Flip-flops — the footwear favored by beachgoers and early-aughts celebrities alike — are arguably as much a wardrobe staple as white button-downs, jeans, or a good white T-shirt. That may be because, according to Wikipedia, people have been wearing flip-flops since at least at least 1,500 B.C. But unlike those other wardrobe staples above (except for tees), flip-flops are often simple and inexpensive, meaning you might not give much thought to picking out a pair. Still, there are a lot of styles out there — especially now that, like other things that were popular in the ’90s and early aughts, flip-flops are having a bit of a style renaissance, showing up in collections from brands that never made them before like Totême, Everlane, and Staud.
To find the coolest flip-flops for women, we asked 13 stylish ladies about their favorites. Before we go any further, though, we think it’s important to note how we defined a “flip-flop” for the purposes of this investigation. Generally, we subscribe to Merriam-Webster’s definition, which calls flip-flops “a rubber sandal loosely fastened to the foot by a thong.” But what about those leather Reefs you might have had in high school, or the Clarks Breeze Sea flip-flops with a canvas upper that topped our list of the best women’s sandals? We think those make the cut, too. So we decided to classify a flip-flop as anything in the toe-thong style that wraps around the sides of your feet. Now that we’re all on the same page, read on for our cool panelists’ picks for the best women’s flip-flops.
Best classic rubber flip-flops
Founded in Brazil in 1966, Havaianas is one of the best known flip-flop brands, and one that has become so synonymous with flip-flops that the Museum of Modern Art included a simple black pair in its last fashion exhibition as an example of the style. It should come as no surprise, then, that Havaianas were the pick of several of the women we spoke to. Lisa Buhler, the founder of ecommerce site Lisa Says Gah, says “I’m in love with all the leather renditions out there, but you can’t beat the classic black Havaianas option for the same effect, a true Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen look from 2005.” French model Sabina Socol seconded the recommendation, telling us that she wore Havaianas for years before trying out Birkenstocks, which she found made her feet appear wider than they are (which, she says, is “not a look I’m going for”). Eventually, she came back to Havaianas: “I actually have to admit that Havanaias combine the ‘fine foot’ look and the super-practical part, as in, you’re not afraid to drop them in the water,” Socol says. “Which comes in handy, especially if you’re spending your holiday on a boat.” Literary agent Marya Spence loves them, too. “As a Cali girl, my pick would have to be Havaianas,” she says.
Best (less expensive) classic rubber flip-flops
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve worn the same pair of nondescript black rubber flip-flops, and I find them incredibly chic,” says writer and NYR Daily editor Lucy McKeon. While she doesn’t remember where she bought hers, she points to these $4 Target ones as a close approximation. For McKeon, simple and inexpensive is best: “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it — or, as Leonardo da Vinci apparently said, ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.’ I imagine Mona Lisa wearing them, too, beneath her robes.”
Best fashion flip-flops
Chop Suey Club founder Ruoyi Jiang says that for comfort she’ll throw on some Havaianas, but for “unique styles” she goes to jelly-shoe brand Melissa. “I used to have a pair of the Melissa x Vivienne Westwood collab, the ones with a big heart on them,” she says. Luckily for today’s shoppers, her beloved style is still available — along with plenty of other Melissa flip-flops with a similarly playful vibe. In addition to being designed by Westwood, we think the heart on these flip-flops looks kind of Comme des Garçons–esque.
Best maximalist flip-flops
Suzzan Atala, the jewelry designer behind Tuza, says her favorite pairs of flip-flops have platforms and a lot of glitz. She got the platformed, embellished pair she currently wears at a store in Oaxaca City, but says she sees similar pairs all the time in Chinatown and the Rockaways. “I love them because they remind me of when I was 11 and I first got my pair of thong flip-flops,” Atala says. “I remember feeling so cool.” After looking at a photo of Atala’s current pair, which are white with rainbow rhinestones, we found this pair with white and clear crystals to be a very close approximation.
Best flip-flops that mold to your feet
“I live in Mexico City above a torta restaurant owned by a mother and son, and they call out my name when they hear the clacking of my chancletas coming down the stairs,” says photographer Mallika Vora. She actually has two pairs of flip-flops — a plastic pair printed with pink emoji hearts that she bought from a street vendor for 50 cents (we found a similar pair that isn’t too much more expensive), and this Flojos Fiesta pair that, over time, she says will conform to your feet for even more comfort. “The simple silhouette goes with any type of beachwear, they are flat and easy to pack for travel, and have a lightly cushioned sole that molds to your feet over time,” Vora says, adding that her black Flojos are also easy to clean. “The soft fabric can be cleaned easily with soap and water and doesn’t give me those awful blisters between my toes.”
Best day-to-night flip-flops
For something a little more put together, you might want to try leather flip-flops, which have come a long way since those aforementioned Reefs you wore in high school. “I gravitate toward flip-flops that have the soul of a loafer, which is why these suede ones from TKEES are my ideal,” says Harling Ross, fashion director and brand strategist at Man Repeller. “They’re beautifully made and feel slightly more elevated than your standard thong, making them a perfect companion for jean shorts and summer dresses and birthday suits alike.” Because they’re so versatile, these workhorses seem ideal if you’re looking for a flip-flop you can wear all day.
Best elegant flip-flops
“I used to be the kind of person who only wore flip-flops in the event of an emergency, and by that I mean camping or attending a five-year college reunion, where the use of a communal shower is required,” says Emilia Petrarca, fashion news writer at the Cut. “However, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have a way of turning my universe upside down, and when I saw this pair of leather flip-flops by The Row, something inside me shifted. I didn’t think it was possible for flip-flops look elegant. (I also didn’t think it was possible for them to cost $790).” After discovering the Row’s pair, Petrarca says she spent the rest of the summer hunting for a cheaper — but equally elegant — equivalent, eventually discovering these from Osoi. But at $308, those too were “still too much for flip-flops.” So she kept looking, ultimately landing on Everlane’s Form Thong Sandal. “They may not be an exact, one-to-one replica, but they’ve got a solid combination of minimalism and early-2000s nostalgia, which if you think about it, is the Olsen twins in a nutshell,” she says.
Best flip-flops to wear around the house
Designer Mary Ping told us that she’s been wearing Muji’s standard grey or white rubber flip-flops with clear thongs on beach excursions “since her college days.” But she also loves the brand’s new woven flip-flops, which she calls “equally great” for their “combination of utility and simplicity.” And although she wouldn’t wear them to the beach, she notes they’re great for lounging inside a beach — or any — house, or for “stocking as house slippers for guests.”
Best heeled flip-flop
Whether you like it or not, the heeled flip-flops that were last popular in the early aughts are back (here’s Kendall Jenner pumping gas in a heeled pair, if you need convincing). Clémence Polès, founder and creative director of Passerbuys, told us that she’s “obsessed” with Totême’s high-heeled flip-flops, which she compares to Lemaire or old Céline. “They are on the pricier side, but you really can get a use out of them during the summer,” Polès says. “They pretty much work with any outfit (casual or formal).”
Best (less expensive) heeled flip-flop
For a less expensive heeled flip-flop, try Jeffrey Campell’s pair, which writer and editor Marjon Carlos says changed her mind about the style she thought she didn’t like. “I’ll be honest — I’m not a flip-flop kind of girl. They remind me of college when male jocks would plod along with them everywhere and you’d hear that incessant slapping noise across campus that was pure dissonance, so I have pretty much avoided them ever since,” Carlos says. “However, the return of the ’90s flip-flop heel has made me believe again.” She likes the “barely there” design of these, and that they’re sassy and feminine, “and pretty much the very shoe you wore to your high school Winter Formals, but somehow now go with everything in your present-day closet.” She adds that the Jeffrey Cambells have “this very serious Boca Raton vibe going on; there is something about them that feels like a no-no but is actually oh-so-right. And for $50, I judge not.”
Best noiseless flip-flops
While a flip-flop purist might deem Departures magazine style director Alessandra Codinha’s pick more of a sandal than a flip-flop, we included them on this list because — of all the styles mentioned — Codinha praised hers for a reason nobody else did. “They don’t make that silly slapping sound when you walk.” Normally, she tends to find flip-flops “uncomfortable and fundamentally bad as footwear,” but likes that these Loeffler Randall thongs are “both delicate and sort of lovely in the barely-there way that you want a flip-flop to be, while also being flattering to your foot and rather more securely attached.”
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