Combat flip flops—a “mission” to manufacture “stoke”

Combat flip-flops (photo: Indie Art South)

During a TED talk in 2015, Matt Griffin told the audience he and some of his fellow military veterans bet they could “manufacture stoke.” He’s talking about the same term we use when we say, “I’m stoked!” After serving in war zones and seeing combat up close and personal, Griffin and his fellows turned that stoke into a fashionable item popular in my home state of Florida and in others too—the combat flip flop. I didn’t know about Griffin’s venture until we experienced it personally here at home.

Combat flip-flops (photo: Indie Art South)
Combat flip-flops (photo: Indie Art South)

In the TED talk, Griffin related how he “wanted to do good things for other people” when he was young. Serving in conflict zones, he came to see how important education is, and he cited the literacy rate for Afghanistan’s females. It’s less than 20 percent. Griffin also noted materials made for war—land mines, shells, and such. And it became obvious that some of those military goods could be recycled into other things—”business, not bullets.”

Military boots become sandals. Scrap from land mines becomes jewelry. Fabrics become sarongs crafted by village women in Afghanistan. All of these products then help the local population producing them. Griffin said he and “a handful of people” started the company in 2012. That number grew to 100, then 1,000, and then tens of thousands. In Afghanistan, proceeds are used to educate girls.

Griffin calls these endeavors the “unarmed forces.”

In 2016 Griffin made it to the TV program The Shark Tank. That effort led to more capital for the company.

It so happened that my husband received a pair of combat flip flops as a gift. Once he received them, they became favorites. The shoes are well crafted, with bullet casings an artsy touch on a solid leather product. He loves those shoes.

The Combat Flip Flops company also sells apparel, jewelry, scarves, and patches.

In his TED talk, Griffin explained how, after serving in the military during war, he and his fellow veterans deployed “back to countries affected by conflict”, not as soldiers, but as businessmen hoping to make a difference in people’s lives.

The 2015 TED talk Griffin delivered is posted on Combat Flip Flops’ ‘Mission’ page. Griffin is a natural speaker, telling the story of Combat Flip Flops in an engaging way. I rarely have patience with videos on the Web—I read so quickly, it’s slower for me to absorb a video. I much prefer words. However, I listened to Griffin’s entire talk, and was spellbound.

In 2018, Griffin said:

“You can manufacture peace through trade. If we are persistent if we are creative if we are respectful for one another. We can put down our differences and solve our problems and we can depend on one another. Welcome to the unarmed forces.”

And judging by the pair of combat flip flops in our house, welcome to the world of combat fashion.

(Kay B. Day/April 8, 2019)


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