Saturday, July 06, 2013

Rubber chappals

My primary school (yes, the one I went to decades back) required me to wear shoes, but the higher secondary school that I joined later had no such requirement. The school uniform consisted of white pyjamas and kurtha and I could complement these with a pair of rubber chappals.

A pair of these chappals bought at Bata would cost Rs 8 , and if this ate too deep into the family budget, a pair could be bought from a platform vendor for less than Rs 5 a pair. The low price wasn’t the only reason. We simply did not feel the need for any other type of footwear. True, they could be a nuisance in rainy weather and splash muddy water on to one’s own clothes or on those of the person walking behind you, but these were minor inconveniences accepted without too much thought.

Entire batches of students have graduated from such venerable institutions such as IIT with a record of using no other type of footwear. In fact, rubber chappals came to be associated with intellectuals.

While I used to know them only as rubber chappals, it looks like they are referred to as flip flops (probably American).

Recently, I came across this piece in Slate magazine, which criticises the flip-flop and finds several faults with it.

The crux of the flip-flop problem, for me, lies in the decoupling of footwear from foot with each step—and the attendant decoupling of the wearer’s behavior from the social contract. Extended flip-flop use seems to transport people across some sort of etiquette Rubicon where the distinction between public and private, inside and outside, shod and barefoot, breaks down entirely. I’ve witnessed flip-flop wearers on the New York City subway slip their “shoes” off altogether and cross their feet on the train-car floor with a contented sigh, as though they were already home and kicking back in front of a DVR’d Cheers marathon. We would all look askance at a person who removed his socks and sneakers on the train before ostentatiously propping his naked dogs in plain sight. Why do people get a break just because they happen to be wearing footgear that takes them 90 percent of the way there?

My final line of argument against flip-flops is a more nebulous one, having to do with their laziness and lack of character as footwear. Because of the ease with which they’re put on and removed—along, perhaps, with their generic ubiquity—flip-flops connote a sort of half-dressed slatternliness, a sense that the wearer has forgotten to do anything at all with his or her body from the ankles down.

Fellow must be one of those snooty types who needs to make a fashion statement with his footwear. Ignore him.

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