My friend Kate knows exactly where to wear thongs. When she came to visit me when I was living in Darwin in 2002, one of the first things we did was head over to Woolies – the main one in town, the air-conditioned haven – so she could purchase a pair of thongs. In Darwin, where the temperature’s between 30 and 33 degrees most days of the year, they understand thongs, and don’t mind if you wear them to the pub, a restaurant, or even to a semi-formal occasion. Actually, that’s probably going too far. In Darwin, they know you shouldn’t wear thongs to a semi-formal occasion, so why don’t people in Sydney?
As we’re currently in the third summer of the thong, I would have thought by now a sensible thong etiquette would have emerged. That people would have begun to learn that thongs are fine for home, fine for the beach, probably even fine for a walk to the shops or if you find yourself unexpectedly in a pub near the beach, but that’s about it. Instead, we’ve had three summers in a row now where everywhere you look, there’s someone’s dirty scabby, fungal feet. And let me tell you, there are some very unattractive feet on display.
Feet that people somehow feel are okay to pick and clean right in front of you. Look around the average beer garden, or even slightly up-market Sydney pub and you’ll see what I mean. Blokes, in particular, who’ll slip off one thong, and crossing their legs in the bloke kind of way, will sit and pick their toes while they talk to you or cuddle their girlfriends.
I think there’s also something very 50s/60s Australia about the thong, along with house dresses, clog shoes (okay they were 70s), and Malvern Star bikes. Probably because I’m old enough, I can remember the days when thongs were associated with yobbo bloke culture, Paul Hogan and the like, and where if you wore anything other than thongs you were a poofter. So yeah, maybe there’s an argument the thong has been reclaimed for a modern, more informal world? Don’t get me wrong, I love thongs, as you can seem and I feel they have a place but, for the purposes of fashion and hygiene, I’m hoping this will be Sydney’s last summer of the thong.