Forget casual Fridays. When the weather gets warm, many companies adopt casual summer policies to keep employees cool and comfortable. Suits and ties are replaced with polos and khakis, and stockings and dress shoes are happily shed for sun dresses and sandals. It’s just way too uncomfortable to be “dressed up” when the heat and humidity kick in. Sometimes, however, the definition of casual gets lost in translation.
Waters get murky when an outfit that would normally be worn on a weekend trip to the grocery store becomes a summer uniform staple with tanks, tees and the most heinous of offenders, flip flops, getting donned anywhere and everywhere. Thanks to the Athleisure trend, most ultra-casual clothes, when combined properly with classic pieces can pass as appropriate attire. Flip flops are the exception.
Let me be perfectly clear, a thong sandal is not necessarily a flip flop.
For example, this Vince Camuto sandal would be perfectly acceptable in the office, out to dinner, and even to a summer wedding.
This plastic and foam number from J.Crew, would not.
Guys, don’t think you’re free to wear what you want, either. Your summer footwear options are even more limited than women’s are, but this seems fair since you don’t ever have to wear heels, stockings, or bras. Sometimes there is balance in the universe. If you’re a guy, showing your toes anywhere that isn’t the beach, a boardwalk, a barbecue, a pool or pool party, running errands, or at a park is a major no-no. This includes Birkenstocks – I’m looking at you hipsters!
If you’re looking for easy slides choose Vans or Converse or even Sperry’s, which would certainly work in office, but not flip flops!
In many instances, it’s not even an issue of flip flops being inappropriately casual plastic shoes; it’s a matter of health! Studies have shown that wearing flip flops regularly can cause heel pain, Plantar Fasciitis, which is a painful inflammation on the bottom of the foot that can become a chronic condition, posture problems, and knee pain. Foot doctors say it has to do with the lack of arch support and the stress on your gait caused by the constant need to curl your toes downward while walking to keep your flip flops on, that can create foot problems from excessive wear. Not only that, but depending on where you wear them, you can pick up some nasty bacteria and gunk on your feet!
If you’re still unsure about when and where it’s okay to sport the only footwear available for sale in the bargain bin at your local pharmacy, here’s my list of places flip flops should never be seen. Do with it what you will.
- Work: We have somewhat addressed this, but I do need to clarify that some offices have very casual and relaxed atmospheres. If you work at Google, for example, flip flops might be part of your daily uniform! You have to use your discretion. If you are a landscape architect, an accountant, or a chef, flip flops are probably not the best idea – unless of course you want to lose a toe, get fired, or seriously burn yourself.
- Religious Services: If a wedding reception is on the beach, but the ceremony is in a church, you can bring flip flops with you, but do not wear them to the service. This includes any event that is preceded by a religious service. It’s disrespectful, regardless of your faith. Just bring your flip flops with you – they weigh nothing!
- The theater, a fancy dinner, or a concert: If you’re going to the Met for an evening performance, get yourself dressed up! If you’re heading out to a fancy restaurant that doesn’t require the wait staff to wear flare, get yourself dressed up. If you’re going to a concert, and it’s dark and crowded, do your toes a favor and cover them! You will get stepped on at some point during the night! And do you really want to go to a public restroom at an arena stadium wearing flip flops? That’s gross!
- City streets and hospitals: If you’re spending the day walking around the city, I don’t care if it’s Boston, LA or New York, you should definitely put an added layer of protection between your feet and the dirty city streets. You have no idea what you are walking through! The same goes for hospitals where there are germs everywhere. What if you have a blister on your foot from your uncomfortable plastic flip flops and you get some nasty germs in it? You could give yourself a staph infection! Or worse yet, Dr. Jackie Sutera, a podiatrist and spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association says you can expose yourself to HPV, warts and even athlete’s foot, and if you’ve recently had a pedicure, you can have miniature open cuts around your cuticles that give the bacteria direct access to your blood stream. Worst case scenario, you could lose a toe!
- Bars and clubs: The same goes for bars. Unless you are at an ultra-clean establishment, you couldn’t pay me to go to a public bathroom in flip flops! And how the hell do you dance in flip flops?!
- Amusement park or anywhere that requires a tremendous amount of walking: The public bathroom thing applies here too, but more importantly is the amount of time you will spend on your feet. Doctor of Physical Therapy in NYC, Doug Kechijian says you should apply the 10 block rule when wearing flip flops. If you’re walking more than 10 blocks, wear different shoes!
This has been a public service announcement, and a bit of a rant on my part, as well. Also remember, male or female, if your toes are out, make sure they’re clipped, clean, and filed!