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On flip flops and the male foot

kinda kidding

There are few things I hate more than the sight of flip flops, or any open-toed shoes for that matter, worn on a male foot. Male feet are just gross. Mine personally have wiry hairs shooting out the top of each toe, crowned with haphazardly trimmed toenails which crescendo into a pinky toenail that’s become such a lost cause that I’ve resorted to just kinda filing down once every blue moon so that it doesn’t rip holes in my socks. 

Even if you’re one of the chosen few with hairless feet that you attentively and frequently groom, chances are your male foot is still gross just by the nature of it being a male foot. Fashion designer and filmmaker Tom Ford put it best in a February 2017 interview with Entertainment Weekly:

“I wouldn’t be caught dead in flip flops. I hate flip flops on men. Unless you have the world’s most perfect feet, and then only at a beach resort, never in the city. This trend of men in flip flops in a city drives me crazy—or on a plane—when you’re on a plane and someone gets on in flip flops, it’s very strange. I don’t know how they feel secure enough, I couldn’t cope with it”. 

I would argue that first and foremost the function of a male shoe is not to provide support or protection, but instead to spare friends and strangers alike from constant exposure to the deformed monstrosities encased inside. That’s what makes open-toed shoes so egregious. Instead of hiding the foot they frame it and present it for the whole world to see. A bare foot, for instance, in an appropriate setting like a pool or inside a house rarely gets noticed because our brains tune out the expected. Shoes, however, are one of the first things catch our eyes when we interact with someone in an unfamiliar setting. A pair of flip flops, then, are essentially clickbait tricking innocent eyes into having to look at gross feet. 

On Duke’s campus, 90 percent of guys dress either like old men or middle schoolers. The old men might wear something like khakis with a horizontal stripped polo, usually poorly paired with some random athletic shoe. The middle schoolers wear almost exclusively shorts in tandem with white high socks and some overly-busy graphic tee. But even these tragic cases are miles better than any other variety of flip flop wearer. That being said, there are also two types of flip flop wearers, each exceptionally worse than the base model. The first is the flip flops plus gym shorts with lanyard keychain peeking out one pocket breed. If that lanyard isn’t around your neck then you don’t need it, it’s as simple as that. The second are those who wear flip flops with jeans. I feel no need to explain further why this is not only an affront to all things fashion but also basic human dignity. 

And before you say it, I don’t buy any type of “but it’s convenient” argument. It takes twenty seconds max to put on normal shoes and if you really have an aversion to socks you can invest in a pair of espadrilles or something. Flip flops are also just uncomfortable and useless shoes that prevent you from participating in a number of essential daily activities. Good luck chasing down the C1 in your flat pieces of rubber attached to a plastic wishbone. 

But functionality aside, what it really comes down to is respect. Respect to those you interact with in the outside world and who willingly choose to spend their precious time with you. The least you can do is not selfishly subject them to your poor life choices. If you find some sort of commune of flip flop wearers who collectively opt-in to the madness, then be my guest to make that mistake together. But in the company of upstanding members of society, please refrain. 

I’d like to end by saying to those who currently or in the past have dabbled in the footwear dark-side, I forgive you. There was a time that I too sported the Adidas slide in any and all informal settings. We are raised not knowing any better and easily get trapped in an echo chamber that prevents us from seeing the error in our ways. I do, however, implore you to do better. To better yourself and help in bettering those around you. This starts of course starts with purging your own closet of open-toed shoes, but also means taking initiative by pointing and yelling “what are those??” any time you see a flip flop out in the wild. 

Sami Kirkpatrick is a Trinity senior. His column, "kinda kidding," usually runs on alternate Wednesdays.

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