Observing Los Angeles

Going native in flip-flops

AyresChris Ayres writes in his L.A. Notebook for the Times of London that going native is one of the worst career moves a foreign correspondent can make. "It is a professional offence so unforgivable ó borderline treacherous, almost ó that I had to think long and hard before even mentioning it here," he says in disclosing his latest embrace of the Los Angeles life.

I suppose it was a long time coming: the American wife, the Green Card, the mortgage, and now this. The realisation came as I was preparing to leave home, and trying to decide on the most appropriate footwear. Glancing down, I saw my options laid out on the floor: not one, not two, not three, but four pairs of brightly coloured flip-flops.

It gets worse: my smartest pair, from Paul Smith on Melrose Avenue, had set me back $165 (in a sale).

Suddenly aware of the lunacy, I imagined a klaxon going off in London, and the voice of my Editor, ringing out across the newsroom: ďAyres is exposing his feet! Send out the recall papers! Heís gone native!Ē

Back when I first arrived in Los Angeles, of course, I would never have considered wearing any kind of shoe that didnít require the use of a heavy black M&S sock. Charmingly, I would turn up to outdoor lunch meetings wearing polished lace-ups and a woollen pin-stripe, my body temperature creating a heat-ripple that distorted the air for miles around.

It didnít last. Tired of passing out over coffee, I downgraded to khakis and loafers. Even then, however, the spectre of Kurtz loomed. But the heat was so much, I didnít care. And when the loafers turned into a gateway shoe for less casual footwear, I barely noticed.

In my defence, flip-flops have become to West Coast business wear what polo shirts and chinos once were. Smart casual is the new smart. That means casual can now involve exposing a greater percentage of your naked flesh than is actually covered, even for middle-aged men.

Does he nod to the New York Times story that so clearly inspired his dispatch? Uh, no.

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