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Lowly, simple flip-flops take on new high profile

Madeleine Marr Miami Herald

It was the sound heard ‘round the fashion world.

“Thwick-thwack, thwick-thwack, thwick-thwack.”

In spring 2003, when Sigerson Morrison introduced a revolutionary $85 kitten-heeled flip-flop — the first flip-flop to be mounted on a heel — the lowly rubber throwaway moved up more than a few notches.

The flip-flop had arrived.

Luckily, there’s no looking back. The lovably loud, so-comfy-you-could-be-barefoot-

if-you-didn’t-know-better slip-ons just keep getting sexier, prettier, sleeker — and more upscale.

For proof, check out Neiman Marcus. Right smack in front in the women’s shoe department, flops by the likes of Manolo Blahnik, Kate Spade, Gucci and Prada clutter the display tables, gently nudging out strappy sandals and pointy-toed pumps.

Fittingly, the price tags are more commensurate with the label than with the product — most are constructed of rubber, plastic and little more than just a flash of leather.

Burberry’s cute, flat-as-a-board version — in black and beige — may look similar to the ones you pick up at Walgreens for less than a buck except for the telltale novacheck print and $85 sticker on the sole.

The whole bunch — from Banana Republic’s traditional beachy things (under $50) to Chanel’s wooden-soled, bejeweled clunkers ($200 plus) and, of course, the most coveted shoe of 2003, still priced at $85 and selling “very well,” according to Anne Ziegler, spokeswoman for Sigerson Morrison in New York.

Feminine, yes. Fun, yes.

But let’s not overlook the overall appeal of the flip-flop, kitten heel or no: It’s effortless (no buckles or straps!); user-friendly (no shoe polish!); low-maintenance (no trips to the shoemaker!).

How could the hip set “not” embrace them? Considering former fashion trends that border on the masochistic — corsets, nipple rings, vinyl stilettos — this is a lucky time, indeed.

Lucky, too, that style, these days, means never having to look “too” put together.

“Flip-flops are definitely very hot,” says Corina Biton, spokeswoman for Neiman’s. “They’re all about comfort and the casual lifestyle. For someone who hangs out and goes to the beach or the gym every day.” (Biton doesn’t subscribe to flip-flops in the workplace, however. Check your corporate-attire manual, to be sure).

But they sure are showing up in the most unlikely of venues — with the best kind of endorsement any flip-flop manufacturer could ask for: celebrities.

In September 2002, Sarah Michelle Gellar hung out after getting hitched to Freddie Prinze Jr. in $30 Mellas. Oscar 2003 attendees snagged crystal encrusted Havaianas in their goodie bags. Don’t hate them because they want to be comfy.

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