Thursday, August 15, 2013

Flip-floppin' - São Paulo

Not just for the beach anymore...
Here's the scene in the chairs overlooking the pool at my kids' swim academy. Three of four of these women are nannies (the ones wearing white shirts) and the fourth is the helper of another family (she once explained to me the difference but I admit I don't get it). On everyone's feet are the ubiquitous, the marvelous, the iconic Havaianas. While Havaianas is a brand name here (meaning "Hawaiian" in case that is not obvious), most flip-flops are referred to as Havaianas regardless of brand, or "chinelos".

Flip-flops are for everything and just about everywhere (though I can't imagine someone going to meet Dilma in flip-flops unlike the US women's basketball team meeting Obama a couple of years ago). Hanging around the house in bare feet is not allowed here. My husband's grandmother (age 94) will yell at you if you attempt it. She will also tell you all the bugs and glass and whatever she found embedded in her daughters' feet 65 years ago so trust me, it's best to just toe the line. 

Flip-flops are the easiest shoes to put on and of course the easiest to clean up with their all-purpose rubber soles. You see them everywhere out and about on the streets in beach towns, somewhat more rarely in cities, and I've even seen young men wearing them to play soccer. They seem to be second skins to many wearers. While it is illegal to wear flip-flops while driving (there is an article in Brazilian law that says it is illegal to wear any shoes that do not stay "stuck" to the bottom of your feet. If caught you risk 4 points on the license and a $84 reais fine), I've seen motorcyclists on the coast using them. Note that it is not illegal to drive barefoot. Take that, grandma!

While flip-flops are the footwear of "every man", they have gone upscale over the last few years. Even Havaianas is in on it, opening up a flagship store on Oscar Freire, the chic (pronounced "shee-kee" in Portuguese) shopping street. You can get them printed with superheroes, or flowers or teams and have little charms embedded in the toe separator. 

Have a look at the pretty store on Oscar Freire. Those baskets to the left are filled with's a pretty big space for selling flip-flops, no?

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