A Fanatical Dedication to Flip Flops

Feverish for flip-flops on Jersey beaches and beyond.

Photo courtesy of The Burtons/Getty Images

For most New Jerseyans, summer officially begins on Memorial Day weekend. But for this native New Jersey gal, summer never ends—as long as I can slide my tootsies into one of my more than 4 dozen pairs of flip-flops.

Flip-flops have always been my closet staple. Growing up in Newark, they were go-to footwear for families that couldn’t afford to dress their kids in pricey sandals or sneakers. Despite being maligned by my peers, I embraced flip-flops wholeheartedly and without reservation. I was especially fond of my first flip-flops, a bright fuchsia pair adorned with green butterflies. I wore those beauties from age four until kindergarten.

As I got older, I remained steadfast in my affection for flip-flops. Soon, I was wearing them year-round—no easy feat (pun intended), considering the nature of New Jersey winters. My collection began innocuously enough. A few here, a few there. In time, my collection began to overtake my closet. Other footwear was relegated to plastic yellow Shop-Rite bags. My treasured flip-flops where carefully stored in clear, pristine shoe boxes.

What is it about rubber footwear that makes me so protective? Over the years, I’ve come to realize that my flip-flop fixation isn’t just about comfort. My collection is also a walking tour of my life in the Garden State.

From high school to my years as a college student at Rutgers-Newark, I traversed the beaches of Belmar and Spring Lake in my flip-flops. At night, my flip-flops were there as I navigated the beer-sticky floors of D’Jai’s, Belmar’s infamous watering hole. Proudly and defiantly, I sported black iridescent flip-flops under my university robe at commencement. This caused much chagrin for my parents, who believed the day should be observed with reverence—and appropriate shoes.

After college, my flip-flops continued to provide sure footing and solid comfort. Despite the naysayers who warned me of damage to my feet, I expanded and upgraded my collection with pairs that reflected my interest in international travel. One of my all-time favorites: a pair from Amsterdam adorned with windmills.

Designers have lately embraced my passion, but for slightly different reasons. They came to recognize that alternative footwear had universal appeal, as well as potential profits. Consider the upscale and pricey Havaianas from Brazil that now grace the racks of retailers like Macy’s and Nordstrom’s.

Havaianas aside, my biggest challenge today is keeping fresh and affordably priced inventory on hand. With bated breath, I eagerly await Old Navy’s annual $1 flip-flop blowout sale. My plan of attack is simple: Wake up early, be the first in line to get the right colors and sizes, and always bring reinforcements—in this case my sister, who begrudgingly accompanies me so I can double my inventory and keep an extra stash for emergencies.

Of course, this isn’t just about filling my closet. Among my recent purchases is a gold metallic pair just perfect for my next overnight getaway to Harrah’s in Atlantic City.
After all, a gal can never have too many flip-flops.

Susan F. Gordon is a freelance writer in Little Silver.

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