David Yi was not the first person to ever float the idea that hey, maybe dudes shouldn't wear flip-flops outside the beach. But this weekend, his Mashable article became a flashpoint for fellas who are sick and tired of being told their feet are not a welcome sight. And, with varying degrees of butthurt and anger, men are now vehemently defending their right to wear open-toed sandals. It is, friends, a good ole-fashioned internet shit-show. Let's dive in, shall we? Bluntly titled "Men, It's Never Okay To Wear Open-Toed Sandals," the article's thesis can be summarized as follows: "The rampant prevalence [of men's sandals] on the streets is one of the most nauseating things about summer." After citing the admittedly upsetting Marc Jacobs images shown here, and vividly describing all the myriad things that can go wrong with men's feet ("scaly calluses" and "fungus that oozes from [men's] foot crevices" are highlights), Yi concludes that men need to "[purge] these disgusting and barbaric pseudo-shoes. We can do better." Stirring rhetoric, yes — but even this writer was taken aback by the way-harsh nature of that assessment. So I asked Yi, a seasoned fashion writer, for a little clarification. Are sandals really a never for dudes? Like, not even with a pedicure? "From my observations, American men who adhere to pedicures are rare," he points out. "I don't know about you, but I'd rather not see fur sprouting about next to someone's long, yellow toenails. It's just not courteous to anyone alive." Fine points, all. The article has now been shared a whopping 28,000 times (and counting), so clearly Yi is not alone in his man-foot refusal. Those who agree speak of it in heavenly terms: "Bless you" and "[You're] doing the lord's work," commenters said. But a vocal cadre of men disagrees with the heat of a thousand suns. Twitter responses range from the blunt: "one of the worst articles I've ever read in my life," to the curious and queasy-making, "Open-toed shoes are often health-related. My feet would be infected if I listened to this." [Ed. note: Ew.]
Especially outraged readers have stooped to threats that don't exactly bolster the credibility of mandals fans. "One person threatened to urinate on my toes," Yi told us. But he's not shaken: "Hey, if that's your thing, no judgments — just call me, explain your inclinations. There might be a trend story there, and I want to break it!" Curiously, many dudes are accusing Yi of sexism and body-shaming. We're not totally sure we agree that suggesting men cover their gnarly feet is on par with telling women not to wear skirts, as one commenter suggested. And we agree that we'd feel weird if there were an article demanding women not wear sandals. Still, the commenters who called the article "sexist, patriarchal BS," and its author a "man-shaming millennial feminist" would seem to be unclear on several concepts. "Man-shaming" actually makes several appearances, giving the whole debate a weird frisson of MRA. Finally, because no cause is too small to generate its own hashtag, people are now trying to make #freethetoes a thing on Twitter. May we suggest #notallmanfeet instead? Yi is taking the drama in stride: "I am happy that there's a conversation to be had," he says. He invites those who disagree to, "Prove me wrong, and tell me why your feet deserve my attention. JK — don't ever need to see them." He's not backing down, folks. Your move, mandal-lovers, hairy Hobbit foot-defenders, and champions of men's freedom. Your move.