June 29, 2006

Are flip-flops damaging your career?

By Belinda Goldsmith

NEW YORK (Reuters) - With more women wearing flip-flops to
the office this summer, U.S. style gurus are warning that the
casual shoe once mainly seen on the beach could be damaging to
careers -- as well as to feet.

Lauren Cardinale, 25, who works at West Glen
Communications, wears beaded or other fancy flip flops to the
office -- when she can get away with it.

"Occasionally I wear flip flops to work," she said. "I wear
nicer shoes if I'm meeting with clients or if I know there will
someone in the office who doesn't approve of flip flops."

Cardinale is one of thousands of young women in New York
who consider flip-flops an essential part of their summer

An online survey conducted for retailers Old Navy and Gap
found flip-flops topped the list of wardrobe items that college
and high school students planned to wear to work this summer.

More than 31 percent of women said flip-flops were the
single "must have" item for work this summer.

But many companies disagree.

"The dress code says no beach wear and flip-flops are
considered beach wear," said a spokeswoman for BNP Paribas.

Style gurus warn that flip-flops, which are worn mainly by
younger women, could be harmful to a career.

"Shoes convey the mood of a woman. Wearing flip-flops
conveys the mood that you are relaxed and on vacation. That's
not a good message in the office," said Meghan Cleary, a style
commentator who wrote the book "The Perfect Fit: What Your
Shoes Say About You."

Doctors say it's not just careers they could harm.

Physicians at the American College of Foot and Ankle
Surgeons say flip-flops are linked to a growing number of heel
problems among teens and young adults.

"We're seeing more heel pain than ever in patients 15 to 25
years old, a group that usually doesn't have this problem,"
said spokeswoman Marybeth Crane in a recent statement.

She said flip-flops with thin soles have no arch support
and can accentuate any abnormal biomechanics in foot motion
which eventually brings pain and inflammation.


Flip-flops are far from new, dating back at least 70 years
and believed developed out of traditional Japanese woven or
wooden soled sandals in New Zealand.

The basic flat sole with a Y-shaped strap, that passes
between the toes and around either side of the foot, is known
in every nation and to every social class.

In developing countries, they are the cheapest -- and often
only -- form of footwear, easy to make and easy to fit.

The term "flip-flop" derives from the noise they make while
slapping against the wearer's heels and the floor but they are
also known as thongs in Australia, jandals in New Zealand, and
slippers in Hawaii.

But flip-flops took on a new life among the young and
trendy a few years ago. They have surged in popularity with
shops now selling them in every conceivable color, with
sequins, flowers, and even bridal flip-flops with over 300
Swarovski crystals on the straps for about $140 a pair.

Last June the Northwestern University's champion women's
lacrosse team was widely criticized for wearing flip-flops when
they visited the White House and met President George W. Bush.

Ellen Campuzano, president of the Committee of Color and
Trends, a New York-based forecasting service specializing in
footwear and accessories, thinks flip-flops' popularity will

"Usually these trends come and go in about five years," she
said. "I think we've reached the peak, they can't be any more
widespread, so maybe next summer something will replace them."