Goodbye, Spartan.

There was a reason, I now realize, why in our day our slippers were called Spartan.  Yes, slippers:  not flip-flops or thongs or jandals or anything like that, just slippers.  Tsinelas.  Our parents and grandparents called them “smagol”, perhaps a reference to how they were brought in, from China.  Yes, China.  Not Brazil.

Because they were really Spartan:  sturdy, rugged, no-nonsense and — at least compared to their Brazilian incarnations — rigorously austere.  They didn’t come in too many colors, or adorned with figures of tropical flora or fauna or the sun or anything that forced the summer out of our otherwise dreary lives and weary feet.

They were either blue, or red, and only the truly bold wore yellow.  They were made for walking and not to express one’s — what do they call it these days? — “individuality”.

No.  They were hung in market stalls or heaped in mountains of rubber and the last thing you thought about was your individuality:  you simply affirmed your membership in civilized society by picking up an indistinct, interchangeable pair, ideally one size bigger than your shoe size.  You wore it until the straps gave out, or the soles were strapped for rubber, whichever came first.

You didn’t customize, you didn’t accessorize, and you certainly didn’t — unlike the people in the picture above (taken today at SM North Wing) — wait in line for hours to “personalize” your slippers.  You didn’t go to Sen Hiap Hing to ask the hapless owners if you could choose your own distinctive pairing of thongs and soles, or get beadwork on the strap, embroider your name, or attach Swarovski crystals on them so that — God forbid — you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a pair of slippers that looks similar to someone else’s.

Back then, we just had slippers.

The comedian Al Franken famously said “It is easier to put on slippers than to carpet the whole world.”  When he said that, he obviously hadn’t heard of Havaianas.

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