Flip-Flops and Boardies

Everything you need to know about the ubiquitous summer uniform

By Hugh Upsher

Rocking the flip-flop and board shorts combo on a warm summer’s day is a good sign that you are living your best life. There is something beautifully liberating about keeping it simple and breezy. But far too often people are guilty of exploiting this sensation by attempting to integrate this beach vibe into their everyday, functional lives.

I’m talking about the guy who wears flip-flops and boardshorts to restaurants, the mall and university campus, without a glint of shame in his eyes. This is the same guy who would go to dinner parties, funerals and job interviews in flip-flops and board shorts, if only society would let him. I will be the first to admit I have definitely been that guy, but the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Let’s examine.

The beach bum uniform of boardies and flip-flops is the universal look of being helplessly underdressed. In fact, the only places you might feel overdressed in this attire would be at an Afrika Burn campsite or a nudist colony. A good rule of thumb for knowing when it is appropriate to embrace the look is to check your proximity to water. Generally speaking, if you are within 50 meters of any body of water, be it a pool, the ocean, river or dam, you’re in the clear. The only exceptions to the rule are if you’re at a flip-flop product launch party or if you’re several hundred kilometers from any form of civilisation. 

Even if we take basic style standards out of the equation, the limitations that board shorts have for any functioning adult are glaring. Fantastic for swimming and chilling - but anyone who has ever tried to pop to the shops while taking their keys, wallet and phone with them will know the struggle I speak of. Especially if you’re working with only a single Velcro-sealed pocket on the back. The issue is that taking these things out of their natural habitat is cruel and illogical, similar to having killer whales confined at Sea World.

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Then there are the flip-flops, right at the bottom of the shoe chain. Great for getting you across scorching beach parking lots, not great for many other things. Like walking into public toilets, running, being around broken glass or coals from a fire. Not to mention, wearing them takes away any sense of authority or prestige you may have thought you had. If you could imagine actor Benedict Cumberbatch, then imagine looking down and seeing his feet shod in a pair of worn-in plakkies. Ruins it, right?

Every item of clothing has its time and place. Unfortunately, too many South Africans are under the impression that their boardies and flops transcend this notion, and instead choose to live their lives in a limbo of being ready to swim, but with no intention of doing so. I still struggle to fully grasp how something that feels so good can be so bad, but you could say the same about Crocs and sweatpants, so I best keep myself in check.