Flip-flops, jandals, thongs or pluggers, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and Australia’s favourite form of footwear is as comfortable and ubiquitous as ever, no matter what you call it.
Announced today by the University of New England, Australia is now home to one of the oldest thongs in the world: an ancient Egyptian sandal, which is more than 3000 years old. Despite its age, however, the fundamental design traits which make this thong, well, a thong, appear to be near-identical to the famously laidback footwear as we know it today.
“While the basic design appears the same as Australia’s most iconic footwear it also demonstrates how the art of individually crafted footwear has changed drastically over the centuries, to the mass-produced shoes we all wear today”, says Dr Bronwyn Hopwood, Senior Lecturer in Roman History and Curator of the UNE Museum of Antiquities.
“The sandal is even more extraordinary because where most of the shoes surviving from ancient Egypt are made of reed-work, this one is made of leather. Being made of gazelle leather, we know that it probably belonged to a very wealthy person and the leather is in excellent condition”, she continued.
Boujie pluggers–who’d have thought?
Regarding the specifics, this is a gazelle leather sandal with a central thong, decorated by a thin dark band encircling the central sole and heel, and an elaborate checkerboard pattern (apparently they had ska music in 1550 BC) between the band and outer edge, created by the use of darker leather.
The exposed underside of the sandal reveals the stitching technique.
The leather is said to be in excellent condition, and the side straps have at some point been reattached (too many festivals will take their toll).
Other questions remain unanswered, such as whether Gazelle leather kickers make you run any faster (science), whether ancient Egypt had RSLs that would refuse entry for such footwear, or, perhaps more infuriatingly, where the hell its counterpart is (did they split the pair so two university museums could benefit? Huge if true.)
Though we are a nation heavily biased towards the humble Havaiana, or a promotional pair of branded pluggers from a booze company, a little lesson in history never goes astray, and this is a very fine addition to the nation’s collective shoe rack indeed.
The Museum of Antiquities at the University of New England is open to the public and the community is welcome to view the collection.