Flip-flops can't be reduced to Havaianas, though they play a big part of the internal and foreign market. There are other big brands in this sector, including more Brazil's representatives abroad.
Brazil is a big manufacturer of footwear. In 2012, 834 million pairs of shoes were manufactured in the country, against the approximately 819 million pairs of shoes made in 2011. Even though these are high numbers, the 2011's production represented a 8,4% drop compared to the impressive 894 million pairs in 2010, which put Brazil in the third place on the list of biggest producers in the world, only behind China and India.
The manufacturing of shoes is spread throughout the country but some units deserve a special attention: the state of Ceará, in the Northeast region; the cities of Jaú, Franca and Birigui, in São Paulo state; Belo Horizonte, in Minas Gerais state; and the regions of Vale do Rio dos Sinos and Vale do Paranhama, in Rio Grande do Sul state, are the biggest manufacturers in the country.
Brazil is on the top 10 list not only in terms of manufacturing, but also in terms of exports and consumption. The domestic market is the biggest share of the sector's gains. And the same happens to flip-flops: footwear made of plastic or rubber represents more than half of the sector production in Brazil.
Footwear in Brazil
The footwear manufacturing in Brazil started in Rio Grande do Sul, when the first German immigrants arrived, in 1824. They brought not only knowledge in agriculture and animal husbandry, but also the practice of making leather articles.
The production, which was initially home made and devoted generally to the manufacture of harness gears, started to develop specially with the occasion of the Paraguayan War, between 1864 and 1870. After this war, it was necessary to increase the sales of both harness gears and shoes, and that was when the production of both goods started to become industrialized.
The first shoe factory in Brazil opened in 1888, in the region of Vale do Rio dos Sinos, in Rio Grande do Sul state.
Flip-flops in the world
Flip-flops have been around the world for, at least, the past six thousand years. The most ancient pairs of the footwear weren't made of plastic or rubber like the current ones, but of papyrus, wood and palm leaves, among other materials.
In the United States, the first flip-flops appeared after World War II, when some American soldiers brought home the popular Japanese sandals named Zori. Flip-flops only became popular in the New World, however, after the Korean War, from 1950 to 1953.
In the beginning, flip-flops were related to hot weather, surf and beaches. The Californian lifestyle was the one that would match the style of the sandals, especially because they weren't seen as something that you could wear in a cold day – considering that in countries like the US, it's very common to snow. But after some time, especially since Havaianas gained ground in the market, flip-flops became everyday wear. Nowadays, there are even options of special socks that can be used with this kind of footwear in the cold weather.
This famous Brazilian brand was created in 1962 having as a model the Japanese Zori, which was made of fabric straps and rice straw soles. Havaianas became international in the year 2000, being sold in countries like Australia and France. Nowadays, it can be found in more than 60 countries.
Havaianas is now considered a democratic item, that can be used by the rich and the poor. But this idea is recent. For the first 32 years of the brand, to have a pair of Havaianas was like exhibiting a declaration of poverty, since the target of the brand was basically classes C, D and E.
This began to change in 1994, when Havaianas started to develop marketing strategies with famous Brazilian people – actors, actresses, singers and even boxers, like Popó. In the decade of 1990, Havaianas became an object of desire to every Brazilian, and its marketing group decided to develop the brand's growth abroad as a product for people with high purchasing power.
In the beginning of the year 2000, when Havaianas was a new item in Europe, a pair of flip-flops could be sold for GBP 20 to GBP 100 (which, by that time, were the equivalent to BRL 96,00 to BRL 478,00). Nowadays it's not that expensive to have a pair of footwear of the famous brand, but there's still a big difference in the prices in Brazil in comparison to other countries.
In Havaianas website, there are the prices of the flip-flops available to be bought. We made a comparison taking into account the models of flip-flops available in the United States and Brazil's version of Havaianas webpages.
At Havaianas US there are flip-flops for women available from USD 18,00 to USD 200,00 (equivalent to BRL 52,00 to BRL 400,00). At Havaianas Brazil the prices of women's pair of Havaianas range from BRL 11,90 to BRL 66,90.
For men, the US website offers options that range from USD 18,00 to USD 40,00 (approximately BRL 36.00 to BRL 80.00). The Brazilian page offers flip-flops with prices ranging from BRL 11,90 to BRL 55,90.
For kids, in the American page there are flip-flops available from USD 14 to USD 23 (BRL 28.00 to BRL 46.00). In Brazil, the options vary from BRL 8,90 to BRL 30,90.
Though the worldwide known Havaianas has the major share of the flip-flop market, there are other companies in the sector that also deserve attention, such as Ipanema, Azaléia and West Coast. Crocs and Coke are two big companies that also have a line dedicated to flip-flops.
Azaléia is a company nearly as old as Havaianas. The company used to produce sandals and started manufacturing flip-flops too. Ipanema is an internationally know flip-flop brand, owned by Grendene, one of the biggest footwear manufacturers in Brazil. Ipanema is represented by the famous Brazilian model Gisele Bündchen
Rider is a famous brand, known for it's male footwear. It's also owned by Grendene. Another major brand for men is West Coast, that produces not only flip-flops, but also boots and other shoes.
It's possible to have your own Havaianas factory! But in a much smaller size. In Brazil, there are small businesses that produce and sell flip-flops similar to Havaianas, with different designs. For this, there is a machine of flip-flops that can be bought with a considerable small investment that ranges from BRL 1.000 to BRL 10.000.