For many years, and while I was a child living in Brazil, Havaianas was a rubber and plastic cheap flip-flop used mainly by poor people. Maids loved it, men working as bricklayers used it daily. Using it would associate a person to a certain social class, which most of middle class, largely conservative, is always trying to separate itself from and most of the wealthy barely recognize as existent, furthermore as trendsetters. Back then, the slippers had only one model. The sole was white, the straps were colored: light blue, yellow, pink, red, black. The strap color was the only thing you could pick, which eventually lead the sandals to be perceived as a product only for the poor and sales started to decrease.
In the early 1990’s, Havaianas went through a major rebranding effort. Their line of products grew, introducing new colors, packaging and displays. The company invested heavily in promotional campaigns, trying to change the brand’s social perception. After a while, the slippers started to be associate with an irreverent and relaxed attitude. They started to be are considered cool, colorful, laid back, chic. Deeply associated with Brazilian culture and identity, it was presenting itself as youthful, happy, stylish. If in 1993 the company sold 65.000 pairs of flip-flops, this number raised for 105.000 pairs in 1999. [Source: Business Today]
I remember starting using Havaianas because, at some point, it became fashionable at school. That must have been when I was 10 or 12 years old. It was, to me, associated with being cool, trendy.
By the time I was in high school, a very progressive liberal school, using Havaianas was almost a statement against social discrimination, since everybody was using it. It was cheap enough that poor people would continue to wear it proudly, but it was also conquering more and more consumers in other social classes, more recently even abroad. I regarded it as a democratic shoe.
I brought several models with me when I moved to the US, and I use them all through spring and summer, trying to match the colors of my clothes with the colors of my shoes. I prefer the ones that have a design, as you can see in the picture bellow, much more fashionable than the plain ones. I still thinks it is democratic, but today it is mainly a way to remember my home country.
The same way Havaianas went through a rebranding, changing its social image, I would like to think I changed too. If my reasons to wear this specific shoe, and not others, when I was 12 were purely fashion related, I love to think that my rebellious 16 years old self was trying to make a social statement through the slippers I was wearing, becoming aware of the social problems that Brazil had –and still has. In addition, I would make peace with my 27 years old self who is a bit less revolutionary, perhaps sadly, but a lot more complex, who wears it for fun, comfort, fashion and as a proof I don’t forget where I came from.
- Daily Prompt: Flip Flop (dailypost.wordpress.com)