Millennials constantly catch the blame for ruining everything from casual dining to top sheets, and now, finally, it’s Gen Z’s turn to take the blame for the disappearance of something. The next generation is apparently “canceling” flip-flops — although to be honest, their reasoning is pretty solid.
For many millennials and Gen X-ers, flip-flops are (or were) a way of life. You might have been one of the millions of kids who flocked to Old Navy for those $1 rubber flip-flops, buying them in every color to match every possible outfit you owned. Or, especially if you grew up in a beach town, you budgeted $20-30 for the surfer-approved and promoted Reef or Rainbow flip-flops. Pedicures were a must. Flip-flop tans were something to be proud of. And socks with sandals? Ick.
My, how the turns have tabled, though. As pointed out in a Huffington Post think piece, Gen Zers are decidedly not fans of flip-flops.
“Flip-flops are only acceptable on the beach or for a quick trip out,” Katie M., a junior at the University of Cincinnati, tells Scary Mommy. “They’re gross. They’re not pretty.”
Her roommate backs her up.
“I don’t want people looking at my feet. It’s weird,” says Katey C., also a UC junior.
While she doesn’t want anyone looking at her feet, she’s a little more forgiving of others. As a matter of fact, she’s more forgiving than previous generations.
“I don’t really care. Wear what you want,” Katey says, adding, “But, if I’m wearing Berks [Birkenstocks] anywhere, I’m also wearing socks.”
Are you gasping? Makes sense. When millennials were in high school and college, we were practically shunned from society if we got caught wearing socks with sandals in public. Now, it’s the norm.
“Now it’s almost cool again,” Katey shares.
Germs and… Stuff
Aside from the lack of fashion involved with flip-flops and many members of Gen Z being simply weirded out by others seeing their toes, there are more practical reasons for their distrust and distaste for sandals.
After living through a pandemic, it makes perfect sense that young adults wouldn’t want their feet uncovered and exposed to even more germs. If you stretch your brain hard enough, you probably remember the oddly satisfying feeling of stepping into a shower after a day in flip-flops and watching your dirty black footprints disappear from the bathtub floor.
There’s also the matter of foot fetishism, with Gen Zers having grown up in an era where it’s not uncommon to have someone slide into your DMs to ask for… pictures of your toes. And since selling feet pics on the internet has become popular too, Gen Z has taken a strong “no free feet” stance against giving away the goods via open-toed shoes.
Calling All Sneakerheads
Gen Z is also simply a more shoe-conscious generation. According to Statista, the United States footwear market is supposed to generate more than $88 billion in revenue, with an expected growth of 3.29% annually through 2028.
Gone are the days of having a pair of dress shoes, a pair of sneakers, and a pair of flip-flops. Everyone is a sneakerhead now, and your collection isn’t complete unless you’ve collected all your favorite designs from all your favorite brands. With limited, fan-driven editions and completely customizable options, everyone is feeling the push to double down on cool shoes.
For the Planet
Sustainability also plays a factor. While former generations stopped their climate-healing efforts at can-collecting, millennials and Gen Z often look for sustainable brands that use Earth-friendly supplies and manufacturing processes, like Keen’s Zionic collection. Meanwhile, other popular brands like Vans make ways to show their love for the Earth by releasing collections inspired by the National Parks or using regenerative rubber.
Will $1 flip-flops and brands like Reef or Havaianas continue to exist as more people shy away from showing their feet? Probably. Even Gen Z likes a beach vacation. It’s just…
“How are you supposed to sell feet pics to pay rent when your feet are calloused and gross from wearing flip-flops?” asks Jessi C., a 25-year-old Nashville resident.
So, lock up those toesies, Olds. The last thing you want to be is cringe.