The flip-flop is the regional footwear of choice. They keep your feet cool, they are easy to put on and take off, and they sell for only 2,000 Ariary in the market.
It is socially acceptable to wear flip-flops at school, work, and church. If you look at some Malagasy police officers from head to toe, you’ll see a bulky hat with a short black rim, then a button-down blue shirt with some badges hanging from the pockets, then creased dark pants, and then brightly-colored flip-flops. Doctors will complement their lab coats with flip-flops, and I often see town officials wearing professional attire with flip-flops. My middle school is equally as casual. Most teachers including myself teach in flip-flops, and the principal often works barefoot. I teach nearly 600 students and not one of them wears shoes to school.
During class one day I spotted a student with American flag flip-flops. The straps were blue with stars and the soles had red and white stripes. “U.S.A.” was written in bold letters where the heel rests. I grinned. Wouldn’t it be funny, I thought, if the only American in a 100 kilometer radius exhibited his nationality with 2,000 Ariary American flip-flops?
That afternoon I went to the market and found a vendor selling flip-flops with flag designs from the United States, France, Brazil, and South Africa. I asked the vendor for size 43 American flip-flops, and she pulled a new pair out of plastic wrapping. I tried them on and was quickly disappointed. The straps felt alright against my skin, but the sole was made of very thin foam that wouldn’t allow me to walk long distances without pain. Plus, although my blood bleeds red, white, and blue, ostentatious Americanism makes for obnoxious footwear. I took them off, slipped my feet back into my $50 Chaco flip-flops, and told the vendor thanks but no thanks. As I walked away I did the math and realized that in Madagascar my Chacos would’ve retailed for at least 75,000 Ariary.