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All about: the jandal

All about: the jandal
Jandals. They're like sporks. How? Both words, dear reader, are what etymologists know as 'blends' – they combine elements from two existing words to create a new one. In the case of the spork, the progenitors were spoon, and fork. As for the jandal: Japanese sandal, of course.

Jandals. They're like sporks. How? Both words, dear reader, are what etymologists know as 'blends' – they combine elements from two existing words to create a new one. In the case of the spork, the progenitors were spoon, and fork. As for the jandal: Japanese sandal, of course.

The Occupy movement: not new.

The Japanese sandal itself arrived in New Zealand in the 1940s along with servicemen returning from J-Force: the mostly forgotten 12,000-strong New Zealand army unit that occupied Japan after its surrender, some decades before occupying things became a summer pastime for people with far less tidier haircuts and considerably more liberal worldviews.

Feud for thought.

The jandal name and current design is usually accepted to be the brainchild of Aucklander Morris Yock, although this is disputed by the descendants of English immigrant John Cowie, who arrived here two years after the name was patented. To this day, the Yocks and Cowies remain at odds, and have been known to bite their thumbs at one other when passing in the street.

You Havaiana laugh?

While in most parts of the world the jandal is the most affordable footwear you could possibly buy, Brazilian manufacturer Havaiana sells its version here for around $30. This doesn’t come close, however, to the world’s most expensive, a US$18,800 hand painted pair from US outfit Chipko.

It’s a sole, man.

While the traditional Japanese sandal was made from mildly radioactive woven fibre, manufacture of the familiar rubber version began in the 1950s, and the technique has remained unchanged to this day. The sole of a jandal is stamped from a thick sheet of polyurethane. The remaining sheet, pocked with jandal-shaped holes, is known as a Wilbur (no-one knows why). For a brief period in the mid-1970s, quirks in New Zealand’s trade policies following Britain’s entry into the EEC saw the value of our Wilbur exports (mostly to China) overtake timber pulp as our seventh biggest export earner.

Now, increased transport costs mean discarded jandal rubber is mostly fed to free-range pigs. Green MP Gareth Hughes has reportedly
flown to Tauranga to investigate.

Shoes who.

Jandals have long been the weekend footwear choice of New Zealand’s A-list. Cheese roll-loving radio host Marcus Lush has a collection of vintage pairs dating to the 1950s, but rarely wears them outside for fear of fading them.

Celebrity daughter Jaime Ridge buys only specially designed ‘unifoot’ jandals to avoid wearing them on the wrong feet. And penguin-loving tycoon Gareth Morgan certainly has Happy Feet: his custom-made jandals incorporate a wifi hub in one heel and a motion-activated generator in the other, although he believes New Zealand doesn’t yet have the vision to embrace his networked flip flops and has threatened to take them offshore, or to the undersea lair he is reportedly developing off the Kapiti Coast.

Name that thong.

While the New Zealand designed jandal has become one of our most successful cultural exports, the name itself has struggled to make it across the Tasman. In Australia, confusingly, they’re called thongs. In the United States, jandals are known as flip flops (although this may change, and then change back). In 1970s Lower Hutt, to its lasting shame, they were occasionally referred to as Samoan Safety Boots.