By: Alice Bonasio
Itâ€™s the eternal dilemma when it comes to shoes, especially if you are a woman: do you go for comfort or beauty?
And as the days grow hotter the question becomes even more urgent, but reaching for a pair of Flip Flops doesnâ€™t necessarily mean letting go of your pretty footwear standards.
The main brand of Flip Flops in Brazil â€“ and worldwide for that matter â€“ is Havaianas, which has been manufacturing its ultra-durable and Ãœber-comfortable sandals since 1962.
They were not only ideally suited for the climate there, but were often the only kind of footwear that poorer people could afford, hence the term â€œpÃ©-de-chineloâ€ which translates as Flip-Flop-Foot (actually has a nice ring to it in English, might catch onâ€¦) and means a poor person or place.
Many legends of Brazilian football came from such humble beginnings, and learned to play football wearing Flip-Flops, which, if youâ€™ve ever tried it, is incredibly difficult and potentially painful.
Maybe the added difficulty helped them to develop their incredible skills.
Fast-forward to 2011 and Havaianas are an international brand.
Although it continues to manufacture its basic, cheaper â€œchinelosâ€, it now refers to its offerings as â€œsandalhasâ€ (sandals), and designs hundreds of different styles and colours, which sell to middle-class and rich Brazilians (the pictures above are of a store in one of the most fashionable and prestigious streets in Sao Paulo) as well as to â€œGringosâ€ the world over.
The big turning point came in 2003, when Havaianas were included in the goodie bag for the Oscars, with all nominees being given special edition models.
This 2007 model featured a stars pattern instead of the traditional textured rice one on its foot-beds (the rice pattern is a nod to the Japanese Zori sandal which inspired the original design) and was decorated with 10 diamonds set in 18 karat white gold stars on the straps.
Each pair was worth around US$ 1500, and were indeed worthy of gracing some famous feet.
When I first came to London, I remember spotting Havaianas in the shops as they started being imported, and laughed at how the export models were not made to be as sturdy as the ones I brought over with me, and cost about 15 times what I had paid.
Plus, mine were much prettier than the plain ones they had.
Web shopping means that this is no longer the case though, and I can order very nice Havaianas whenever I fancy.
They are still more expensive than in Brazil, but if I factor in the cost of posting them from Brazil or of actually travelling there, I suppose it works out as a fair difference.
But itâ€™s not like Havaianas are without some serious Brazilian competition.
Supermodel Gisele Bundchen lends her name to several lines of Ipanema sandals, another large Brazilian brand.
Above are some extremely pretty examples from the â€œHot Sandsâ€ and â€œButterflyâ€ collections, which have just made it onto my wish list.
Since the early ninties, they are now a permanent fixture of the summer in the UK and US, and it means that girls can keep their feet happy and look stylish at the same time.
Unfortunately for the boys, all but the more informal workplaces still frown on Flip-Flops.
But number one on my wish-list has to be the chance to make your own personalized pair of Havaianas on the web.
Inexpensive and seriously addictive, there is now no excuse not to have a pair to match every outfit.
Here is one I made earlier, combining the Brazilian canary yellow theme with some pink and a scattering of hearts and crystals for good measure.
Personalization is the latest trend, and this shows Havaianas is embracing technology and swiftly moving with the times.
And if theyâ€™re good enough for the likes of Jennifer Aniston and Britney Spears, who are we to argue?
I say, give stilettos a rest let your feet be happy this summer!
Alice Bonasio is a Brazilian/American/Italian writer specializing in Digital Cultures. She has been published in Gamestm, Edge, The Escapist and 360. She is currently finishing an MA in Creative and Media Enterprises at the University of Warwick. She lives in England and is a PR Executive for one of the UKâ€™s hottest tech start-ups, The Filter. Contact her on LinkedIN and follow her on Twitter.
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