:23] Speaker B: Okay, I need this in sizes seven and eight. I need 30 pairs, please.

[00:10:29] Speaker A: Thank you.

[00:10:30] Speaker B: Put them in the back.

That’s interesting that they made such a splash. I’m quite certain that there’s a croc flip flop, and that’s probably selling very well right now.

[00:10:41] Speaker A: Croc, flip flop.

[00:10:43] Speaker B: Like crocs. The croc. The croc.

[00:10:46] Speaker A: Yeah.

[00:10:47] Speaker B: I’m quite sure that there’s a flip flop.

[00:10:51] Speaker A: It’s so plasticky looking.

[00:10:53] Speaker B: Yeah.

You all probably know this, but leather and rawhide were traditional materials. You do see wood in places like India. They use rice straw, or did traditionally in China and Japan, which that makes a lot of sense because that’s a secondary use for a product that they have. Sisal plant, which makes twine in South America, also made flip flops and yucca plant in Mexico. So it’s one of those nice, very versatile. If you’ve got any kind of reasonably robust plant fiber and some weaving skills, you can have a great pair of flip flops.

[00:11:30] Speaker A: Well, and I’m feeling like as you’re talking about that recycled tire.

[00:11:35] Speaker B: Oh, yeah, those are cool looking.

[00:11:38] Speaker A: Weren’t there some recycled tire flip flops?

[00:11:41] Speaker B: Wasn’t that, like, a big deal too expensive for me? And I like a good expensive shoe.

Maybe not. Maybe I’m remembering that wrong. If I looked at it in high school, everything was too expensive then.

[00:11:57] Speaker A: That’s true. I just think it’s funny because I know you walking around your crocs going, I love an expensive shoe. And I’m like, do you, though?

[00:12:05] Speaker B: But I wore those a lot in the pandemic early on. And I also have plantar fasciitis, but have taken good care of my feet over the years, so it doesn’t trouble me very much. And I flared it up like crazy in the pandemic. Chris did, too. So I don’t currently own any.

[00:12:22] Speaker A: Oh, that’s sad.

[00:12:23] Speaker B: It’s a little sad.

[00:12:24] Speaker A: How can you not love a shoe that you can stick things in, a shoe that you can put into, what do you call it, sport mode when you put the strap over your heel?

All right, so what else do we know about flip flops?

[00:12:37] Speaker B: Well, we covered.

They had that logical migration to the US in World War II, which we talked about.

[00:12:44] Speaker A: I can remember it was a huge scandal in middle school if somebody wore them to school.

[00:12:50] Speaker B: Yeah. How could you evacuate in a fire drill in flip flops? No.

Grade school office lady, me would totally shut that down.

I wouldn’t make you call your mom, but I would definitely tell you not to do it the next day in an emergency.

[00:13:04] Speaker A: You need shoes with a real soul.

[00:13:08] Speaker B: That’s right. You need to be able to walk quickly and not lose your shoe and stub your toe.

[00:13:13] Speaker A: Do you have anything else about them that we need to know before we slap our way? By the way, they say New Jersey, they call them slaps. My mom grew up in New Jersey. I have never heard her call a pair of flip flops slaps.

[00:13:24] Speaker B: So that must be a very regional yeah. Very small area. They call kitten heeled flip flops. Kit flops. It’s terrible. Kitten heel.

[00:13:36] Speaker A: Okay, sorry. Kitten heeled flip flops.

[00:13:41] Speaker B: Apparently it’s a late 2010s thing. Kit flops.

[00:13:45] Speaker A: I’m not seeing no kit flops for you. Oh, no.

[00:13:52] Speaker B: Yeah. It’s a terrible idea all around. It defeats the entire purpose of the wonderful flip flop. But it is a very two thousand and ten s. Look.

[00:14:01] Speaker A: It is. It’s just this little tiny. It looks like an AI image.

[00:14:06] Speaker B: Yes. Like AI is trying to draw foot.

[00:14:09] Speaker A: Yeah, you said casual spring sandal and it was like. I don’t know. These two things seem to go together.

[00:14:18] Speaker B: It has three big toes and. Yeah. So Kit Flops. That’s terrible. I do have other fun things.

We have to talk about famous people and flip flops, of course. First president to wear flip flops in public.

[00:14:34] Speaker A: Kennedy.

[00:14:35] Speaker B: Barack Obama. Of course.

[00:14:37] Speaker A: Obama.

[00:14:39] Speaker B: Now, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Kennedy because they’re a beachy kind of family.

[00:14:43] Speaker A: You know, he’s got a cold glass of something and meeting a woman he’s not supposed to be and he’s wearing flip flops on his way to the boat.

[00:14:51] Speaker B: Yes.

Global sales. Flip flops are big money. There is an Atlanta based company, flip flop shops, and they claim that the shoes were responsible for a $20 billion industry. $20 billion for flip flops.

[00:15:07] Speaker A: It’s like the economy of a small country.

[00:15:10] Speaker B: Yes. And that was one of the articles I read. Business wire had a thing saying it’s a little bit difficult to quantify because so many people make them and they’re like a part of that company’s business. But in 2006 was the first time flip flop sales exceeded sneaker sales.


[00:15:34] Speaker A: Wow. I wonder then. Well, we probably don’t have data yet, but over the pandemic.

[00:15:40] Speaker B: Oh, yeah. That has to have gone exploded again.

Yes. Do you want to do some world records?

[00:15:48] Speaker A: Oh, yeah.

[00:15:49] Speaker B: Philip Conroy. Longest flip flop throw, 111ft, 22 inches. So that he threw at the length of two and a half semi trailers or like two Hollywood signs.

[00:16:02] Speaker A: Okay, I’m sorry, but somebody’s abuela somewhere in Mexico, you know, she can throw it farther than that.

[00:16:09] Speaker B: No one’s watching that. Shaking her head and going.

[00:16:11] Speaker A: No one’s ever asked her how far she can throw that thing.

[00:16:16] Speaker B: No, he was in Spain in 2012 for this. Okay. Yeah. Fastest 100 meters flip flop run. And I just want to give you a moment to feel your feet right now and tell them it’s okay. We’re not doing that to you. You can uncrinkle Andre Ortolf did it in 13.88 seconds. So that’s actually really fast.

So that wouldn’t be terrible for very long. But I don’t know. That’s still terrible.

[00:16:42] Speaker A: I would have a blowout and end up in the hospital.

[00:16:44] Speaker B: I was thinking about them like, what brand was he wearing? We know that’s a sturdy flip flop because my chocos. Those things will be with me till the apocalypse. They are great. But I don’t think you could run in those without injuring yourself because they are a beefy flip flop. I don’t know. You’d have to have some serious strength in your foot and toes to hold that still. And someone did it at a half marathon. And by the way, if you’d like to make this attempt, you must be 16 years or older, according to the Guinness World Book of Records. Don’t try this 15 year olds.

[00:17:20] Speaker A: Somebody ran 13 miles in flip flops.

[00:17:23] Speaker B: Kenneth Chiopka did in 2023 in Canada. In Canada?


He did it in 1 hour 21 minutes and 8 seconds.

[00:17:36] Speaker A: Why would you do that?

[00:17:38] Speaker B: And now you’re wondering, did somebody try a marathon? Yes, they did. Alastair Kelty did it in 337 32. So his mileage would be like an 8.29 minutes mile, which is still absolutely nuts in flip flops. 26 is it .2 miles? 8.2 minutes mile?

[00:17:57] Speaker A: Yeah.

[00:17:58] Speaker B: For three and a half hours.

[00:18:00] Speaker A: I’m just thinking of. Because there are people that do it barefoot. Right. They’re all about me in contact with the ground.

I’m just thinking of. I hold pencils too tight. Okay. And I’m thinking of. I know I hold flip flops when I do wear them far too tight. I’m not just letting them.

[00:18:18] Speaker B: They’re not flopping around.

[00:18:19] Speaker A: No, I’m squeezing my toes.

I’m thinking of the blisters across the top of your foot.

[00:18:26] Speaker B: That would be wild. And between your toes. Oh my gosh.

[00:18:30] Speaker A: Oh yeah.

[00:18:31] Speaker B: You just have a raw mess on top. And blisters.

There’s even a record for rope skips wearing a flip flops. That also seems wildly perilous.

It’s 230 if you want to know, and attempt that one.

[00:18:47] Speaker A: Wow. It’s like double dutch flip flop ambulance ride. Perfect.

[00:18:53] Speaker B: But it’s only 1 minute of agony. So it’s over after the 1 minute mark. It’s probably over sooner because you’ve broken your patella because you fell down.

[00:19:02] Speaker A: Oh God.

[00:19:03] Speaker B: The record person did not.

[00:19:06] Speaker A: Well, yeah, no, clearly. I do remember as a child getting blisters in between my toes from flip flops.

[00:19:15] Speaker B: Yeah. There’s always a period in April or may where you have that break in period and they hurt a little.

[00:19:23] Speaker A: Not anymore because I wear Sneakers. And that’s it. Because I have elderly feet and I don’t want to talk about it.

[00:19:29] Speaker B: They need a little hug from your insole all the time. They do.

[00:19:37] Speaker A: Wow. Have we flipped all the flop? Is there more to be flipped?

[00:19:42] Speaker B: I have never run that distance. And so I don’t know experientially, but chafing is a noted concern for distance runners. Yeah, that alone has to be miserable.

[00:19:54] Speaker A: I like how you’re like, I have never gone that far because I’m not crazy.

[00:19:58] Speaker B: That’s right. I am a sensible person. Yes. So that’s it. That’s my last one.

[00:20:03] Speaker A: Wow. Well, I mean, this came up as a joke because I was like, hey, let’s do another random thing. I don’t know, flip flops. Da da. This thing, that thing. And you were like, that sounds great.

[00:20:16] Speaker B: Although started looking at political reversals and like, this is a little thin on the ground. These aren’t funny.

[00:20:24] Speaker A: So you messaged me, and you’re like, do you have any topics? And I was like, the history of the flip flop. Why we wear flip flops?

[00:20:33] Speaker B: You were like, oh, flooded with relief. I’m like, oh, good.

[00:20:40] Speaker A: Well, yeah, that one would have been a little dry. And it would have been funny if.

[00:20:45] Speaker B: You’Re like, and they used to be called thongs, and I’m like, in 1978 when so and so said they were going to vote one way, and then they voted another, a whole industry collapsed.

[00:20:56] Speaker A: Wait a second. What are we talking about?

[00:21:01] Speaker B: Wow.

[00:21:02] Speaker A: We planned these so good.

[00:21:03] Speaker B: Yeah, we got it together before that happened.

[00:21:07] Speaker A: No, I think that would have been good.

[00:21:09] Speaker B: It could have been quite funny.

[00:21:12] Speaker A: The shortest episode we’ve ever made.

[00:21:14] Speaker B: Yeah.

[00:21:15] Speaker A: Well, thank you for your reviews and comments. We’re all over the place. We’re on Instagram, we’re on Facebook. You can watch.

Well, kind of watch. You can watch a little screen with a little moving waveform on it if you want to go to YouTube.

[00:21:29] Speaker B: That is pleasant.

[00:21:30] Speaker A: It is pleasant. And the color that I picked, actually, the color that Beckett picked told me look good. That I went, I don’t know, and then I did it. And I do like, it looks like a fire.

[00:21:39] Speaker B: Yeah, it’s pleasant.

[00:21:41] Speaker A: So it’s very nice. Go check it out. Have a listen.

[00:21:44] Speaker B: Yeah. Are you still releasing the episodes? This is classics.

[00:21:47] Speaker A: It’s all the classics. I have a few that I’ve skipped because either I couldn’t stand the test of time.

[00:21:53] Speaker B: Yeah.

[00:21:54] Speaker A: Or I couldn’t find a copy. I have a couple that I don’t know. I went new computer.

Midway through, some things got lost. I know. Yeah.

[00:22:04] Speaker B: It’s like the Halloween decorations in the box with Christmas stuff. You’re going to find it in 20 years and be like, that’s where you guys went.

[00:22:11] Speaker A: These are great flooriography. I had no idea you were here at the bottom of this hard drive.

But when you’re not doing that, you can ask your smart speaker to play brain junk. You can go to our website, brainjunkpodcast.com and check out some merch. Get a cool cup. I’m currently drinking tea out of the non newtonian fluid cup because I’m getting over.

[00:22:36] Speaker B: Are you drinking hot tea in that?

[00:22:37] Speaker A: Yeah, it’s glass.

[00:22:38] Speaker B: I guess there’s no reason not to. But that’s not what that’s for.

[00:22:43] Speaker A: You don’t get to tell me how to use my cup.

[00:22:46] Speaker B: Please go put it down and get a mug. A proper tea vessel.

[00:22:50] Speaker A: I refuse.

[00:22:51] Speaker B: Oh, you rogue. I love it.

[00:22:53] Speaker A: Next I’m going to tell you I microwaved it. I didn’t. But like.

Amy and I will catch you next time when we share more of everything you never knew you wanted to know and I guarantee you will not be bored.

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