Jelly flats or Jelly shoes are a style of children’s sandal that first became popular in the U.S. in the 1980’s. The shoes have become almost an iconic symbol of childhood and carefree living, and have made several comebacks in the following decades.
Today, jellies are being offered not only as children’s shoes, but also for women. Jelly shoes are unique because they are entirely created from plastic–straps, soles and all.
Most often, these sandals are made it with pink or clear plastic, often with glitter or sparkles inside to create a shiny, jelly-like effect.
The soles of jelly shoes are often made with raised patterns or designs, leaving prints in sand or dirt, and they can be worn with socks or without. The earlier trend was to wear the sandals with socks, especially the “bead socks” popular in the 1980’s, so the beads would make noise by clinking against the plastic.
Jelly shoes tend to be flat, although versions with chunky heels are also available, and they are usually designed to be worn as sandals, with a woven or interlaced upper. “Jellies,” as they were called, were often worn with stickers, and they might be decorated with patterns of flowers and other motifs.
Glitter was a common feature on jelly shoes in the 1980s, and some designers embedded objects into the jelly, ranging from tiny plastic fish to geometric shapes. As a general rule, jellies are viewed as women’s shoes. In addition to being fashionable for a brief period in human history, these shoes can sometimes also be practical.
For example, the partially enclosed design makes jellies ideal for casual wading in rivers and streams, as they protect the feet from rocks while allowing the shoe to drain freely and dry quickly on dry land. For people with feet of the right size and shape, jellies can also be very comfortable casual shoes.
Traditionally, jelly shoes are associated with summer holidays, water adventures and activities from one’s childhood, particularly for the generation of women who were raised in their more popular era.
The shoes became significant for many–not necessarily because of their design or comfort, but because they represented a childhood memory or played a part in the growth of an entire generation
Jelly flats are in fact a bit stiff, and sometimes quite uncomfortable; jelly shoes could contribute to the formation of large blisters, and they also tended to get very unpleasant when the wearer started to sweat.
Some people put pads in their jelly shoes to stay fashionable in comfort, in response to these issues. Plastic does not conform to the foot as most fabrics do, and it also doesn’t allow for the air flow and venting that fabric shoes provide.