Thong slippers are a specific set of thong sandals, an item of footwear worn widely as a casual alternative to more constrictive items. Thong slippers are generally differentiated from normal thongs by their softer feel and the fact that they are intended to be used exclusively indoors. In some instances, however, thong slippers may refer to any sort of thongs, as they are sometimes known simply as slippers.
There are many different terms for the items of footwear known as thong sandals, among these are flip-flops, pluggers, and slippers. Flip-flops generally refer to thongs that are extremely casual and floppy, and are meant to beach use. Pluggers is a term generally not seen outside of Australia, and slippers refers to the fact that they can be easily slipped on and off, just like the indoor variety of slipper. The use of the word thong itself comes from the often plastic thong that goes between the toe and the first toe, acting to secure the slipper to the foot.
The use of thong slippers dates back some time, to Japan, where they were originally woven-soled sandals, also commonly called Japanese sandals. These slippers, known as zori, made their way to New Zealand in the 1930s as footwear for the beach, coming over with servicemen returning from the war in Japan. From there they spread around the world, including to the United States and Europe. In the last few decades, thong slippers have become very popular, and a wide variety of styles have arisen, some going far afield of the common plastic variety.
One of the main distinctions that has arisen in thong slippers in the past few years is whether they are meant to be used as casual footwear for the beach, or whether they are meant to be worn as more classy housewear for houses where shoes are not worn. A number of the latter types of thong slippers are made out of luxury materials, and it is not uncommon to find leather or silk thong slippers for sale in high-end shoe and clothing stores. These shoes are meant to actually be a type of dress shoe, although this has not been accepted by all sectors of society.
In fact, in 2005 a small scandal arose when the national women’s lacrosse champions, from Northwestern, visited the White House to meet President George W. Bush. A photo was taken of all of the women and the President, and many people immediately criticized a number of the women for wearing flip-flops to meet the President. Those who defended them pointed out that what they were wearing were in fact much more expensive formal versions of thongs, and not beachwear.
Since they are intended to be worn indoors only, thong slippers can generally be much softer than other flip-flops. Without the constraints of having to stand up to the outdoors, thong slippers can be made of material like terry cloth or silk that wouldn’t be appropriate for other flip-flops. Often one will see thong slippers that are fuzzy, as well, sometimes with adornments like faux jewels on them.