Flip-flop season is officially here. This is when we traditionally realize we’ve lost one foot of last year’s pair…. No worries: we’ve found great sandals to treat your feet this summer, and the best part is that they give back to others, use recycled materials, and look damn stylish at the same time as feeling comfy.
Combat Flip Flops was founded in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2012 by former Army Rangers Matthew Griffin and Donald Lee. Over the course of several tours in the country, they grew to love the local people and recognized their creativity and desire to work to support their families.
Griffin wanted to help, but how? The idea for Combat Flip Flops hit him one day when he saw a factory in Kabul making combat boots for the military. He developed a company to deploy special ops vets to countries affected by conflict.
“We were going to take military capacity that was established to make tools for war, and we were going to manufacture commercial products for peace,” Griffin explained in his TED Talk. “Flip flops were just the start. We’ve taken a product that people in nearly every country on the planet wear and made it a weapon for change. Right now, all our flip flops are made in Bogota, Colombia, providing jobs and investing in people who desperately need it.”
The Afghan factory makes several styles of the shemagh, a multipurpose traditional scarf. Local cotton is used, and it’s loomed and embroidered in Kabul.
Griffin says it’s very versatile: “Use it to shade yourself from the sun, hide from an ex, or cool yourself off in the shade. The uses and configurations are only left to your imagination.”
The Combat Flip Flops sarongs are also made in Kabul, and for each sarong or shemagh sold, CFF and the manufacturer donate so a young Afghan woman can attend secondary school for a day.
The men’s AK-47 flip-flop “is bad for combat, perfect for peacemaking,” the company says. “This high-speed design is the benchmark of CFF construction and features cast bullet casings, heat-stamped poppies, and that Afghan style we all know and love.” And for good measure the soles are made from combat boot rubber.
“The Peacemaker Bangle and Coinwrap are sent to us straight from artisans in Laos,” Griffin explains, “and they’re made from bombs.”
Each bracelet sold clears three square meters of mines. CFF says 270 million bombs were dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War, and almost a third of them are still live. These products made from local craftsmen have a double benefit: they help save lives and also give local people in Laos economic opportunities.
The company makes its Claymore Bag (above) in the U.S., turning a classic military-style bag into a carry-all for business tools such as laptops and tablets. The humorous CFF site offers another use for the Claymore: “Also used as the field expedient diaper bag by BADs (Bad Ass Dads) Keep your manhood while still taking care of those messy ops….”
Oh, and when you’re relaxing in your sarong, shemagh, and flip-flops, take a minute to check out the cool charities Combat Flip Flops works with. Refreshing to find a company that puts its money where its mouth is.