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We're overdue for a shoe revolution

Justine Pechuzal
By Justine Pechuzal
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday Mar. 25, 2002

With blue skies, orange blossom-scented air, and wispy breezes, Mother Nature ushers in Tucson's gorgeous spring season. The weather is welcomed with lunch on the UA Mall's grass and hordes of bikinis at the Rec Center pool. It's the perfect time to stroll down Fourth Avenue for the Street Fair.

Yet enjoyment of the temperature splendor is marred by one particular fashion element: the re-emergence of the super-clunky enormous dinosaur-feet flip-flops.

Usually black, by Rocket Dog or Reef for those with money, or the generic version for the rest, these huge foamy platform chunks are adorned at the top with one v-strap to slide the toes under.

I thought they might die over the winter. I prayed and lit candles at the altar for Saint Yves Laurent that the offensive flip-flops would perish in the cold, withering away with dust bunnies in the corner of a closet, to be replaced with a fun, slick and strappy sandal this spring. But no, with the first few hints of sun-drenched warm weather, the lumbering flip-flops emerged in full force, tromping all over the University of Arizona campus.

I must admit my surprise. Typically, the fashion world gobbles up trends, then mercilessly spits them out, abandoning a fashion darling within months. Remember slap bracelets? Bra-strap headbands? Jelly shoes (the late '90s version with heels)? Backpack purses? The immense flip-flops have stomped around the block and back several times already. They should, judging by prior fashion standards, be replaced. Their stubborn existence mystifies me.

Perhaps a brief history of the flip-flops would explain their powerful grip. Approximately three years ago, as black slides (wide band, leather or synthetic, across the foot; business-casual) lost their luster, shoe drool turned to the Chinese-styled black and straw flip-flops: peasant kitsch with a sorority edge. The toe strap was thick and plush, the platform mid-high. They were the first large platform sandals since Doc Martens lifted their rubber soles.

In approximately one year, the Asian-inspired version was donated to Goodwill and replaced by a more basic flip-flop style with a lifted platform. The platform grew, like a tick sucking blood from its host, until it reached its current towering height of almost 4 inches. Although the shoe appears to have stabilized at this height, it has not been replaced. Certainly there are color and decorative variations on the basic black platform and wide black strap.

However, the principle remains the same: They are huge, ungraceful shoes.

Another problem with the flip-flop clompers is that their wearable index covers a vast empire of situations from forced casual to hip, allowing the flip-flop haters no respite. The flops are paired with UA butt shorts and cotton tank tops. They match knee-length print skirts - a nice dinner date outfit. Jeans, clam-digger pants, khaki shorts, black pants the shoes can worm their way into any scene.

Physically, the flip-flop chunks warp a healthy and normal walking stride. An interesting shuffle has developed to accompany the shoes. The shoe wearer appears to grip the platform precariously with her toes, praying that the mass will stay below her feet. Step too high and the shoe is lost. Why be uncomfortable? Walking is one of the most basic human functions. Everyone should be excited not to crawl on four legs, and should celebrate the incredible evolutionary development with sensible footwear.

Also, consider the waste of material commandeered by the colossal flip-flops. I'd say three, almost four, normal-sized flip-flops could be cut from the base of just one Reef shoe. Think about all the children who won't find flip-flops under the Christmas tree next year because they're all being hogged in Tucson.

Isolated in the Tucson niche, I wonder how the bungling flip-flops fare in other parts of the country. I can't imagine New Yorkers rushing on the busy city streets on platform foam. Or how about the high flip-flops sloshing through puddles in Seattle? Do Southern girls sashay in them?

I imagine that the shoes are difficult to destroy, being a solid chunk of rubbery foam stuff, but I still fantasize about their demise. A giant bonfire would likely emit poisonous toxins. Is there any way to recycle the flip-flops, melt them down and use the material for playground floors? Carpet? Artificial lung parts? I will put a collection bin in the Bursar's office and keep my fingers crossed.

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