Possibly the most ubiquitous sign of summer fashion in the U.S. is the classic pair of flip-flops. Worn by men, women and children alike, these simple, comfortable shoes sprout up everywhere as soon as the temperatures start to rise out of their winter slump. Americans have flip-flops for all occasions. There are sporty ones for the beach, dressy ones for weddings and dinners out on the town, basic ones for running errands and jeweled ones that pair nicely with your new summer dress.
When I came to France with my own such extensive collection, I was prepared to stand out like a sore thumb in this city of chic rather than comfy clothing. I had noticed on previous visits that flip-flops were not a big seller in France, and while there are some things I'm willing to do to fit in over here, wearing high-fashion Parisian footwear in the middle of a heatwave is not one of them. Donning my blue and yellow decidedly un-French moose-motif flip-flops on the first warm day of the season, I shamelessly stepped out into society, ready to confront the masses as a proud, comfort-loving American. Much to my surprise, things had changed. Flip-flops were everywhere, and not just on the tired feet of tourists. They were being worn by Parisians as well! Rather than feeling like an out-of-place foreigner, I now felt like a fashion forward Frenchwoman enjoying the latest trend in summer shoes.
Not everyone will be happy about the growing visibility of flip-flops on the streets of Paris. Even Americans have been known to lament this basic choice in footwear. A couple of years ago the scandale du jour in Washington was that the city's interns - kids, these days! - were wearing flip-flops to the office. Like the DC newspapers that mourned the loss of respect in the workplace, I'm sure somewhere in the pages of French fashion magazines a fashion purist is mourning the loss of proper French style. But I for one am happy to see flip-flops take hold in France. Spend one day walking on uneven cobblestone streets, sweating on the crowded metro, or lugging your groceries home in the midday sun and you'll see why.