Description

The geta first appeared in the Yayoi period in Japan, during which it was called “ta-geta.” [1] The ta-geta were used in the rice fields for mobility, to avoid mud. [2] Since then, the ta-geta transformed to geta, which gained popularity in the Edo period (1603-1868). [3] Worn by all genders, the geta are thonged wooden sandals elevated on stilts. It is not to be confused with the zori, which is another traditional sandal worn in Japan and the original “flip-flops” seen in North America and other parts of the world.

Initially, the geta was worn for practicality; by wearing the high platform shoes, dirt, water, or snow were kept from coming into contact with the wearer’s feet and kimono. [4] The geta would also be worn with socks, or tabi, and be the favored shoe in the rain and snow, making it a year-round footwear. [5] The geta worn in the rain and snow would include coverings to keep the tabi dry. [6]

The pokkuri or koppori are types of geta worn by young girls during traditional celebrations. [7] These special geta have the toe slanted at the front, and are named after the sound the shoes make as they clip-clop through the streets. [8]

Another version of the geta is the mitsubageta, the name for black lacquered geta, that courtesans and sex workers of the highest rank in Japan would wear during the Edo period. [9] The sex worker, called the oiran, would wear the mitsubageta, and walk along the central street of the district of Tokyo (then called Edo). [10] The geta would be extravagant in its appearance, specifically as it would be very tall – around ten inches – and would have three stilts, or teeth. The women would be prohibited from wearing tabi, and at all times would have their toes exposed. [11] Oiran would be highly influential in their fashion, so much so that sumptuary laws were placed on women who would try to copy the oiran’s style, which included an attempt to ban lacquered geta. [12]

Today, geta is still worn around Japan, and its influence, along with other Japanese footwear, have made a global impact.

Details

Appropriation and Influence

rapper Kanye West dressed in a sage green suit and socks and slides, walking with his wife Kim Kardashian, dressed in a neon green dress and sunglasses.

Kanye West wearing "Japanese-inspired" sandals, 2018

Kanye West wore Yeezy slides to a wedding that were too small and resulted in his heels hanging off. After being mocked and called out online for wearing too-small slippers to a formal event, West defended his choice on Twitter, stating that it was “the Japanese way.” In the now-deleted tweet, West included a diagram depicting a geta sandal, which explained how your heel should hang 1 to 2 centimeters off the back of the wooden sole of the sandals.
Photo: SplashNews.com. View Larger.
close up of black leather thonged sandals

Black leather flip flops by Dries van Noten, 2021

Dries van Noten’s sandals are just one of the many modern iterations of the geta. With the treaded rubber sole sharing similarities with the toothed soles of some geta, it is apparent that the Japanese sandal has influenced the style of van Noten’s. The Row, Zara, and Tory Burch are a few examples of these iterations.
Photo: Ssense. View Larger.
close up of a modern wooden thonged sandal

Geta sandal by Snow Peak, 2021

Japanese-owned brand Snow Peak recreated the geta sandal. Crafted traditionally in Hita, Japan, Snow Peak’s geta sandal takes a modern twist, but stays true to the authentic style of the footwear.
Photo: End Clothing.  View Larger.
Several models walking up and down the runway in different styles of Ao Dai

Character in Princess Mononoke wearing geta sandals, 1997

Animated film Princess Mononoke (1997) featured a character, who at the time was pretending to be a monk, wearing geta sandals. Princess Mononoke is a film by Japanese production company, Studio Ghibli, and the story takes place in Japan.
Photo: taken from Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke.  View Larger.
Endnotes
[1] Elizabeth Semmelhack, “Footwear,” in Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion: East Asia, ed. John E. Vollmer (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2010), 104.

 

[2] “Geta,” Japanese Traditional Clothing, accessed November 15, 2021, https://japanesetraditionalclothingwafuku.wordpress.com/geta/

 

[3] Semmelhack, 104.

 

[4] Cath Lealand and Lucy Dayman, “Choosing the Best Geta Sandals: 6 Things to Know,” Japan Objects, February 5, 2021, accessed November 25, 2021, https://japanobjects.com/features/geta

 

[5] Semmelhack, 104.

 

[6] Semmelhack, 104.

 

[7] “Japanese Sandals: What You Need to Know about Geta & Zori: From Japan,” FROM JAPAN Blog, March 22, 2016, accessed November 28, 2021, https://blog.fromjapan.co.jp/en/japanese-culture/japanese-sandals-what-you-need-to-know-about-geta-zori.html.

 

[8] “Japanese Sandals: What You Need to Know about Geta & Zori: From Japan.”

 

[9] Semmelhack, 104.

 

[10] Semmelhack, 104.

 

[11] Semmelhack, 104.

 

[12] Semmelhack, 104.

 

[13] Semmelhack, 104.

 

[14] Semmelhack, 104.

 

[15] Semmelhack, 104.

 

[16] Semmelhack, 104.

References
“Geta.” Japanese Traditional Clothing. Accessed November 15, 2021. https://japanesetraditionalclothingwafuku.wordpress.com/geta/. 

“Geta.” The Fashiongton Post, August 19, 2020. https://fashiongtonpost.com/geta/. 

“Japanese Sandals: What You Need to Know about Geta & Zori: From Japan.” FROM JAPAN Blog, March 22, 2016. https://blog.fromjapan.co.jp/en/japanese-culture/japanese-sandals-what-you-need-to-know-about-geta-zori.html. 

Lealand, Cath, and Lucy Dayman. “Choosing the Best Geta Sandals: 6 Things to Know.” Japan Objects. Japan Objects, February 5, 2021. https://japanobjects.com/features/geta. 

NIKO ニコ. “Geta and Zōri – Japanese Encyclopedia.” Matcha, trans. Greg, January 4, 2017. https://matcha-jp.com/en/3536. 

Semmelhack, Elizabeth. “Footwear.” In Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion: East Asia, edited by John E. Vollmer, 99–106. Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2010.