The humble flip-flop has been around since 4,000 BC, when it was depicted in a mural. The oldest pair, made of papyrus leaves and found in Europe, was estimated at around 1,500 years old. Still a staple for summer and water sports, it’s hardly an item crying out for tech innovation.
Think again. Flip-flops are getting in step with the times as the Texas-grown Hari Mari brand is kicking off its first line of high-tech sandals.
Dallas-based Hari Mari kicked off MLB opening day by unveiling a new sports-inspired collaboration, just in time for the start of baseball season. The limited edition collection of three men’s flip-flops was created in partnership with famed Texan baseball-glove maker, Nokona, which has been handcrafting leather gloves since 1934.
The Nokona co-branded shoe design features an embedded, low-range chip that lets Hari Mari gather data from the wearer long after purchase and target them for future products and promotions. The benefit for the user: the embedded chip uses near-field communication technology and lets customers who download the “Hari Mari x Nokona” app receive special discounts and communicate directly with both brands.
— Hari Mari (@HariMariShoes) March 22, 2017
Nokona was founded in 1934 and has made gloves scores of little league and major league baseball players including Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. Partnering with All-Star pitcher Cole Hamels to launch the limited-edition line, Hamels will donate all his proceeds to his charitable organization, The Hamels Foundation, supporting educational programs for children across the U.S. and Africa.
The Hari Mari x Nokona flip-flops are available for $110 a pair at U.S. retailers including Huckberry, Hudson’s Hill, Sault, Nordstrom, Gap, Omni Resorts, REI, Allen Edmonds, Zappos and Stitch Fix.
“For us, this is the beginning of a broader experiment,” co-founder Lila Stewart told Fast Company. “We need to see if customers are responsive to the app and how we’re able to engage with them using this technology.”
Lila and husband Jeremy Stewart launched Hari Mari in 2012 after two years of research and design, committing from the beginning to direct one percent of all sales to support kids battling cancer through their foundation, Flops Fighting Cancer.
The tracking technology came from NFL veteran Emmitt Smith’s Prova Group, which has developed a SmarTag NFC chip for virtually any product—from garments to shoes—to track the origins of a product.
“When a customer buys a product on our website, we get a treasure trove of information about them, from their email address, to where in the country they are from, to whether they buy multiple pairs or just one,” Lila Stewart told FastCo. “But at a store, we don’t have any of those details.”
Hari Mari surged in popularity in 2015 with an all-rubber, water-friendly ‘Dunes’ line, their fourth premium sandal line in four years, joining 100% full-grain leather ‘Lakes’ line, Nubuck leather ‘Scouts’ line, and ‘Parks,’ featuring wick-away-moisture white hemp insoles.
“Traditionally, if you wanted a water-friendly flip-flop, you’re buying a black or brown sandal, or something colorful that’s largely disposable,” Jeremy Stewart told Boarders. “The launch of our ‘Dunes’ line gives flip flop enthusiasts the pop of color they’re seeking, but in a durable package that’s built to thrive in wet environments and keep up with our customer’s active lifestyles.”