Ubiquitous footwear of Ethiopia

Stanmeyer-Sandals2(Just in case you, like me, have a general idea of what  “ubiquitous” means, but want to understand it better, it’s “seeming to be everywhere at the same time”).

I was reading an article in National Geographic  last night, “To Walk the World”. That’s basically the author’s plan, to trace the path that homo sapiens took to populate the world. He started off in Ethiopia, and the above photo and paragraphs below are taken from this article.

“In the affluent “global north”, where fashion caters to every whim and vanity, shoes announce their wearer’s class, hipness, career choice, sexual availability, even politics (the clog versus the cowboy boot). It is disorienting, then, to be walking through a landscape where human beings – millions upon millions of women, men and children – slip on identical-style footwear every morning: the cheap, democratic, versatile plastic sandal of Ethiopia. Poverty drives demand. The only brand is necessity.

Available in a limited palette of chemical hues – black, red, brown, green, blue – the humble rubbery shoes are a triumph of local invention. They cost a pittance to manufacture. Any pair can be had to the equivalent of a day’s field labor. (Perhaps two dollars). They are cool – permitting the air to circulate about the feelt on the desert’s scalding surface. The ubiquitous sandals of rural Ethiopia weigh nothing. They are recyclable. And home repair is universal. Owners melt and mend the molded-plastic straps over wood fires.”

Actually, I love the style of these sandals, commit myself to making myself a pair in that blue leather by the summer! And I appreciate the author’s description of what a wearer’s shoes signify – I’d say “hipness” leads the way. But what could be more “hip” than shoes you have made yourself?

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