The Thong and Short of It

On the last day of school every year, Mom would take me to the neighborhood five-and-dime to buy that summer's pairs of flip-flops. They probably cost a buck each, no more than two, and I usually went through two or three a summer. Hence it blow s my thirtysomething mind that virtually the same footwear--albeit with a designer name and the occasional suede upper attached--now fetches boutique prices approaching $40. They're flip-flops, people! I checked out the newest crop to see if we've come very far from the arch-less, totally lacking-in-support seasonal convenience I credit with the development--thanks to summers spent running around with that little piece of rubber wedged between my big and second toes--of my ability to pick up coins with my toes.


The Criteria

Converse "One-Star Sandal Update"

Price: $37

Ergonomics: Molded toe separator supplants flip-flop toe-wedge for comfy grip.

Speed: You'll never miss the ice cream truck in these babies--they've got treads!

Design Inspiration: Remember the shoes all the monkeys wore in "Planet of the Apes"?

Bonus: They feel like sneakers--with the toes and heels cut out.

Tommy Hilfiger "Peel"

Price: $26

Ergonomics: If you have flat feet and a tube of glue, maybe they'll stay on your feet.

Speed: Try to cross PCH, and you'll know how road kill feels.

Design Inspiration: Those mules that Beverly Hills matrons slip on when returning from the salon after their pedicures.

Bonus: Blatant pseudo-jingoistic Hilfiger label sewn on flap.

Nike "Soccer Sandal"

Price: $23

Ergonomics: Functionally wearable, save the occasionaly blister on your pinky toe.

Speed: They stay on at a good clip, even down stairs.

Design Inspiration: Think Friar's Club steam room.

Bonus: Leaves the omnipresent Nike swoosh imprint in the sand.

Rite Aid "Pacific Reef"

Price: $2.99

Ergonomics: Old familiar satisfaction for those partial to that toe-wedge thing.

Speed: You can run in them, but not recommended--unless the sand is very hot.

Design Inspiration: Actual foot shapes!

Bonus: As the French say, the more things change . . .

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