FLIP FLOPS 101: A Guide To Men's Sandals

Published: 25th June 2006
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FLIP FLOPS 101: A Guide To Men's Sandals

Spring's coming and while women seem to know instinctively that this means open-toe shoes, they also know the difference between a strappy sling-back and a sophisticated mule. But guys are not so lucky, basically our experience with sandals falls somewhere between our ex-hippy college professors and the flip-flops you wear in the shower room at the gym.

But why should the ladies have all the fun? Sandals and flip-flops are rapidly becoming part of mainstream fashion culture for both men and women. Grapevinehill.com is here to help get guys up to speed.


What are they?

Despite the recent re-appropriation of the word to represent a women's undergarment, the thong is actually a traditional sandal with a single toe strap that goes between the big and second toe. The Japanese Geta is generally considered the forefather of the thong. While the cheap rubber shower shoes and flip flops are probably the most popular member of this family, men's thong sandals are moving up-market in style, quality and price.


Tommy Bahama 'Anchor's Away' Leather Thong Sandals

Oakley 'Split Smoke' Thong Sandals

What they say about you:

Thong Sandals look great with shorts to complete a casual look. You can come off ultra laid-back with a pair of chinos or jeans for that tanned, fresh-from-the-beach look.


What are they?

Like thong sandals, men's slide sandals have undergone a revolution over the past few years. Generally defined as having one or two straps that go across the top of the foot, today's slide sandals come in many styles and forms. Technically considered "mules", slide sandals can trace their roots back in several directions to Europe, including the Dutch "klompen" clogs, and to French sabots.

The sport-style slide, made popular by European soccer players, remains a favorite and is often made of plastic and rubber. The more traditional styles, like the Birkenstock, are now often made with materials like Nubuc and/or synthetic microfiber to reduce wear. There is also a trend here to move up-market with better leathers, as seen in the slides from Bacco Bucci and more lug styles from Dr Marten.


Birkenstock 'Arizona' Microfiber Slide Sandals

Dr. Martens '8B72' Leather Thick Strapped Slide Sandals

What they say about you:

"Where thongs [change to "thong sandals"] tend to be more whimsical, the dressier slides [change to "slide sandals"] come off as more serious. They work great with either shorts or pants and tell people that you've made a decision, a footwear style decision, you didn't just default to whatever was in your back seat."


What are they?

Fisherman's sandals are one of the most venerable pieces of footwear in the world: dating back as long as recorded history and found in just about every culture that eats fish. Most like a shoe, they generally offer a tighter fit and the most foot coverage of any member of the sandal-family. They have several straps across the top of the foot, a low slung but snug ankle strap and many come with an enclosed toe box to keep the foot in place. Traditionally brown or black, the Fisherman's sandal is now available in many colors, styles and price points.


H.S. Trask 'Laguna' Sandals

Dr. Martens '8092' Leather Strap Style Sandals

What they say about you:

In other countries, the fisherman's sandal is as common as a pair of tennis shoes is for westerners. But in the U.S., the fisherman's sandal is a mature persons' sandal. Not old, but mature. It says 'I've arrived, I don't care what you think, I am comfortable and stylish.'"


What are they?

Sport sandals probably evolved from the Fisherman's sandals and were popularized in the late 90's by Teva, but they still remain quite popular today. Men's sport sandals generally have a snug fitting strap across the toes, one that goes around the ankle as well a durable rubber foot bed that is often contoured to fit the foot. Originally created for outdoorsmen who would find themselves in ponds, rivers or streams, these multi-function sandals are usually made of all synthetic materials or new waterproof leathers, and are designed to provide traction on wet ground and to dry quickly. A near cousin of the sport sandal is the golf sandal, which feature all of the above with a studded bottom.


Teva 'Terra-Fi' Waterproof Sport Sandals

Orvis 'Manchester' Leather Sports Sandals

What they say about you:

Wearing a pair of 10-year old sport sandals (you know the ones I mean) identifies you as having grown up in the 90's just like an old pair of Birkenstocks would for a child of the 60's. But with some of the newer designs and manufacturers, you can look good and still tell the world that you'd rather be in the woods.


What are they?

Dress sandals are usually a high-end designer style and built for fashion over comfort. While most are comfortable and durable, they would place form over function in the list of priorities. Men's dress sandals come from a variety of top designer names and can range in prices from 30 to 200 dollars. They go anywhere you would expect them to in the warm weather, from a cocktail party in South Beach, to a wedding on Nantucket. Designer dress sandals are a sophisticated way to keep your feet as cool as your company.


Medium 'Buddhist' Leather Dress Sandals

Oakley 'Box Crater 2.0' Leather Slide Sandals

What they say about you:

Dress Sandals are the top of the sandal food chain. Look at it this way, women love shoes, they love men who choose nice shoes even more, and a man who can look great and feel comfortable in a pair of designer sandals is going to do well with the ladies. If you can get past your buddy's jokes, you will be amazed at how your reputation for being stylish will flourish.


10 Rules Every Guy Should Know About Wearing Sandals This Spring

1) Trim the Talons You don't need to get a pedicure, but keep your toenails well groomed. Your razor-sharp eagle claws are not attractive.

2) Keep it Clean: This should go without saying, but probably needs repeating in the summer months. Keep your feet clean.

3) Rock 'em Sockless: Unless you're David Beckham and you're going onto the pitch at Manchester United - or you really don't care what women think - don't wear socks with sandals.

4) Beach 'em: Leave the cheap flip-flops at the beach or the gym shower. Opt for a nicer, dressy pair when heading out.

5) Pack A Pair: Keep an extra pair of sandals in your briefcase, laptop bag or backpack. They don't take up much room and offer many stylish options for quick change of pace after work.

6) Don't Skimp: Cheap flip flops are everywhere these days, but your feet, knees, and ankles will thank you if you avoid buying your sandals at the gas-station.

7) Be Foot-Smart: If you're going to a bar where there is likely to be a lot of broken glass on the floor, opt for some casual or sports shoes.

8) Walk the Walk: Consider if you'll be walking a lot and the terrain you might be on. Women seem to be able to walk anywhere in heels, but guys have a tough time walking in sandals if they aren't used to them.

9) Sack the Socks: Did we mention that you should NEVER wear socks with sandals?

10) Matching Still Matters: Just because you're wearing sandals doesn't mean you can forget about matching everything else you've got on. There are plenty of colors and styles to choose from so make an informed style decision.

Michael Ray is the Founder and Managing Partner of Grapevinehill. In the past five years, Grapevinehill has sold more than a million pairs of designer shoes and sandals over the Internet. They currently offer more than 100 styles of men's sandals at 30-60% off retail prices. For more information, visit http://www.grapevinehill.com

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