The shoe identified in Australia as a “thong” is among the oldest kinds of footwear on this planet.
Worn with small variations throughout Egypt, Rome, Greece, sub-Saharan Africa, India, China, Korea, Japan and a few Latin American cultures, the shoe was designed to guard the only real whereas retaining the highest of the foot cool.
Australians have lengthy embraced this sensible however liberating shoe — however historical past exhibits we will’t actually declare to it as our personal.
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Geishas, employees, troopers
Japan is usually cited because the pivotal affect, maybe as a result of the tradition options not solely the thong’s closest ancestor (the flat-soled zori, historically comprised of straw) but additionally the chunky geta sandal, famously worn by geisha for hundreds of years in an effort to maintain trailing kimono hems out of the mud.
Wikimedia Commons/Metropolitan Museum of Artwork
Within the late nineteenth century, Japan began to export points of its tradition to numerous corners of the world. An early instance was the Hawaiian “slipper” or “slippah”, a thong-like model of the zori with roots within the footwear of Japanese plantation employee immigrants within the Eighteen Eighties. The slipper quickly grew to become a part of the Hawaiian sartorial code (as in Australia, the shoe suited the relaxed outlook and seaside way of life).
The recognition of the shoe could have unfold after US troopers, stationed within the East Pacific through the second world battle, introduced again souvenirs — however that declare is contested.
Throughout the Nineteen Forties the expertise for mass-producing artificial rubber was developed, and this undoubtedly elevated dissemination and affect of the common-or-garden flip flop. Nevertheless, it was not till across the similar time Hawaii grew to become the official fiftieth state of the USA in 1959 that thongs grew to become a globally recognised image of leisure.
Regardless of the thongs’ sturdy identification with Australia, particulars of its actual arrival right here aren’t simple to pin down.
From 1907 onwards, for instance, ads described “Japanese sandals” with “versatile picket” or jute soles, though the few illustrations that exist don’t depict footwear with a thong fastening.
In 1924, Melbourne’s The Herald mentioned criticism levelled at Melburnians for strolling with a “flip-flop motion, bringing the again of the heel down too closely on the bottom, inflicting jarring to the physique and fatigue”.
Heels had been instructed as a treatment for girls with this criticism. Almost a century later, podiatrists nonetheless advocate avoiding thongs for long run put on. (Nowadays, they’re not followers of heels both.)
Australian Ladies’s Weekly
In 1946, division retailer David Jones promoted “Olympia”, a Greek-inspired thong sandal with extra ankle straps. But it surely was not till round 1957, when Kiwi businessmen Maurice Yock and John Cowie each claimed credit score for what they termed the “jandal” — a portmanteau of “Japanese” and “sandal” — that Australia’s reference to the flip flop grew to become extra established and, on the similar time, questioned.
In 1959, Dunlop in Australia imported 300,000 pairs of thongs from Japan. They began producing them internally in 1960.
State Library of Victoria
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As Australia’s tourism boomed through the Fifties and 60s, so too did its sartorial picture, with thongs taking centre stage because the footwear of selection for an egalitarian, laid-back society.
So widespread did they turn into, in truth, that by the mid Sixties bans had been being sought by state governments to keep away from frequent accidents on the office — particularly development websites.
Within the title of professionalism, in 1978 the Queensland authorities decreed that schoolteachers not be permitted to put on thongs to work. This 12 months, they’ve been banned for put on at Australia Day citizenship ceremonies — a choice reflecting a want for higher “significance and ritual” to be represented at official occasions.
However the rubbery love affair endured, maybe proven most ardently when Kylie Minogue made her entrance as a part of the Sydney 2000 Olympics atop a large rubber thong carried by lifeguards.
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Thong-related considerations haven’t been restricted to Australia.
In 2005 members of an American school ladies’s lacrosse staff wore them to the White Home to fulfill President Bush. There adopted a furor over whether or not this brazen act was disrespectful, a distraction from the ladies’s achievements or signalled an off-the-cuff shift in attitudes to leaders (and style) within the years after the Clinton intercourse scandals.
Because the late Nineties it has been potential to purchase extra formal heeled variations. Though these had been broadly mocked as costly aberrations of the type, they regarded to creating a Kardashian-led comeback in current occasions.
Branded variations are additionally out there, with couturiers like Hermès promoting a really unassuming flip flop for a cool A$600.
There’s a poignant irony in the truth that thongs are the preferred type of shoe in creating international locations, exactly due to their low cost manufacture (usually comprised of recycled rubber tyres) and consequently, very low buy price.
This follow of appropriating “peculiar” or “working class” clothes — transitioning it from the sensible to the trendy — is nothing new. We’ve seen it with singlets and boilersuits. Clogs are one other footwear instance.
Somewhat than a type of style whimsy, Australians take their thongs significantly. Even the naming of them — after the structural make-up of the shoe’s fastening quite than the onomatopoeic “flip flop” utilized by different international locations — flies within the face of the Australian desire for shortened diminutives and nicknames.
That exhibits true dedication, but additionally that thongs aren’t actually so dinky-di, in spite of everything.
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Lydia Edwards doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that may profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.