Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dopies: cool, fun, unique, and eco-friendly flip-flop alternative

by frédérik sisa

Don't have time for a long(ish) post at this very moment? Here' the skinny: Dopies ain't whack, they're dope. Scroll down to the last paragraph to get FREE SHIPPING on a pair of your own.

Here’s a question for designers: how do you fulfill the function of a shoe using the least amount of shoe possible? Traditional answer: our noisy little friend the flip-flop. A more innovative solution – in the vein of “better living through chemistry” – is the topless sandal, a sole that sticks to the foot. But flip-flops are familiar and topless sandals, however cool, have practical limits. They’re not suited for sandy, dusty environments and they require washing (and drying) after every use to reactivate the adhesive. These aren’t shoes you can just slip on and kick off at leisure.

While a student at London’s Royal College of Art, industrial designer Matthew Harrison came up with another option, which he developed in conjunction with eco-friendly shoe company Terra Plana: a single-piece rubber/EVA contoured toe post and sole called Dopie. It’s a marvel of simplicity and a good example of design economy. A wide, supportive post gripped between the big and second toes keeps the Dopie on. Slots on either side of the sole allow for a removable/adjustable strap that goes through the sole and over the foot. Overall, a fun spin on the usual flip-flop that sports a unique, attention-getting look. But…does it work?

It does. The Dopie feels and works like a flip-flop and the toe post is, indeed, enough to keep the shoe on. Without the stabilizing strap, however, Dopies can make a bit of a racket. Racket? Try thunderclap! Then again, my office space is very quiet so it could be that I’m just self-conscious. In the real, noisy world Dopies aren’t any worse than most flip-flops. In cases where the flip-flopping is a bit too flippety and floppety, there’s always the strap.

But let’s talk biomechanics. These take some getting used to. And, like flip-flops, they do have an effect on gait and walking/running capacity, especially in the strapless configuration. At the least, I wouldn’t feel very comfortable or safe doing things like skateboarding in them without the strap. Something else I discovered, based in the fact our right and left feet don’t tend to be identical; my left foot didn’t always stay straight on the Dopie. This quirk, which varies from person to person, doesn’t count against the Dopies. It only means that while great for the sort of things flip-flops are good for, Dopies aren’t high-performance sandals like Chacos. Obvious Footwear Tip No. 1: use the right shoes for the right activity.

Although Terra Plana suggests, half-jokingly, that advanced Dopie wearers don’t need the straps, there’s good reason not to dismiss them. Feet remain more securely in place with less side-to-side wobbling and, as I said, the noise gets muted. But going without the straps is very nice too – a stroll to the pool, for example, or just hanging out. As someone who prefers going around barefoot, the Dopie is pretty darn close. The Dopie motto is “Naked Shoes for Naked People.” I don’t know about the naked people thing, but the naked shoes bit is right. Dopies are rather liberating.

My only complaint is that Dopies don’t come in specific sizes but in generic small, medium, and large. This means the Dopies don’t run true-to-size and, as they do with me, may have some extra protruding material depending on the size of your foot. It’s not quite so bad as to feel as if I’m wearing water-skis but the three-sizes-fits-all approach isn’t what I would call ideal. I think specific sizes would look better.

On the plus side, Dopies are leather-free, hence cruelty-free and great for vegans. And according to Terra Plana’s eco-matrix, the Dopie scores a 20 out of a possible 25 in terms of criteria such as number of components, minimal toxins, durability, and eco-friendly/recycled materials. Also, Terra Plana is itself a worthwhile company with a number of different footwear lines, dedicated to offering chic footwear that’s good to the environment. (Terra Plana won an Observer Ethical Award in 2007 handed by the UK’s Guardian newspaper as well as a 2008 Ethical Footwear Retailer of the Year Award from Drapers.)

I was slightly balking at the $50 price tag…but considering that Havaianas retail for $25-$30 and Topsies are at least $50, well, Dopies aren’t really that far out into the spendosphere. It's all relative, of course. To sweeten the deal if you want to get a pair of your own, Terra Plana is kindly offering Fashionoclast readers FREE SHIPPING on Dopies: just enter code FashionDopie at checkout. You have until September 30th, 2009 to benefit, however, so if you want a pair for yourself don’t delay! Click here to visit Terra Plana's online store.

Note: Many thanks to Lindsay Sargent and Patty Kahn of Bullfrog & Baum for their generous assistance, and for kindly providing me with a free pair of Dopies to review.


Trace said...

Fascinating! I've never seen these! Definitely innovative and I'm impressed with their efforts in ethics. Thanks for sharing!

Frederik Sisa said...

Hi Trace! I'm glad I was able to share something new, especially in regards to a company that strives to be ethical. We need more of these! Actually, I'm working on a piece that is all about ethics...won't say what it is now, but I think it will be exciting...

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