Thursday, December 28, 2000

Wearing sandals is cool, but cold

By Emily Wax
The Washington Post

        This winter, flip-flops and sandals have started popping up on chilly, nearly purple young toes at colleges and at middle and high schools along the East Coast, and apparently in Europe as well.

        England's trendsetter and heartthrob Prince William was spotted by the paparazzi sporting flip-flops during a community service effort on a chilly British day.

        U.S. shoe stores and teenage retail havens such as Abercrombie & Fitch saw more interest in the sandals, especially during the gift-giving season.

        “People are wanting sandals, big time,” said Carolyn Duffy, who works at a Washington, D.C.-area shoe store. “Open-toed, flip-flops, strappy. They walk in from the snow and walk out with sandals.”

        The trend befuddles, amuses and worries parents and teachers.

        “I hope it's some form of creative expression,” says an Arlington, Va. mother, Blondine Markey. “The other day (her daughter) came home and said she bought another pair of sandals. I was, like, huh, what? Sandals?”

        Teens have all sorts of excuses for showing off their toes.

        “It's better for my back,” said Zack Hoisington, of Alexandria, Va. His father, standing nearby, started laughing.

        “Your back?” asked Jeff Hoisington. “You're only 13!”

        Walking through the snow wearing flip-flops, Arlington third-grader Justina Mendez, 9, said she was “hot,” hence the open-toed footwear.

        “I'm not cold at all,” Justina said. Her mother, Betty Mendez, shook her head.

        “We worry about so many things with our kids. But they really don't get sick from doing this,” said Ms. Mendez. “It's like kids are a lot stronger than the rest of us. And they are always hot.”

        Are teen-agers' body temperatures higher than adults'? Is that why they never want to wear their coats or big, bulky boots in winter?

        “No!” said Brian Doyle, clinical professor of psychiatry and family medicine at Georgetown Medical School. “They're maybe a little warmer than the rest of us, because those little engines are revved up, and it's a very vital, active time of life. But it's not that. It's just cool to wear sandals in the winter, and besides which, it drives your parents and teachers crazy.”

        Some parents demand that their kids at least wear socks. Others give up and just let life make its points.

        Anna Jaffe, 14, of Washington, got a chilly lesson when she had to walk home through the snow in her flip-flops.

        “I don't wear them anymore,” said Anna.


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