What’s on our feet?

September 19, 2021

As we approach the beginning of fall, have you looked down recently? I mean really looked down at the footwear of others, and of course your own. With no rhyme or reason, I decided to take a few days to observe what we Capers and our visiting guests are wearing on their feet. Several examples have actual names, but mostly are variations on a basic theme – the flip-flop. I suspect that this piece of footwear is so named since with each step the wearer takes, a portion of the pedestrian item hits the ground, making a sound. The sound is caused by the fact that the footwear has absolutely no support, nor securing straps, and thus part of it flexes with each step. There appear to be hundreds of sounds which can be made as we traverse to and from wherever.

With delicate care, allow me to mention the size and shape of the wearer makes a difference with regard to the flip or the flop. Also a factor is the amount of material used to manufacture a particular pair. It appears to me that many are made of the least amount of, let’s call it rubber, possible. The less rubber, the softer the sound. Of particular note, if you care to join this foot-watching expedition, is that with so many of these pretend shoes, the human foot seems to touch the concrete, grass, mud puddle, asphalt, or other ground substance quite a bit. The nature of the surface which comes into contact with the sole or heel of the human foot also influences the sound. Imagine, if you would, a composer putting these several varying sounds into a piece of music. Not TikTok, but Flip-Flop!

I cannot help but remember my friend Matt Haley, founder of the SoDel Concepts restaurant empire, who wore flip-flops all year round. Yes, I did ask him about his choice of foot attire, and he merely answered, “They are comfortable.” We of course found much more important topics to pursue, and if you knew him, I trust your conversations exceeded such a mundane subject.

Worthy of mention as part of our summer footwear is the sandal. I probably should have started there, since this item dates back to biblical days and possibly even prior to that. I suspect, though, that our primary homo sapiens may not have been attired with any footwear at all. The sandal provides much more support, and comes in a wider variety of styles. The basic pattern is the leather sole with a strap across the wearer’s instep. The strap is the key here, and ofttimes gender specific. There can be one strap of varying widths, or two or even more straps. And then there is the adorned strap.

I find the sandals designed for the women of our world are absolutely darling. I remember my dear friend’s daughter when she was much younger with an amazing pair of sandals which she wore for about five minutes at an outdoor event, and then removed because they hurt so much. I even volunteered to carry them for her, since she had other items in her hands. The sandal, of course, can have “flip-flop” qualities to it also, but because there is a little more substance to it, we do not get those musical tones to which I alluded earlier.

The sandal is a staple for monks and other religious groups, as well as for women in the office, since the wedge can also be considered as part of this genre. That type of sandal seems to be gender specific and can look very, very good on the person who has chosen to make that kind of fashion investment. Staying on this theme, we must mention the high-heeled, open-toed and open-instepped shoes which tend to be seen at outdoor (or indoor) social events. They look divine! Uncomfortable, I am told, regardless of cost, but divine! 

To return for a moment to the more mundane sandal, we must mention that such garb does afford us comfort, especially when made with rubber heels and foam insoles. Ahhh, we can walk for hours!

To talk about actual shoes and even sneakers would be extremely boring at this point, and take away from the point of the piece. Regular shoes do not have the pizzazz of our flip-flops and sandals, and tend not to be worn by us Cape people even during the so-called fall/winter months. So, as we saunter about the Boardwalk and the Avenue, let us look down a bit, and see what our neighbors are wearing. Be careful, though – look straight ahead, too; there are cars and bikes out there!

  • Peter E. Carter is a former public school administrator who has served communities in three states as a principal, and district and county superintendent, for 35-plus years. He is a board member for Delaware Botanic Gardens and Cape Henlopen Educational Foundation, and the author of a dual autobiography, “A Black First…the Blackness Continues.”

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