Few bits of footwear have a history as rich and colourful as the humble flip flop. Having existed in one form or another for thousands of years, the version we know today evolved from the Japanese Zori, which first arrived in the West in the ‘50s, crafted from the country’s rubber reserves left over from the war.
Renamed in the ‘60s for the sound they made as they slapped the wearer’s feet – making them the first truly onomatopoeic shoe name, although the clog could probably make a case – they became an instant hit with surfers and beachgoers from New Zealand to California, heralded for their ease of access and protection from burning hot sand. Their popularity and exuberance boomed through the next half-century, culminating in perhaps the most polarising iteration; the Reef bottle opener sandal, for which Fanning famously took equity rather than payment, netting himself a cool 2.7 mill Aussie dollars and counting. However, the industry has stagnated somewhat and there hasn’t been a significant new player in town for a long time.
Enter FoamLife, a new brand set up by three long-standing surf industry bods, looking to shake things up and inject a little bit of newness into the market.
Around the Founder’s table sits Daniel Macaulay, Timo Mullen and Karl Read.
Daniel, who grew up in Ireland coaching and competing in a variety of watersports, spending stints living in Hawaii and California before finally settling in the UK, where he worked for several years as Euro Marketing Director for O’Neill and later founded leading sports marketing agency, Brandwave.
Timo cut his teeth on Ireland’s rugged North West coast, hatching a career as a pro windsurfer which included a solid run on the world tour and accolades from the Big Wave Awards for his exploits at Jaws and in Ireland. His passion for the surf industry lead to a career in sales growing some of the largest brands in Europe, including Skull Candy and Deus Ex Machina in the UK.
Karl is a internationally renowned street artist as well as Product and Creative Director for Global brands. He is also one of Wessex’s most celebrated bodyboarders, who serendipitously became the star of this author’s first-ever published surf photo, captured from Bournemouth pier over a decade ago, probably while wearing flip flops.
Having worked together for years, the boys have always wanted to start a company and with lockdown slamming the breaks on regular life in spring 2020, it suddenly felt like the right moment.
“Everyone is changing their lifestyles in some way or another,” Dan told Sidetracked magazine of the impetus provided by the pandemic. “People are moving out of cities, having virtual meetings, and dressing differently. FoamLife is a natural fit if you’re on the beach but it’s just as versatile if you’re in an office and you’ve finished work for the day. It’s more than an item of clothing. It signifies a change of mental state.”
When it came to shaping the product, combining comfort and sustainability with a sharp aesthetic were the team’s top priorities. The initial range is composed mostly of recycled EVA foam. Select styles use a recyclable TPE foam, hemp canvas, organic cotton, and toe post webbing made from plastic bottles.
All come packed in plastic-free, recycled, and biodegradable packaging. Karl is candid about the fact that sustainability is very much a journey and not an endpoint and this first drop is just the beginning of their striving to create flip flops that tread lighter on the planet. However, there’s no doubt, they’re off to a reassuringly green start.
Indeed, the future of the brand looks bright all-round, with glowing endorsements from all corners of the industry and exciting plans afoot for collaborations with major industry players and inspiring ambassadors.
Ultimately though, for Dan, Timo and Karl, FoamLife is about creating a vehicle for the lifestyle they all enjoy. It’s about keeping their passions burning and encouraging others to do the same, because, as Timo succinctly puts it, “A life lived in flip flops is generally a life better lived.”
For more info check out: www.thefoamlife.com