The Meaning of Thongs in Australia

Australian Flag Beach Thongs
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When traveling, it’s common to get confused over the language barrier. But even though Australians speak English, some of their slang words can be tricky for tourists. For example, one of the funniest—and most misunderstood—words in Australia is “thong.” Thongs are not skimpy underwear in the land down under, they are what our Aussie friends call flip-flops, a staple piece of footwear for every citizen (especially in Sydney and other coastal cities).

Aussie thongs primarily consist of a sole and thong passing between the first and second toes of the feet and affixed in a Y formation on three points to the sole of the rubber flip-flop. They are typically padded with spongy textures and are incredibly comfortable to wear.

Although thongs in Australia are not the same as the sexy underwear in America, they do have much more important meaning to Aussies.

Why Thongs Are Loved

They're your basic sandals, your basic go-to on a hot summer day when all you want to do is go for a brisk walk, or if you want to head down to the beach. You can get your basic garden-variety thong made of plastic, although a bejeweled, sparkling, upmarket thong wouldn’t look out of place with a nice long evening frock. Whether you’re relaxing on a beach in Queensland, shopping up a storm in ​Melbourne, or enjoying a late brunch in Sydney, thongs may just be your ideal footwear choice. Thongs are occasionally referred to as “jandals” in ​New Zealand or “slippers” or “go-aheads” in other parts of the world.

In America, they’re known as flip-flops.

How Much Do Thongs Cost

When paying for a decent pair of thongs, you won’t need to spend much. At the extreme end of the scale, you could fork out as much as $80 for a pair of designer-brand, high-quality thongs. But if you’re traveling on a budget, you could spend as little as $1 for a basic supermarket pair, depending on what you’re after. Should you want a decent pair that is both comfortable and durable, it shouldn’t be too hard to find, and paying around $10-$20 AU is fairly standard.

Should you want to elevate your status a little bit more, you can always hand over extra money for designer thongs such as Havianas. If ever in the midst of a thong emergency, you can also run to a thong vending machine, which are found throughout Australia. With thongs so readily available and embraced as a fashion choice, it is clear that this product is part of Australian culture.

When Not to Wear Thongs

While everyone loves their thongs in Australia, they are not acceptable in all circumstances. For instance, should you be attending a formal occasion, it would be out of place to wear thongs. In some clubs and venues, you may be refused entry for trying to sneak your thongs in after 6 p.m. instead of dressing up in heels or wedges. When playing sports, they may also become slippery and unsafe—unless it’s a pick-up game on the beach. Also, should the weather be incredibly wet and rainy, thongs are probably not the best choice of footwear as some pairs may soak up water or splash dirty puddles onto the back of your legs.

If you are driving, it is recommended that you take these shoes off, as they can get caught between the pedals. Otherwise, for sunny days walking by the beach or around town, they’re an easy slip-on option that tends to go with most outfits.