Popularity of flip-flops as all-purpose casual shoe will decline, professor says

Thursday, July 6, 2006

They've moved from the pool to the office, but not everybody is happy about it.

"They" are flip-flops - the flat soled sandal with a V-shaped toe strap. Some workers are testing the boundaries of workplace wardrobe by wearing flip-flops to their jobs. An associate professor of merchandising and hospitality management at the University of North Texas says the trendy shoes may have worn out their welcome.

Dr. Tammy Kinley, whose expertise is shopping behavior, says the popularity of the flip-flop as an all-purpose casual shoe may be short-lived.

"I think they will start fading out next summer and by the summer of 2008, they will be long gone," she says.

Some school districts and corporations have already banned the casual shoe. Last summer, the Northwestern University women's lacrosse team, winner of the 2005 NCAA championship, was criticized when some team members wore them to a visit at the White House.

Kinley says part of the problem with flip-flops as an everyday shoe is defining what a flip-flop is. She says she asked her husband if the shoes were an issue at the company he works at in downtown Dallas.

"At his office, the kind with a thong between the toes is forbidden, and no one wears them. However, if you define them as shoes that slap against the foot with every step, they are the predominate style among women in the office. He said it drives him nuts; every step is a noise," Kinley says.

Some style gurus suggest that wearing the casual flip-flop sends the wrong message in the corporate environment. Podiatrists add the shoes may be contributing to foot and heel problems in teenagers and twenty-something adults.

But finding alternatives to flip-flops isn't always easy - at least for women, Kinley says. She points out that women may have to search to find closed-toe shoes for summer to go with more casual office wear.

"Sandals, flip-flops, and slides are the predominate styles," she says. "They make a Casual Friday-kind of dress more fun, and they dress up weekend wear. They are also relatively inexpensive, making it easy to own several pairs. Variety is fun and women have embraced the possibilities in a big way."

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108