Friday, 25 June 2010

Brazil's World Cup: the Havaianas etiquette

With a goalless draw and a series of tedious bookings, it’s safe to say that we shouldn’t devote too much time to the football itself today. That Brazil finished top of its group against Portugal is the outcome I was after.
Now, onto more interesting subjects. I bet that when the Brazilian players slip out of their football boots, they slip on a pair of Havaianas.

When I went to get a customised pair of Havaianas flip flops at Selfridges, I was impressed by the queue at the brand’s temporary pop-up shop. For what is effectively a rubber flip flop brand, Havaianas are – and have been for some time in the UK – incredibly popular.
Everyone wears Havaianas in Brazil too, but for different reasons. Over there, it’s Havaianas’ practicality that makes them the flip flop brand of choice for the beach. They’re comfortable and don’t rub like so many other flip flops. They’re made of rubber, so can get wet over and over without being damaged. And the sand simply flicks away as you start to walk home from the beach, leaving you with smooth, clean feet.
Those qualities still apply in the UK – the flip flops aren’t made any differently – but because the brand is Brazilian, it has a certain kudos here. Havaianas are cool and, provided you’re not going to a black tie event or to the office – although just today I saw two people wearing Havaianas at work – generally acceptable for summer wear.
Not in Brazil though. In fact, if you go to Brazil and take your Havaianas with you, or buy some there, there are certain rules you need to observe if you want to look like a local. The most important is not to wear them in the evening. Havaianas are for daywear.
There is also quite a clear beach/town divide. Unless you’re heading to the beach or coming back from it, most Brazilians wouldn’t wear Havaianas to meet up with friends or go shopping, even if it’s hot and sunny. Havaianas are for beachwear.
I still remember the look of horror on my grandad’s face when he picked me up from São Paulo airport a few years ago and saw that I was wearing a pair of Havaianas and tracksuit bottoms. I’ll admit, it wasn’t the most stylish of outfits, but comfort-wise, it was the perfect combination. Still, in his eyes, it just wasn’t the done thing to do.

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