In Defense Of Flip-Flops (i.e., no, you are not better off barefoot)
The summer between our sophomore and junior years in college, my friends Jessica* and Colin* lived with this guy Ryan* in a little apartment near Kenmore Square in Boston. Ryan had long hair, smoked a lot of weed and generally wouldn’t have looked out of place at the original Woodstock (though he was too anti-corporate to attend the reunion-esque ones). Despite living and working in the city of Boston, Ryan felt the need to be “close to the earth,” and most often expressed that need by refusing to wear shoes. Ever.
Brian rambled around the city, from the Fens to the Back Bay, on the Green Line and the Red, from Cambridge to Brookline and probably further afield than that, clad in nothing but what the good Lord gave him (from the knees down, anyway). One night, when I went to visit, I noticed that someone had what I thought was an artistic moment, painting black footprints intermittently in the hallway.
“No, I wish,” Colin said. “Those are Ryan’s actual footprints, because he doesn’t want soap to disrupt his connection to nature, so he just tracks grime all over the house on the rare occasions he showers.”
All of this is to say that, no, Amanda, going barefoot is not better than wearing flip-flops.
As a long-time flip-flop aficionado, I have never left black footprints on anyone’s floors. And while my cousin’s ex-boyfriend is correct in his assertion that “You can’t run from zombies in flip-flops,” I’d note that one would have equal trouble in heels of nearly any kind, and even sandals with foot-straps (as recommended by Dana Stevens). I’ve personally never cut my feet on glass as a city-dwelling flip-flop wearer, though I did once on a boardwalk in Spain while carrying some heels I couldn’t bear to wear all the way home. I’ve stepped out of strappy sandals, taken not one but two knee-wrenching tumbles in the supposedly superior Tevas, smacked my hands solidly on concrete after a fall in sneakers and rubbed all manner of blisters in all kinds of “comfortable” shoes that also make my feet hot and sweaty. And, like most flip-flop wearers (and what I hope is a goodly number of shoe-wearers), I make every effort to avoid stepping in animal excrement or New York City puddles of any variety (but especially those that appear when it’s not raining) regardless of my footwear.
My feet are not my genitals, as Stevens’ extended metaphor posits, nor are they necessarily unduly gross for a body part (nor are genitals gross, for that matter). They’re just feet. If people want to get exercised about the germs supposedly found on feet, then don’t click on this link about the amount and variety of bacteria found on human skin. Or this one. Or this one. Definitely don’t watch this “Mythbusters” episode about which common places carry the most bacteria.
Guess what? Humans are dirty. The world is dirty. Cities are dirty. Bacteria is everywhere, as is dirt and grime and you can either make your peace with that, or spend your days obsessing about the visible dirty soles of some people’s feet (hint: you probably don’t want to watch porn, if that’s the case) to the point of distraction.
And while I can’t speak to the individual reasons behind slower perambulators in the summer months, which is part of Amanda’s complaint, I’d suspect at least a good portion of the shuffling and slow-walking has at least as much to do with the heat in which people in NYC walk as the footwear in which they do it.
Are flip-flops uncomfortable to some people? I’m sure they are, though they aren’t to me. But having sweaty, boxed-in feet on a 90-degree day is uncomfortable to me, as are strappy sandals that cut across my too-high arches and into my skin. So I won’t be quitting my flip-floppery any time soon — or at least until September — and I rather suspect no one else will, either.
(And while I won’t get into the obvious class issues Stevens raises and dismisses, I will note that I spend an average of $8 on a pair of flip flops, which last about as long as my last pair of rather-more-expensive sneakers did. New York City is hell on shoes of all varieties.)
*Names changed to protect the innocent and/or filthy.
[“Many Feet In Colorful Summer Flip Flops” on Shutterstock]