Faux Pas: The Conditional Response

Sep 30, 2010

Yesterday, I walked out of my building behind a woman who was carrying an umbrella and wearing a trench coat, but completely unprepared for the rainy weather.  Why? 

Because she was wearing flip flops.

As far as I can tell, there are three arguments against wearing flip flops on rainy days.

1) Flip flops are never acceptable attire outside of a beach, pool or lake dock.  And even if you can’t abide by this rigid standard, could you at least stop wearing them to your professional job?  Especially if you work at the United States Capitol? 

2) This can’t possibly be sanitary.  Think about all the things that are on a DC sidewalk that might dissolve when they come in contact with water.  So when you step in a puddle or get water on the sole of your shoe, those germs, viruses, chemicals, bodily secretions, etc. are now on your feet. 

It gives me the creeps just thinking about it.

3) But let’s suspend reality for a moment and pretend that DC sidewalks are clean.  What do you do when the shoe get wet?  Just walk around with wet feet all day? 

Bottom line, if it’s raining, and you knew enough to wear a trench and bring an umbrella, then wearing flip flops is a personality flaw.  Buy a pair of rainboots like every one else.


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  1. E says:

    Not to mention all the rain water (and mud, and whatever else) that flops all over the back of your legs. Gross.

  2. J says:

    As a southern Californian, I don't own rainboots, so my choice of footwear in the rain is either regular shoes and socks or flip flops. I've often chosen flip flops because my feet dry a lot quicker than if I'm stuck with wet socks all day. I get the grossness of DC streets, but in general, I'd rather have wet feet than wet socks and wet feet.

  3. A says:

    I definitely prefer wearing flip flops or some sort of hiking sandal in the rain and then changing shoes when I get to my location–if feet are going to get wet, just get it over and done with and don't let it puddle up and/or ruin shoes. It's also much easier to stow and tote a pair of flip flops than full-size rainboots.

  4. TrailBlaizer says:

    Okay, you lose me on this one Belle.

    1) The proximity to water is what makes them appropriate for the beach – just like when it's raining.

    2) Fortunately, you have this amazing invention called skin, which has been keeping stuff out of your body since you were born. And if your feet are going to get wet, let's not pretend wearing shoes acts like a filter against nasties.

    3) Here's where you're way off. Your feet will dry. Quickly. A lot faster than shoes. In fact, flip-flips also dry a lot faster – which is one of the reasons they are so nice at the beach (see #1).

    I do love your crusades, but I'm not jumping on this bandwagon!

  5. Rachel says:

    I'm sort of with J on this one. Yes, she should have rainboots. But I understand the logic of wearing flip-flops if you don't.

  6. MW says:

    Amen Belle.

  7. Jessica says:

    The worst thing about flip flops in the rain is walking behind a girl with speckled mud up and down the back of her legs. I've seen some girls with khaki skirts with mud all over the back thanks to flip flops. Not cute. But I've definitely been that girl a couple of times by accident. 🙁

  8. Andrea says:

    Last weekend while walking along the streets of DC by the Capitol building, I saw a homeless man peeing on the sidewalk. Do we REALLY want to walk through that in flip flops ladies?!?

  9. Rachel says:

    Andrea, chances are, you've gotten worse things on your hands. Unless you're planning on licking your feet, a shower should solve any problems.

  10. Jenny says:

    I wear flip flops on rainy summer days. I change as soon as I get into the building (I do not wear then all the way to my desk) but it's just too hot to wear plastic rain boots up to your knees in DC summers.

  11. lulu says:

    interesting debate. I've never thought about flip flops as intentional rain wear, but I definitely see your point(s). I am currently looking for my next pair of rain shoes, and weighing several options. Maybe I should just make the jump to rain boots…? Decision, decision.

  12. Sara Lang says:

    Sorry Belle, I usually love your advice, but not this one. Flip flops dry MUCH more quickly than other shoes, you change when you reach your destination, and you don't ruin a good pair of shoes. Rain boots are not always practical, particularly for those of us who don't have any space at work to store them, and no one wants to see you stomp around in your rain boots all day.

  13. cia says:

    Agree with the other posters who are pro-flip-flops in the rain. My feet dry quickly on their own, and I'm sure I've come into contact with far worse things on my hands.

  14. Coed says:

    I love my flip flops in inappropriate places (barring the office) but I will say one practical argument against them in the rain is that most flip flops get zero traction. And roads – especially pedestrian crosswalks – are especially slippery. I wiped out in one and almost got hit by a car. Not only was I embarrassed, but I got the bonus treat of having my life flash before my eyes.

  15. Meg says:

    I'm perplexed by people who can manage to walk in flip flops when it is raining. My feet tend to slip around in my sandal and I've actually had a hard time keeping my flip flops on my feet. Also, i was the only person without wet pants this morning in a staff meeting, so was quite happy I recently invested in a fabulously bright pair of plaid rain boots for $20 at Target.

  16. Belle says:

    Some of the comments make it sound like fast drying flip flops are the only alternative…but you're missing the point. Your feet NEVER have to get wet in the first place. Buy some rain boots, and you can stay dry. Shocking!

    And to those of you poo-pooing the hygiene argument, check out these tidbits from NY Daily News. https://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/health/2009/08/11/2009-08-11_flipflops_are_a_magnet_for_dangerous_deadly_bac.html

  17. Belle says:

    Oh, and also remember whatever gets on your sandals, gets on your feet, your hands, into your closet, etc. What ends up on the sandal does not stay on the sandal.

    And lastly, I can't purell a sandal. But I can't wash and purell my hands.

  18. Sara Lang says:

    Ok, but rain boots in a DC summer? Kill me now. You will probably pass out from heat exhaustion before you get to the office.

  19. D says:

    Wearing flipflops in the rain on the Hill is pretty much the same thing as a fanny pack to me. It shows your lack of common sense and marks you as a tourist. Your feet should be covered when it rains, end of story.

  20. District Cut says:

    DONT! Tha'ts disgusting.

  21. Melissa says:

    Where in the world are you people walking that your shoes and socks will get completely soaked through if you walk in the rain? Are you fording rivers? Do you not understand that you can walk AROUND puddles? I prefer to wear rain boots, obv, but before I had any, I'd just wear regular shoes.

    If you walk in flip flops during the rain, your feet will get soaked. Your feet will rub against the straps and against the bottom of your flip flop – if they're plastic/foam, they'll be slippery (not to mention just really gross, wet or not) and if they're leather, they'll soak up that water and leak dye on the bottoms of your feet and get dried out and flaky when they dry. Not to mention that your feet will get dirty, which I feel is just so disgusting.

    Yeah, you wear flip flops at the beach and the beach has a lot of water, but really. Are you wading in them? The reason people wear flip flops to the beach are because they're easily removable, not because they dry quickly. If your flip flops are getting soaked at the beach, you're doing it wrong.

    If you walk in the rain wearing regular shoes, your feet will stay MUCH drier and cleaner than they will with flip flops. Unless I'm jumping in puddles or riding Splash Mountain and land under a waterfall, my socks have never gotten soaked while wearing shoes (and as an added bonus, my feet aren't covered in black nastiness from the ground outside and my backside stays nicely mud-splash free.)

    My vote is for rain boots (didn't Belle have a post about them before, including links to some that had their own carrying bags for switching out when you reach the office?) but if you don't want to go the rainboot route, just wear sneakers.

  22. Jessica says:

    Btw, there are also non-boot options. Patent-esque flats are waterproof, cute and lightweight, but completely cover your feet. Perfect for a DC summer! I own three pairs and skip the rain boots in the heat. 😉

  23. cia says:

    I don't have a problem with traction in flip-flops when they're wet. Some of them do have traction — it just depends on the bottoms.

    And rainboots in the summer, in DC? No thank you. I keep mine stored away from May to October.

    As for the “what are you, fording rivers?” comment (haha), it depends on where you go. Sure, you can usually step around puddles… but the parking lot at my job has a TON of water runoff and unfortunately, I do have to walk through about an inch of water no matter what when it starts raining extremely hard.

  24. S says:

    I'm all about the flip flops. On a day like today, I'd feel ridiculous wearing my rain boots back home now that it's stopped raining. Also, rain boots remind me of 5 year olds. I'd be interested in the patent-like flats someone mentioned above though.

  25. J. says:

    Hello from a recent lurker. I was previously indifferent to flip-flops in general (though I could never wear them – that thing between my toes is seriously aggravating). My parents (from Hong Kong) would never be caught dead in them, because that's what homeless people wear, and what you wear indoors or when throwing out the trash, etc. (menial footwear, you know?). But eh, whatever. That didn't bother me.

    I changed my tune after seeing a young patient who had bloody, infected erosions on the insides of her toes from that toe stick thing rubbing up and down all sticky summer long. She could barely walk. Her parents kept complaining that she left bloody footprints everywhere. They never figured out that her flip flops were the cause of the problem.

    So… you want to walk around in the dirty rainwater with that thing rubbing in between your toes? That's cool, as long as you wash your wet feet (and dry them thoroughly) as soon as you get to your destination. Then wear that extra pair of dry footwear that you brought along anyways. And as long as I don't have to debride that nastiness and give you antibiotics for it. And then lecture you about your inappropriate footwear. I have seen all sorts of infected feet and trust me, you never want to go there.

  26. Belle says:

    J.–You had me at Debride.

  27. Rory says:

    I stopped wearing flip-flops after my little sister's foot was impaled by something in Foggy Bottom this past spring. It got infected quickly, and needless to say, her foot was disgusting and she couldn't walk on it for about two weeks.

    If you don't like boots because they're too hot, Sperrys or some other sort of boat shoe keeps your feet clean and dry, and also offers traction. L.L. Beans also offers waterproof mocs:


  28. CN says:

    I wear flipflops to the office (on the Hill) when it's sunny and change at my desk or in the elevator, so I can't say I'm with you on all your points. I do agree with you about the flip flops on rainy days thing, though–I really hate when my feet get so wet and dirty. I usually go for sneakers or rainboots and then change at work.

    When following the LL Bean link above, I discovered their rain skimmers, which are kinda adorable. Don't know if I will ever order them, but omg they are cute: https://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/63396?pi=1054216&subrnd=0&feat=19068-ppxsrr1

  29. V says:

    Write a post about what to wear to look cute/professional in the rain.

  30. Jay says:

    I have to say I disagree with you on this on, Belle. My philosophy is: all the way wet, or all the way dry. If it's too hot for rain boots, or you're going somewhere where you want to stow your footwear, wear flips and change when you get there. There are sport flip flops that have traction and protect the bottoms of your feet – I went around the world in a pair of Chaco flip flops. The worst is having wet socks and shoes. Wet feet dry really quickly; no problem unless it's cold out.

  31. southerner in london says:

    How about the injury she/he might suffer, wet conditions can make it hard to hold onto those flimsy suckers. Invest in wellies people. Everyone should have a pair or version of a waterproof shoe if you live on the East coast.

  32. Claire says:

    I wore these rain flats from dav each time I went outside yesterday and couldn't have been happier. They solved my problem of overheated legs on DC summer rainy days and are reasonably priced.


  33. GingerR says:

    Anyone planning on staying in DC more than a few months needs to own duck shoes. It's a reliably rainy place.

    Obviously the flip-flop commuters are changing into more presentable shoes once they arrive at work – right?

    But navigating Metro and icky city streets needs a heavier shoe.

    In cooler weather L.L.Bean hunting boot clogs are good. If the water is really deep your foot may be wet but the open design of the clog means it will dry out by the time you're heading home. Leather boots are nice but we're talking serious water/salt/slush in the city and it'll ruin anything that's too fine.

    In warm months I like Keds, which will also dry, or some kind of watery shoe like you might buy at Land's End.

    Neither choice is overly professional looking but they'll both protect your feet.

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