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Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia Commons/Kai Schreiber

Is it ever okay to wear flip-flops in NYC?

New Yorkers argue about a lot of things, but few topics get their blood boiling like the merits of flip-flops.

Written by
Clayton Guse

New Yorkers do a lot of walking, especially when compared to the rest of the country. Less than half of the households in the five boroughs own a car, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Nationwide, the figure skyrockets to 92 percent. People navigate this city on two feet rather than on four wheels, which forces us to pay close attention to our footwear.

On any given rush hour subway car, you’re likely to find a wider array of shoe types than you will at a DSW. From sneakers to stilettos to snazzy dress shoes, New Yorkers wear them all. But among these varieties, there is one that is capable of causing intense debate: flip-flops.

The cheap thonged sandals leave one’s feet exposed to every single disgusting element that’s present on the city’s streets, sidewalks and subway platforms. And at the same time, the wearers of these “shoes” give everyone passing by a clear view of the all of the grime that has matriculated on their feet. The general consensus among New Yorkers is that flip-flops are nothing short of blasphemous, but there are still plenty of detractors who wield a more laissez faire attitude towards flip-flops.

The conversation surrounding flip-flops in New York is more than a question of taste or comfort—it’s an ethical issue that should rigorously debated. With that in mind, we asked Time Out New York’s humble team of editors and network of Tastemakers a simple question: Is it ever okay to wear flip-flops in New York City?

The responses we received were equal parts illuminating and frustrating.

Is it ever okay to wear flip-flops in New York City?

Adam Feldman, Theater Editor: No. Also, flip-flops are extremely uncomfortable. The wearers are also victims.

Jennifer Picht, Things to Do Editor: I think flip-flops are dangerous to wear in the city, especially if there’s broken glass on  the ground (and there always is). When you step in anything wet in flip-flops, you go sliding. I’ll take blisters over slipping and falling on my tush any day.

Hannah Streck, Digital Producer: I have house flip-flops to take out the trash and recycling. Those are the only appropriate times.

AF: What Hannah said. Also, arguably, showers in public places.

Jake Cohen, Food and Drinks Editor: I’m always in flip-flops. I don’t care. If people on the street don’t like to look at my toes that sounds like a “them” problem. However, I will qualify that sandals are more appropriate for the NYC landscape. Still, I need my flops in the summer.

KC Cibran, Time Out Tastemaker: Seeing flip-flops on humans in dirty city streets truly makes me cringe, but a sturdier sandal like a Birkenstock is okay in my book.

Delia Barth, Video Editor: I wear flip-flops and sandals around, but I always wash my feet when I get home.

Moriah Shtull, Time Out Tastemaker: It’s only okay if you’re on the subway coming back from the Rockaways, and even then it’s still freaking weird.

AF: I will add that I was wearing open-toed sandals once—a less obnoxious cousin of flip-flops—and while running up the stairs at the subway my toenail got snagged on a step and ripped the nail off my toe. It took a year to grow back.

JC: I’m sorry, but there are a million ways to get injured in NYC. I don’t think flip-flops are making such a drastic difference.

AF: You don’t know the pain and shame of a naked, nailless big toe, Jake. And I hope you never do.

Whitney Locher, Time Out Tastemaker: As a New Yorker, why would you ever wear something that would limit your ability to outrun the tourists?

Rocky Rakovic, Head of Content: Since the acceptable default place for New Yorkers’ eyes to go is the ground, this city must be a paradise for people into feet.

So, at the end of the day, it’s generally agreed upon that flip-flops are an abomination. But if you’re wearing them around your apartment or at the beach, you’re unlikely to offend your fellow New Yorkers. Still, if you simply have no feet shame or want to appease those with foot fetishes, knock yourself out.

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