Look at the Flip Side: Summer Alternatives to Flip-Flops

by Mic Nguyen

Summer footwear has always presented gentlemen with the same conundrum: How does one keep the feet cool without losing too many inches to function and style? For many, the answer is a lackluster shortcut known as the flip-flop. Cheap and plastic, they barely suffice. Fortunately for us, fashion guru and shoe enthusiast Mic Nguyen is ready to provide a few alternatives more befitting a modern, fleet-footed gent. 

It’s summer, and your feet crave the sunlight and fresh air they’ve been so long denied during the colder months. This usually has you reaching for your favorite pair of flip-flops. You know, the ones you picked up from that gas station during Spring Break of your junior year; the ones that came as a gift when you bought those off-brand Twinkies. Those nasty, faded, squished-flatter-than-parchment flip-flops are still fine to wear, right?

Perhaps it's time to reconsider.

Because here’s a list of flip-flop alternatives that hit all the pluses (breathable, easy to put on) with fewer of the negatives (that weird slap-slap sound, the fact that they are also called “thongs”). 


The word “plimsoll” entered the menswear vocab with the same cohort as “three roll two” and “grosgrain.” Basically, we’re talking about canvas shoes, usually with a rubberized bottom. Plimsolls are ridiculously breathable, durable, and can add a bit of laid-back ease to an outfit. They also tend to be able to take a tremendous beating and are good ad hoc sports shoes. We’re huge fans of the classic — literally the Vans Original Classics. If those bring on Nirvana flashbacks, try some Supergas, which have a bit more meat to them.


Old school espadrilles have a bottom made of coiled rope, with an upper of thin, usually colorful canvas. They’re practically required footwear in sun-splashed places like Barcelona, where they can be bought by the half-dozen. Espadrilles are about as barefoot as you can go without actually being so, making them superb as beachwear. 

Boat Shoes

Boat shoes are so popular they hardly need a mention. They rode the prep wave and crashed into every front door from Sigma Chi to Madison Ave. Unlike other options on this list, boat shoes can actually get you past a stiff maitre ‘d, especially if you slip on a dark brown leather variant. Boat shoes used to demand a strictly preppy get-up to match, but now it’s acceptable to pair them with anything from dark jeans to swim trunks.


I don’t wade into the murky waters that separate sandals from flip-flops, mainly because I don’t want to get my proverbial sandals all gross. For a long time, sandals were  a no-no for stylish men, a sure indicator of dadcore fashion. Now, higher powers have deemed sandals as being fine when properly styled. Birkenstocks (yes, those Birkenstocks) are being retrieved from closets and Phish concerts across the country, and are probably on the feet of your favorite style blogger as we speak. More upscale sandals are available, if needed. The trick to pulling off the mandal (that’s not a mistake, auto-correct!) is to pair with sufficiently tailored duds and an “oh, whatever” attitude.

As to what to do with those old leftover flip-flops? Maybe a dog toy? Stick to these options, and you won't be needing them.

Illustrations by Michael Hoeweler