by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

Can anyone remember life before flip flops? I suspect not, since flip flops are at least six thousand years old! I certainly can’t remember a time in my childhood when I didn’t own a pair.

Actually, in the United States, the flip flop caught on during the postwar 1950’s boom — which explains why I’ve always worn them, since I was born in the 1950s. Becoming part of “pop culture,” flip flops became a defining example of an informal lifestyle and came to represent the surf culture in particular. Being a want-to-be beach bum at heart, this is probably one of the reasons why I love to wear them.

What I find especially interesting is that the flip flop has been part of a general overall change in fashion during the past 20 years. Some people call this change the “casual fashion movement.”

In the United States, the flip flop market is estimated at $2 billion retail. It is presumed that most flip flop purchases are made by those between the ages of 5 and 50, which is roughly a consumer population of 200 million. Since I don’t fall within this consumer demographic, I’m here to testify that the flip flop consumer population is at least 200 million and one.

I have a confession, my friends.

I am a flip-flop-oholic. That’s right. I am addicted to flip flops. In fact, I sincerely can’t get enough of them. Just last weekend, I bought three more pairs to add to the more than two dozen on my shoe shelves — or maybe there are more than three dozen on my shelves. I haven’t counted lately. But I really don’t care how many I have. And I have no doubt I will be buying more in the coming weeks, since summertime is upon us!

Lately, I’ve been asking myself why I crave flip flops. Besides the cool and sassy styles, snappy and elegant bling, funky and fancy patterns, and pure, delightful comfort, I think it’s the lifestyle they represent that really whets my appetite.

I’ve reached a time in my life when I want to take life a bit slower and easier. I especially want to take most matters less seriously. And informality is something I want in pretty much every area of my life — church, work, travel, meals or other day-to-day activities.

Now don’t get me wrong. I do think “casual” can be taken too far. I still believe there is a right time and place for formality and tradition. I’m not advocating laziness and apathy. Nor am I throwing self-respect aside.

If you could see my closet, you would know I am very fashion conscious and enjoy dressing in the current trends. Living in Texas, where it’s very hot in the summer, I find it’s a pleasure to not wear hose and to have a variety of flip flop styles appropriate for any occasion — to the pool or to a wedding. Even within the casual fashion movement, there is still protocol and etiquette on what to wear and when. Yet, whatever the occasion, there’s something “footloose and fancy-free” about wearing flip flops to it. And I love anything that helps me maintain a carefree and relaxed attitude.

I wish I had learned how to lighten up when I was a young mother. I think I wasted much time and energy fretting and stressing over inconsequential things. I believe both my daughter and I would have been happier without so many rigid schedules to be adhered to. In fact, if I could do young motherhood again, I would opt for more spontaneity and impromptu decisions. And if things didn’t turn out according to my plans, I would be more adaptable and flexible.

My graduate school daughter is undoubtedly happy to have a more casual and lighthearted mom these days. And my advice to her is to not get so consumed by schedules and demands that she forgets to have fun and enjoy what she is doing. Jobs can be accomplished and done well while still maintaining a sunny and easygoing attitude.

So I plan to continue experiencing my simple joy of flip flops — probably much to my husband’s dismay. It’s all part of my plan to enjoy life as simply as possible. Life doesn’t have to be complicated. And I don’t think it is when you relish the simple joys of life — whatever that means to you!