Sun, Jul 02, 2006 - Page 9 News List

Catch you on the flip-flop side

Dressing down to dress up is in, and an essential item of clothing in the most up-to-date wardrobe is a pair of flip-flops

By Sharon Waxman  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , LOS ANGELES

It was only recently that Donald De Line, a leading Hollywood producer and a keen observer of local trends, noted the onslaught of nearly naked feet, and not just on women.

Suddenly, flip-flops -- those slabs of rubber with V-shaped slivers between the toes -- are ubiquitous in what were once dressed-up settings.

"I was meeting with a director and a writer on a project, and they both were wearing flip-flops," said De Line, parking his pristine Mustang at the premiere party for Superman Returns at a Westwood theater. "I noticed, because that is definitely a new level of casual."

In a city that for decades has been leading America toward a more relaxed personal style, Los Angeles is once again resetting the standard for dressing down. No longer content to banish the necktie, untuck the shirttails and let the stubble grow wild, Angelenos this summer are enthusiastically adopting flip-flops -- also known as thongs or beachcombers -- to dinner, to meetings or even, last week, to a movie premiere.

"I've seen guys on the red carpet wearing flip-flops," said Vivian Turner, a celebrity stylist who has helped dress famous names like Sharon Stone, Lionel Richie and Geena Davis. "It's the first thing in the summertime: put on a great skinny suit with the shirt open and a pair of thongs. I totally approve. Thongs are cool."

Well, they are here, anyway. It may still be difficult to imagine a pair of flip-flops, even expensive ones, at a Wall Street investment house, or thwacking their way through a congressional hearing room. Last summer, the Northwestern University national championship women's lacrosse team caused a furor in the capital when team members were photographed wearing flip-flops on a White House visit. The trend seems to baffle, if not offend, some people from other parts of the country.

"Where I work, at a medical foundation, there's a dress code -- you couldn't wear them," said David Rothner, a shopper on the fourth floor of Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills, as he looked over the sale table of men's shoes.

The Dolce & Gabbana flip-flops, with hard plastic soles and two small strips of white leather, were marked down to US$135. Rothner, visiting from Cleveland, said he couldn't see himself in a pair.

"They're sometimes sloppy, sometimes cool," he pronounced.

But Marv Lotz, a 61-year-old real estate developer from Los Angeles, was shopping nearby in blue jeans, a white T-shirt and a pair of Oakleys, flip-flops from a local surf shop.

"I have these in green," he said, picking up a pair of US$280 leather Prada thongs. "For me, it's weather-related. When it's hot, these are comfortable."

Last year, the Los Angeles Film Festival even had a flip-flop giveaway at its closing night party, a promotion for Target.

In a world where people bring work along to the beach and other leisure spots, perhaps it is only natural that they start bringing beachwear into the work environment. And in some sense, flip-flops are just a strap away from being a sandal, which women, at least, have always worn in summertime.

The most popular flip-flops in Los Angeles remain Havaianas, US$16 rubber shoes available at department stores and hip shopping spots like Fred Segal or Flight 001, a travel store. They look like the kind of shoes you might wear in the shower, and come in patterns like cherries and camouflage. They can be bought with a rhinestone between the toes for US$50.

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