25 November 2008

Flip-flops Culture 人字拖文化

A good friend of mine once observed, there are only three kinds of men who wear flip-flops in Hong Kong: street bums, foreigners and homosexuals.

I suspect the marginalization of this simple, versatile and very comfortable footwear has much to do with language. In Cantonese, as it is the case for Thai, Vietnamese and several other Asian languages I have surveyed, there is no specific word for flip-flops. All open-toe footwear held with a thong between the big toe and the second toe is generically referred to as “slippers” (), a word that strongly suggests its rightful place in the privacy of one’s own home. Likewise, the Cantonese word for “vest” () can mean anything from the sleeveless member of a three-piece suit to a tank-top or a cardigan, a term that often causes confusion at clothing stores in the city.

I love flip-flops and I wear them everywhere I go...


Read the rest of this article in HONG KONG State of Mind, published by Blacksmith Books, available at major bookstores in in Hong Kong, on Amazon and at Blacksmith Books.


  1. It is interesting to note that flip flops are not so common in HK, I didn't even realise it. In Singapore, flip flops are very acceptable and come in all forms- glamorous, basic, jeweled...Singaporeans love their flip flops. That's also why the Brazilian brands are making a big inroad into this market.

  2. flipflops = 人字拖 in Cantonese

  3. I love flip-flops !!!

    Who could resist a pair of colourful, easy and breezy flip-flops esp in summer times.

  4. That's right, Eva. Can't wait for summer!

  5. i lov flip flops in the office and at home only, mine is with a trumpet charm dangling, so cool!! actually i started to wear leather flip flops from singapore since 7 , they r the coolest slippers i hav in my life!!!
    but i will not wear outside cos i hate the wet dirty streets in hk, i hav to equipped myself with fully covered shoes or sneakers.

  6. I love flip flops and I have them from the chic but exotic Beverley Feldman to mere rubber Havaianas. I wear them with nicely cut plain white (or black) T-shirt and a pair of Miss Sixty jeans for most casual events. However, I was criticised by a woman who was always in laced collar, lantern sleeves, floral pattern top, with pair of unknown super tight jeans on her not to five feet body, that I looked like a "beggar" and had no taste, and let her down when going out with her!!!


  7. Thx god there's another guy in HK in love with flip-flops. My boyfriend really hate I wearing it even though he's from NY went to Parsons (suppose he is open-minded enough), he just can't accept it as a fashion statement and leave me alone. That's why i offer him whether let me wear it or I put on a boot without socks. I win!!


  8. I was gonna write an essay about wearing tan-tops and flip-flops in HK in my Chinese blog http://blog.ylib.com/vanflor, then I found this essay from your book "HONG KONG Stage of Mind". So I introduced it in my blog, hope you don't mind.

    Besides flip-flops, I also love tank tops. My hair is curly, my skin is dark, and I wear tank tops and flip-flops all the time. I guess that explains why I always receive special attention from others on the street.
    I was working in a health clinic in HK before and found many people suffering from HK feet, comparing to what I saw in Canada when I was a nursing student there. I don't want to suffer from that annoying irritation.