Two years ago, my old rubber sandals broke, so it was time to replace them. Succumbing to the trend of the past 10 years, and great marketing, I purchased my first pair of Havaianas. I bought a pair on eBay, purchased by a seller ridding her wardrobe of an unwanted gift. Lucky for me, then!
Recently, I have received comments on my Brazil flag Havaianas, which has sparked a personal interest to research the history of this rubber shoe trend.
According to nationmultimedia, the Havaianas were invented by Scotsman Robert Fraser, who arrived in Brazil and began manufacturing flip flops based on the traditional zori sandals brought to the country by Japanese immigrants. By 1958 he had developed the rubber version known as Havaianas - a name that he trademarked in 1962.
Zori Sandal. Image c/o nagomijapan.
A report by Latin Trade speaks of Brazil's trademark shoe as 'once the exclusive footwear of housekeepers, peasants, dockworkers and other poor people'*
"Havaianas today is a Brazilian icon as Swatch is for Switzerland and Coke for the U.S.," says Rut Porto, communication director for Sao Paulo, Alpargatas, the sporting goods and industrial fabric company that manufactures the thong shoes.
In 1994, Sao Paulo Alpargatas decided to market the sandals to Brazil's previously stand-offish bourgeoisie. "We eliminated the middle class's shame of wearing Havaianas," explains Porto. The basic sandal remained the same, but new styles were introduced in numerous colours, and prints, with the soles made thicker and more comfortable, launched with an advertising campaign showing celebrities wearing the shoes in an effort to appeal to middle-class buyers rather than being associated simply with working-class people. As the shoes were taken up by opinion leaders and stars such as Jennifer Aniston and surf champion Kelly Slater, it became socially acceptable to wear them in an ever-wider variety of circumstances. They even appeared on the runway during a John Paul Gaultier show and in the gift bags received by actors at the 2003 Oscars.*
Jennifer Anniston wearing Havaianas in 2009, image c/o dnafootwear.com
In the year 2000, Havaianas, already copied around the world, officially went global, which are now found in almost 60 countries around the world.*
From an environmental view, buying new Havaianas may not be the best shoe choice, as rubber plantations are rapidlyexpanding, replacing evergreen broadleaf trees and farming systems *facts from environmentalresearchweb.org, and when it comes to landfill for disposed and broken shoes, whilst rubber does biodegrade, it may take a long time depending on its synthetic composition.
Don't get me wrong, I am not bagging Havaianas, because I love my shoes! The most comfortable summer footwear I have ever owned, and considering I wear my Havaianas every day at some point in the summer, they appear to be very hardwearing. What I might recommend is to attempt to buy a second hand, or unwanted new pair. Last winter, I found a box of donated flip-flops in a Salvos op-shop, and what with it being out of season, they were all for sale at just $1 a pair. Some were fairly worn, but not all, and I could count half a dozen Havaianas mixed in with copied brands. Online second hand auction sites might be worth browsing to find a pair of unwanted Havaianas for sale.. or perhaps I was just lucky to find a pair new-in-a-box on eBay?
Source of research and quotes taken from Havaianas.com, nationmultimedia.com, findarticles.com
I thought it might also be fun and interesting to conduct a reader survey for Recycled Fashion blog readers, how many readers of this blog post own a pair of Havaianas? Click below.