In New Zealand, getting around in bare feet is considered cool – in a sort of sexy-Jesus meets pro-surfer way. It demonstrates how laid back, Eco, and generally unconcerned by commercialism or fashion Kiwis like to think they are.
To the rest of the world, though, it’s just something homeless people do.
In spite of the weather, many Kiwis would happily wear this vagrant look all year round. Unfortunately, there’s just too many fucking prickles in the grass. So the next best thing, and something of a cultural icon in New Zealand, is the humble Jandal.
Although the word Jandal is an abbreviation of ‘Japanese Sandal’, it is actually a trademark of the Skellerup company – one of the earliest manufacturers of the modern design – and, as such, is rarely used outside New Zealand.
Most other countries refer to them as ‘Flip Flops’, except in Australia, where they are called ‘Thongs’. Initially it was assumed the use of the word ‘Thong’ was yet another way for chauvinist Australian men to keep down the women of their country. Later analysis, even by researchers with strong feminist leanings, eventually agreed that it is probably more to do with the fact that Jandals really do look like G-Strings for the feet.
It is not, however, known for certain if Sisqo’s timeless 2000 hit ‘The Thong Song’ was actually a reference to footwear, not underwear. As a carefully worded warning about the dangers of an unchecked Camel’s Toe, the lyrics could comfortably (or rather, uncomfortably) apply to either.
Should you meet a friendly Australian on the feet-burning black sands of Piha beach in summer, therefore, don’t be alarmed if he tells you something along the lines of… “Struth mate, it’s so f**king hot I had to wear me sheila’s Thongs.”
Unless, of course, he is actually wearing two pairs of his girlfriend’s underwear. In that case, smile politely, and try to move on, remembering that it isn’t his fault he’s not right in the head. He is, after all, only Australian.
There have, since the introduction of the Jandal in the 1950′s, been a number of pretenders to the breezy-footwear throne. Multi-strapped action sandals (as favoured by German tourists, usually worn over knee length white socks). Lesbian, chunky Birkenstocks. And more recently, Crocs, which are wildly popular with the genetically retarded, or those who’ve simply lost the will to live.
The recent popularity of Havianas has, thankfully, seen a worldwide return to the effortless cool of the Jandal.
But in New Zealand, Jandals never really went out of style. Just try not to dwell too much on whether this means we were a) leading the pack, or b) so far behind that we were caught, unawares, wearing them when they came back in.
Focus instead on the important question, which is.. what next?