This is an important question, ladies and gentlemen: When and where are flip-flops an acceptable fashion choice in San Francisco, if ever at all? With our recent influx of newcomers, it's a question we at SFist feel needs to be answered and we were inspired to start talking about it again after our cohorts in New York addressed the issue wonderfully today. But New York and San Francisco are about as different as Los Angeles and San Francisco and we all know that flip-flops are something Angelenos cherish and applaud, whether they're heading to the symphony or the Coffee Bean so we must take this on a city-by-city basis.
There are the basic concerns of podiatry (NY podiatrist Jackie Sutera told the HuffPo that overuse of flip-flops can lead to arch and heel pain), and hygiene (biochemist Don Satchell told New York Mag in 2012 that a skin sample from the foot of a flip-flop wearing contains "a million microorganisms" per inch, "roughly the equivalent of raw hamburger meat."). But then there's just the fashion issue. We are already at a disadvantage, as a city, being home to billionaires who live in hoodies. Do you have to make it worse by leaving the house in footwear that's really not intended for this geography or climate?
We polled some SFist contributors and current and former editors to get a local read on the flip-flop issue. Here is the result.
E. Chang, sports correspondent: Flip-flops are only OK west of 40th Avenue in the Sunset and Richmond. Surfers don't do shoes.
Beth Spotswood, contributing editor: I get regular pedicures and invest in adorable flip-flips, which remain unsoiled and fresh-smelling. Therefore, it is okay for me to wear flip flops in San Francisco. It is not, however, okay for you to wear flip-flops in San Francisco.
Eve Batey: I work from home and I live in the Outer Sunset, so I wear flip-flops every day. In fact, I have been freaking out because my 16-year-old Reefs, which are molded to my feet, are losing their in-between-the-toes thing. (The prospect of breaking in a new pair of flip-flops feels more daunting than trying to figure out my life if my husband were to die. Then again, I have life insurance on my husband.) Perhaps because I live in the Outer Sunset and work from home, if I am leaving either, I'm excited at the prospect of doing fancy stuff like wearing real shoes or eating something that doesn't arrive in a bag, so it doesn't occur to me to keep the flip-flops on past 19th Ave. But if you want to, I don't care they don't seem any worse in terms of protection from SF's shit-covered streets than a strappy pump, right? But, remember, when that Independence Day ship comes down from the heavens, shooting at everyone on Market Street, y'all strappy pumpers/flip-floppers won't be able to run for shit. Something to think about!
Brock Keeling, former editor: Less than a half inch of rubber between the soles of your feet and Market Street should scare anyone fully shod. Besides, only people made of garbage wear flip-flops in SF. [Editor's Note: Brock's earlier thoughts on flip-flops can be found here, via the American Airlines first class ticket counter at SFO.]
Andrew Dalton, former editor: Brock nailed it, but flip-flops for men should only be used for walking to/from beaches and pool decks.
Joe Kukura, contributing editor: Flip-flops are unacceptable even if you're just home by yourself.
Jay Barmann: I own flip-flops. Before it became a dirt hillside encrusted with a layer of bottle caps, I wore them to Dolores Park once. I wear them to ward off plantar's warts in the shower at the gym, and I wear them occasionally to walk to the corner store in warmish weather. I also pack them when I travel to San Diego or L.A., or somewhere else with lower standards. I have seen someone who definitely was not me be openly mocked and pointed at for wearing them to a crowded beer bust at The Eagle, and have their feet stomped on by several pairs of boots. Going to the beach in SF usually involves some walking or hiking, so actual sneakers are usually required and if you have ever worn flip-flops to Outside Lands, you deserve all the shame you felt afterwards for your folly. Would I ever again consider wearing them outside the one-block radius of my home, or within even a mile of Haight Street, Polk Street, Sixth Street, or Market Street? Hell no. Insert links to amputation photos here.
Caleb Pershan: From a beach day to an IPO, flip-flops are a chic San Francisco footwear choice. Great for pivoting and perfect with a hoodie!