64 Worst: The Ubiquitous Flip-Flop vs. Starbuckification


LA astonishes me in the ways that it is at once one of the most diverse and amazingly varied cities on the planet, and at the same time it’s a total conformity factory. The two biggest one-size-fits-all offenders in my book: flip-flops and chain stores.

I should begin by outing myself: I am a native Washingtonian, as in the District of Columbia, as in the most sartorially uptight city in the nation. I grew up in a city where flip-flops were reserved for beach wear, dorm showers, and tourists. In DC all women dress like flight attendants and there’s something vaguely obscene about open-toed shoes–toe cleavage and all that. Now, of course, I live in LA where open-toed shoes are a necessity because otherwise how could you show off the miniature last supper that was just painted on your thumb toe. I know I’m stodgy. I get that there’s still a fashion fascist inside me left from my youth. But people, people, flip flops are not work wear or gallery opening attire, or heaven forbid, first date footgear. And you unpedicured men with your gnarly, gross toes–buy some lace-ups!!! Spare us the sight of your chewed up, calloused feet and talon toe nails. If you must, for some unfathomable reason flip-flop your way through the day, please pay a nice pedicurist so that we can all catch a break.

And then there’s the Starbuckification of the landscape. While I can’t bring myself to actively boycott any of the monster chains except Walmart, I do refuse to call a “small” coffee “tall.” I just won’t do it. You have to draw the line somewhere. Why do we want the same shops and restaurants in Crenshaw and Van Nuys and Westwood? Don’t get me wrong, I eat the occasional Baja Fresh burrito and I’ve been known to have a Jamba Juice on a hot day, but  it’s not like these culinary delights are so outstanding that they should pervade every cranny of LA. Yes, Target has great deals on ginormous packages of microwave popcorn and their panties are super cheap, but do we need one on every corner? I live eleven miles from work and I pass three Targets on the way home. Really we could live anywhere if that’s where we’re going to drop our cash. It could be Oklahoma. Or Kansas. Or Detroit. What makes LA great is not Restoration Hardware and IHop. Maybe that’s what makes Dubuque great, but I think we can do better. So what do you think…

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

28 thoughts on “64 Worst: The Ubiquitous Flip-Flop vs. Starbuckification”

  1. “I do refuse to call a “small” coffee “tall.” I just won’t do it. You have to draw the line somewhere.”

    I take issue with this. As a former Starbucks employee, we don’t FORCE you to call it tall. I’m sure there are other places that sell Medium, Large, and Extra-Large drinks but when you ask for a small they won’t immediately grab you a “medium” because it’s the smallest size. No Starbucks employee has ever been confused by a customer referring to a tall size drink as a “small coffee.” Everyone acts like the employees take the naming system so seriously, but in my 5 years working for Starbucks I never once said “You mean Tall???”

    I could go on a further rant about benefits and how the chain store has ensured a certain level of pay to its employees and some even provide benefits to their employees. Lots of “mom and pop” stores don’t offer their employees the same level of benefits. Just because the hipsters like small chains and mom and pop shops, doesn’t mean that the corporations are all bad.

  2. This is so hard while I hate Starbucks (though being a barista Coffee Bean and other small coffee shops financed my social activities in college, but that was back when being a barista was a cool job that everyone wanted and we could be mean and say things like, “I don’t do ice-blended, why don’t you go to McDonalds.” Actually working in coffee was a great job, I could work 20 hours a week working the 5:30-10:30 shift which gave me more than enough time to go to school full time and get enough in tips to pay for my little bitty apartment on Sunset and Fairfax, go out at night, and go to school.)

    I’m an ingrate though, so I still hate corporate coffee, because look what it’s become now. You got five people working back there and the barista’s now, they don’t understand coffee. They press a button, a button. They take hours to make a café mocha. How can you live working in coffee now, too many people are working back there and that must suck up all of your tips. Back in the day it was just me. I was the cashier, the stock girl, the barista, the warm up your burrito girl, I was the clean the window girl, I knew your drink when you walked in the door. I made more in tips than I did hourly, hourly was just gravy on top of the fat meal of my tips. Now they have ten people doing the job that I used to do by myself and they are real slow about everything.

    There is no love in the coffee industry now and if it had stayed mom and pop, that tragedy would have never happened, but corporate coffee was rad for a small second in time in the 90s.

    I do hate flip flops (and those hiking sandals too!!!) I love the way LA is casual and kick back, because in NY you have to dress up to get freakin bagel, but the flip flops have got to stop. I hate seeing people’s toes, especially what you described Travis, because most people who think flip flops are acceptable footwear, they don’t shower, they don’t care, they are just freakin disgusting.

    I was raised in LA and I hate flip flops. I hate open toe shoes of any variety, on women it’s bad enough on guys its simply nauseating.

    I don’t care if you have a manicure either, save your manicure for the person that sees you naked.

    Do you really want your toes that close to the sidewalk, you know almost everyone in LA has a little freakin dog and chances are that little dog has shit on the ground you’re walking on. You’re barely protected feet are millimeters from doggie pooh. Your foot will slip out of that shoe and then your feet are going to touch the shit covered ground and then when you come over to my house you’re going to take off your shoes and want to put your disgusting feet on my couch…oh no you don’t.

    You take a shower before you do that.

    Sorry I went a little crazy…lol…

    I’m not sure in this battle who will win this one, my personal issues with people’s toes that have been in close contact to the dirty sidewalk or the more general evilness of the economic sprawl of big business.


  3. Hmmm…. you make an excellent point about flip-flop etiquette. My biggest complaint has always been people who wear socks with flip-flops. I hadn’t thought about it, but maybe they’re just hiding some toe-jam infestation or something. It’s comforting to know that they are aware of possibly offending others because of their defunct foot grooming practices. But I challenge you sock and thong-sandal wearing deviants to just lace up your Chucks!

  4. As a fan of ‘sartorial uptightness’ I am not a fan of the flip-flop-ification of any city, but it feels like SoCal is meant to be far more easy-going than the average. Sure, NoCal flipflops are made of bamboo or wheatgrass, but that only reinforces the idea that flip-flops/lazier clothing have a place in Californian culture.

    As for Starbucks, I like their stuff right now, but have a sneaky suspicion that if I were to actually visit some of the stores they displace I might enjoy the others’ products more. I just don’t know what I’m missing.

  5. I’ve got no problem with flip-flops. They’re kinda like Hawaiian shirts in Honolulu, ie. they’re part of the culture. Still, can we all agree they shouldn’t be worn to non-casual restaurants?

    Starbucks, on the other hand, is predatory. They wait for small business owners to find (or create) a market, and then they swoop in to take away the customers. Oh, and they burn their beans.

  6. As a CA beach native and now east hollywood inhabitant, i think see this as more of a beach cities versus everywhere else scenario.. If you grew up surfing or hanging out at the beach, you are more likely to be a flip flop person. I’m one of those people. A good amount of friends (CA natives) who grew up in Los Feliz and Hollywood Hills are not in the flip flops crowd. Not a rule but just my personal experience and observation.

  7. I grew up on Maui where *slippers* were normal just about anywhere, school, supermarket, doctor’s office. (If you called them flip flops, you were a tourist, btw.) So I might have to vote for the “flip flops” as it has gotten out of control here on the mainland. I concur with Itgoesforfun about beach city style and etiquette, slippers are not for everything…And while I like going to local coffee places (Venice Grind is my new favorite) when I’m traveling for work in the US and need a quick fix, I find Starbucks very handy.

  8. The flip-flops thing baffles my mind a bit. I have co-workers who change into their flip-flops as soon as they get in their car, as we aren’t allowed to wear them at work (thank goodness, since I work in a hospital!) What kills me is when it gets “down” to 50 degrees and everyone is “freezing,” breaks out the parkas and scarves, but still wear the flip-flops. Huh?

    I’ll probably have to vote for the Starbuckification phenomenon though. While I don’t dislike Starbucks as a place to get a cup of coffee, I do not see the reason to have so many, which takes away the chance for other interesting establishments, corporate or not. I can walk to no less than FIVE Starbucks that are within a mile of my house–two in the same shopping center. That’s just ridiculous.

  9. I have to call flip flops, mainly because I can recall at least a dozen different stories about friends breaking a toe, or losing a nail, from wearing the cheap pieces of foam, or having to change my plans because a friends choice of footwear kept them from hitting a hiking trail, or their feet getting too cold.

    I’m also offended that male friends of mine will go out of their way to spend $30 on a pair of name brand flip flops. Seriously. Its disgusting.

    Not to add that, except in rare occasions, feet are ugly, especially on guys.

    Now where’s my grande latte?

  10. Whoa, so much flip flop hate! I love flip flops and as soon as the weather gets warm enough, they are my choice footwear. I make sure I get a pedicures regularly during flip flop season, don’t want to be the person with nasty feet. It’s not a beach thing either, here in LH and the Eastside I see tons of Latinas in their “chanclas.” It’s why we have nail salons on every block.

  11. I have no problems with flippy’s. A shoe of choice more often than not.

    The chain stores we sometimes get some better pricing because of their economy of scale. After that we get cookie cutter sameness and nothing added to the soul of a community. That down side is what got it my vote.

  12. Chimatli,

    What about guys in flip-flops? What about that?

    Ok I got another hate for the flip flop story:

    I’m in downtown, I get up to get some coffee. I guess I could make coffee at home, but come on, it’s me. I don’t even make boiled water. Anyways I see this guy with flip-flops and pajama pants and he wasn’t homeless. This is downtown LA. Downtown LA and people are walking around in pjs, flip flops and five hundred dollar sunglasses on.

    If you have time to find your sunglasses (it takes me at least ten minutes to find my sunglasses and I have several pair and I won’t leave the house without them) you have time to find some socks and put on shoes and pants.

    What are people saving their shoes for? If you left the house you’ve gone somewhere put clothes on and some shoes too.

    And we all know your feet are dirty underneath. We all know.

    I think I almost morphed into my grandmother for a second when I saw this guy.

    I was so disgusted by this. I was with my boyfriend and I was like, “Oh my god, oh my god, look at him, look at that guy with flip-flops and pajama pants on what the hell?”

    I’m trying to throw away my boyfriends hiking sandals right now. Every time I try to hide them, he finds them. He has hiking sandals, that’s not right. He has hiking sandals, he’s cool in every other way, but he has hiking sandals.

    There was a reason god did not make hiking boots open toed.

    If you have your PJs on that means you didn’t shower right? I want to know people who wear the PJs on the street -just to get a quick cup of coffee– do you shower before you do that? Just want to know how disgusted I should be when I see it.

    Ok that being said still think I’m voting against Starbucks, I just like telling “i hate open toe shoes” anecdotes, it causes me much joy.


  13. I am a native Washingtonian, as in the District of Columbia, as in the most sartorially uptight city in the nation. I grew up in a city where flip-flops were reserved for beach wear, dorm showers, and tourists.

    I swear, I’m gonna have a sign made. Maybe some billboards:


    This is a feature, not a bug.

    Honestly, don’t people have anything more important to complain about?

    (Well, more important than, “I hate Starbucks, but I go there anyway”, maybe? Sheesh.)

  14. Now, now mapnerd, I wasn’t saying having everyone dress like a flight attendant is a good thing, only that’s it’s shaped me. Don’t get me wrong: LA rocks. It’s not like anywhere else, and it’s amazing.

    And it would be even better if everyone would put on proper shoes and stop ordering skinny lattes and frappacinos.

  15. “Don’t people have anything more important to complain about?”

    Map Nerd, this series is about “the worst things” not “the most important things.”

  16. Mapnerd deserves a prize the best quote in ages. It was genius.
    “LA IS NOT LIKE WHERE YOU’RE FROM. This is a feature, not a bug.

  17. I think I have Starbuckification Fatigue Syndrome. It’s a condition brought on by repeatedly hearing and reading overwrought handwringing over a Starbucks opening in an area where there wasn’t one before.

  18. Orale, Marshall!
    Browne, I guess guys in flip flops doesn’t bother me much. My boyfriend would agree with you, he thinks men in flip flops are ridiculous but then again he’s a Doc Marten guy, still. :) If you ever want to see some crazy, gnarly feet, check out the Tarahumara/Raramuri tribe from Northern Mexico. They’re long distance runners and they don’t wear shoes – their soles are like an inch thick.
    Come to think of it, I don’t really pay attention to people’s footwear, their teeth or their hands. I like looking at people’s eyes and hair, so I have a problem with baldies and one eyed patch wearing pirates.
    -I wrote this in my flip flops

  19. Map Nerd: Everywhere is unique from everywhere else. LA isn’t so special; and I was born and raised within the city limits. People from LA move to other cities and say the same damn thing that you are accusing Travis of, so quit being so self-righteous about LA. It’s not endearing.

    And I hate flip flops. I don’t want to see your feet. I don’t give a damn if you’ve had a pedicure; it’s still disgusting. You can’t keep your feet clean walking around outside with them exposed, so what good is a pedicure? The few occasions I’ve walked out in public in flip flops my feet have gotten filthy! Comfort does not trump tastefulness.

    And, unfortunately, my travels to other cities has revealed to me that Starbuckification is the same everywhere, so my vote is with the flip flops.

  20. I absolutely love my flip flops, but I also have a huge foot phobia and no one is allowed near me with their feet, nor are they allowed to go anywhere near mine. Well, rarely after a shower someone can touch me with their feet, but that’s about it! It’s sort of conflicting behavior, as I totally understand that whole germaphobe reaction to flip flops, but I just love them without reason anyway.

  21. Flip-flops are bad but what about shower shoes? I see people wearing shower shoes on the street all the time now. Shower shoes. Just because something is comfortable doesn’t mean you have to wear it in public. Common sense people.

    Ok, on to coffee. If you’re drinking a Starbucks Anything, and think its coffee and tastes good, you can stop reading here. If on the other hand you love coffee, do a little simple math. You’re drinking a $3 cup of swill once a day at Starbucks. 350 cups a year at $3.00. If you’re going to spend $1000 on coffee this year, why not buy yourself a really good espresso machine like the Pasquini Livietta T2? The coffee you make at home will be better than anything you get at SB’s, and the second year you only have to pay for the beans. You’ll save gas cause you won’t have to drive to the coffee shop, and save time cause you’ll be making espresso at home, in your PJ’s and flip-flops, where they belong.

  22. I wear my Rainbows all seasons of the year, even in January when it’s 50 degrees outside and my toes turn blue from the cold. If you don’t like the way my feet look, then stop staring at them.

  23. Damn folks, we have to lay down some LA historical clarification here. LA’s flip-flop mania started in the 70s, when there were subtle fashion battles between huarache-style-sandal wearing hippies and the then-insurgent Japanese American suburbanites who were all over LA back then. JAs wore the flip flops with the thong that went between your big toe and the second toe. The hippies eventually gave up and turned to wearing Nikes on weekends, suits during the week, and voting for Reagan. That left the entire market open to Hawaiian style foam flip-flops (aka zori) for beach bums and wannabes. Flip-Flops are very “LA.”

    Lots of food chains have roots in SoCal. McDonalds, IHOP, Taco Bell, Del Taco, Jack In the Box, Denny’s, In-n-Out, Winchell’s. Even the divey places like Jims, Tomys, Tommy’s, Tom’s, Tam’s are chains. King Taco, El Atacor, Molcasalsa, Roscoe’s, 7 Mares. So, if there was to be fancy coffee in LA, it would have gone “chain”. BUT, LA isn’t a big coffee city (unless you count Folgers and MJB). Until Starbucks started invading in the mid 90s, there were only a handful of cafes in all of LA County. The demand for European style coffee just wasn’t that great in a city of immigrants and hicks.

    When cool people wanted coffee, they went to House of Pancakes, Denny’s or Carrow’s or a non-chain American restaurant like Canter’s or Harry’s or Ben Frank’s. At night. You got coffee in a mug or pitcher, not a paper cup.

    Is it still “cool” to go to a family restaurant at night?

    Chains and bad coffee – so very “LA.”

  24. Colinski wrote:

    Everywhere is unique from everywhere else. LA isn’t so special; and I was born and raised within the city limits. People from LA move to other cities and say the same damn thing that you are accusing Travis of, so quit being so self-righteous about LA. It’s not endearing.

    Hey, relax. I think you’ve misunderstood me a bit here.

    I’m not at all claiming that LA is unique in this: virtually all the world’s great megalopolises are one-of-a-kind. Paris is not like anywhere else; neither is London, or Singapore, or Tokyo, or New York City.

    And even smaller cities, which often bear great resemblance to similar neighboring cities, still have their own unique characteristics. Phoenix and Tucson, say; or Boston and Philadelphia; or Dayton and Akron: each of these resembles the other in many ways – but still, each has its own unique identity.

    I just think it’s a waste of time and energy for people who come from other places to complain about the fact that where they are presently isn’t like where they came from; and that it’s a mistake to treat those differences as defects needing to be remedied.

    I don’t even own a pair of flip-flops myself, since I personally find them uncomfortable. And even if I didn’t, I would still wholeheartedly agree that flip-flops are inappropriately casual for certain more formal occasions.

    But one of the defining characteristics of LA, to me, is that it’s pretty common for locals to wear clothing that strikes me, personally, as inappropriately casual for the occasion; and for them to not really care what any uptight self-professed fashion fascists from elsewhere might happen to think about them as a result.

    Much as I love LA – and I really do – I’m still quite willing to acknowledge that it has some very real, very serious problems.

    I just don’t think flip-flops at gallery openings are one of them.

    I’m bemused by the idea that “people in LA often wear inappropriately casual clothing on formal occasions” could even be in the running for one of the “64 Worst Things About LA.”

    That strikes me as more of an endearing quirk than a real problem.

    I mean, if that’s one of %i(worst) things about LA, then it really must be the paradise its boosters have long claimed. :-)

    LA’s not like where I came from, either; but I don’t think that’s a defect needing to be remedied, or even an annoyance worthy of complaint. But maybe I just have a high annoyance threshold. :-)

  25. The hobbit feet have got to breathe!

    If only the flipflops spoke their message of “nowhere to go” a little quieter than hip boots say “nowhere to be”.
    What is DC vs. Potomac vs college Park but the difference between Compton and Long Beach and Huntington Park vs. LA.?
    And the small tall triple shot stay up all night to see if the magic time rubs off on you or do you just rub off. Should there be a Starbucks in every room?
    Run those 11 miles to work to see the city bathed in sweat. Is it harder to learn to walk and run than it is to sit and drive?
    When every corner looks the same you are always home… just like on TV!

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