Sandals have been with us since not long after man started walking upright. The oldest known pair was discovered in Fort Rock, Oregon in 1938. They consisted of a simple platform made from woven fabric with a toe and heel thongs woven from rope and were radio-carbon dated to be at least 10,000 years old. More recently, if you call 7,500 years ago recent, more styles came about with rounded and pointed toes and with decorative flourishes added. Babylonians preferred perfumed sandals (not a bad idea) around 1696 BCE and sandals with an upturned toe wore by aristocrats were depicted on the Assyrian Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III around 841 BCE A little Modern History
Once again, Hollywood set the stage. Silent films in the early 20th century brought biblical films to millions. Though the sandals were not historically accurate, master shoemakers like Salvatore Ferragamo made thousands for the casts. More and more actresses wore these off the sets and of course their fans wanted to emulate their idols. Ferragamo introduced the wedge heel and metal arch to allow heeled sandals to be made without toe-caps and the Peekaboo style (or toe-cleavage to some) became popular. Shortages of rubber and other materials during war time brought about innovations with other materials including cork wedges and plastic thongs. Sandals for the Masses
Once the plastics industry took off, flip flops were soon to follow. Japanese manufacturers produced plastic sandals cheaply and soon a demand among Americans and Europeans for plastic sand shoes, as they called them, increased. As new molding techniques were introduced, flip flops and plastic sandals were soon seen on every kid and beach-goer in the world. Sandals with soles made from old tires became popular first in the thirties but really hit their peak in the sixties.
Old Styles Survive
There are more types of sandals than you can—pardon the pun—shake a foot at. They range from the ancient Caligae which was heavy-soled roman military shoe to the Geta, a classical Japanese form of elevated thong. There is the Jelly sandals invented in 1946 by Frenchman Jean Dauphant, the ever-popular clogs from the Netherlands, and The Ho Chi Minh sandals improvised by the Vietnamese from tire soles with straps cut from an inner tube.
Some say sandals have become even more popular in any social setting since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and subsequent TSA regulations at airport checkpoints. Having to take off your shoes at airports makes wearing sandals and flip flops not just sensible but socially acceptable these days. Today’s companies range from the massive Havaianas from Brazil, which was makes 150 million pairs of flip flops a year, to specialty companies such as Hawaiian inspired OluKai which makes a more premium, luxury brand of sandals and footwear. Luckily for all of us seeking comfort, sandals are no longer just pieces of woven fabric on a piece of wood. They’re stylish, comfortable and now considered sensible shoes.