Story Detail

31 Aug 2015

Indonesian Flip-Flops

Vox Orbis / 31 Aug 2015 Footwear

Photo: Flip-flops, Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Wittyben/Flickr

Esther Tanuadji

From boys, to lecturers, to presidents, the flip-flop cannot be set apart from Indonesian life and can be found in every household. However, nowadays, the flip-flop has a set of different stories in Indonesia.

Since 2012, the flip-flop has become a symbol of injustice in Indonesia. A 15-year-old boy was thoroughly beaten by a police officer for stealing a pair of flip-flops and sent to prison for 5 years. The officer was only jailed for 7 days. The Indonesian Child Protection Commission started a solidarity action; they collected 600 pairs of flip-flops and sent them to the Headquarters of the Indonesian National Police.

Photo: Flip-flops in Bekasi, West Java, Indonesia. Adam Sundana/Flickr

Another story of the flip-flop comes from an Indonesian lecturer who visited an immigration office. Instead of formal shoes, he wore a pair of flip-flops. The officer refused to conduct the scheduled interview because the lecturer was considered to be wearing improper attire. The lecturer reported this to the Jogjakarta Ombudsman. For him, flip-flops were irrelevant to his interview. The Jogjakarta immigration office clarified that, for “ethical reasons” it is their policy to stop people wearing flip-flops from entering their office.

During the administration of Gus Dur (from 1999-2001), a former president of Indonesia, flip-flops were even allowed to enter the Indonesian State Palace. Prior to becoming a president, Gus Dur was an influential Islamic leader. On occasion, some kyai (Islamic clerics) from East Java visited Gus Dur in the Palace, wearing sarongs and flip-flops. Though banned at first, they were allowed to enter the istana (the state palacewearing their flip-flops.

Esther Tanuadji for Vox Orbis, 2015