Appearance is generally a big deal in Thailand, with the way a person looks being connected to status and the concept of face (or shame). It’s often said, for example, that wearing a nice suit and looking polished for a job interview goes a whole lot further than experience or qualifications. Footwear has never quite been treated the same as clothing though, and it’s not uncommon to see a person wearing smart trousers and a shirt paired with flip flops or plastic sandals. Office workers, teachers, and similar, often slip off their fancy shoes as soon as they arrive at work and exchange them for a pair of comfy slippers or flip flops.
It’s fairly common to see Thai adults wearing fashion items that would often seem more suitable for kids in western nations. Think large oversized bows in the hair, fluffy slippers with large animal faces, dresses, shirts, and t-shirts covered with cartoon characters, and so on. The Doraemon and Hello Kitty trends of other Asian nations, for example, quickly caught on in Thailand, and Thai people often have a love for all the kitch and cuteness typically associated with places like Japan and South Korea.
The latest Thai fashion trend is much more marine focused and, quite frankly, a bit bizarre and kind of ugly! Although mainly worn by women, the fish shoes are unisex. They are available in various sizes and colours, all with the same open-mouthed and glassy-eyed look. If you ever wanted dead fish on your feet, these are the next best thing!
The tail and gills flip up slightly, adding a little more grip to the feet. At least your fish won’t swim away while you’re walking! The souls are textured to make them less likely to slide on wet surfaces.
The shoes are easy to slip on and off, a highly beneficial quality when it comes to footwear in Thailand. There are many times when you need to remove your shoes, including when visiting most temples and stepping inside a home.
You may think that these shoes would be more suited for the beach, and the plastic fish footwear would certainly be great for walking along the sands and paddling in the ocean. They are, however, popular all around the country, from the coasts to the cities. Indeed, vendors in the bustling capital of Bangkok catch plenty of trade on their fishy footwear.
You’ll see people wandering around with these on their feet in a variety of settings, from days out shopping to working at a street food cart and chilling in a park. The casual shoes are unlikely, however, to catch on in the office. While some people keep these novel slippers for home use only, there are plenty of people who delight in wearing them out and about in public.
If you just can’t get enough of the dead fish theme in Thailand, there are also textiles, home wares, and key chains with similar designs. And, of course, Thailand is known for its delectable seafood as well.
The fish slippers are part of a growing desire in Thailand for things that are na rak na chunk, a combination of cute and creepy. In a nation that introduced gigantic cockroach pillows and large lizard cushions, and a place where supposedly haunted dolls, holographic mirrors with blinking figures, phallic shrines, and penis-shaped soaps are commonplace, these quirky shoes fit right in!