“Welcome to the unarmed forces,” says Matthew Griffin, the laid back, flip-flop wearing TEDx presenter during his speech, “The power of persistence, creativity, and respect”. Griffin, a US Army Ranger veteran who served several deployments in Afghanistan post-9/11, is the owner of Combat Flip Flops, a clothing company that may just be unlike any you’ve ever come across.
Combat Flip Flops takes a unique approach to outsourced retail products including men and women’s apparel, shoes (including flip flops, naturally) and accessories. Every single item listed in their online store is crafted by men and women in countries affected by war.
There are bangles made from the unexploded ordinance of bombs laid in Laos during the Vietnam War. There are beautiful, bright sarongs crafted by Kabuli women in support of girl’s education in Afghanistan. Then, of course, there are the flip-flops. Their durable, comfortable design is only beat by their superior craftsmanship. The 2015 Men’s AK-47 flops are, by definition, literally crafted with the casings of AK-47 bullets. And every pair, every purchase, benefits the community of the men and women who handcraft these gems.
Griffin and his team’s goal when building Combat Flip Flops was to ignite and empower people affected by extreme adversity in war-torn countries by appealing to the hearts and wallets of buyers. The company’s slogan “persistence, creativity, and respect” perfectly demonstrates this mission. Combat Flip Flops seeks to spread knowledge and, in Griffin’s words, “spread stoke”—that elusive feeling stereotypically saved for surfers—by engaging customers in meaningful global conversations. Conversations that are often started by the simple question: “where did you get those shoes?”
Putting Afghan girls in school and protecting innocent people from suffering at the hands of an undetonated bomb are lofty goals. But as their slogan describes, Combat Flip Flops constantly seeks new, authentic ways to achieve their goals. We look forward to seeing where they will go next, and so will you.