It says something for Ethan Hawke‘s charisma that I didn’t even blink when he appeared in a pair of flip-flops in Juliet Naked. Normally that would prompt am agonizing reappraisal, at least in my realm. The only other moment in which mandals weren’t an HE issue was when Spike Jonze donned a pair for that Moneyball scene that he shared with Brad Pitt and Robin Wright. That was because I knew they were being worn with a wink — because director Bennett Miller was saying to audiences (and to guys like me in particular) that “it’s okay if you don’t like Jonze’s character that much…given his footwear I wouldn’t blame you…you get what I’m saying, right?”
I honestly believe that the bad mandal karma has gotten around or you’d see actors wearing them a lot more. I can think of only four instances apart from Hawke and Jonze. Michael Fassbender wearing a pair in Prometheus — a moment that was probably pivotal in my forming a negative opinion of the guy. Billy Baldwin strolling around in bathroom flip-flops in Backdraft — if only Ron Howard had taken him aside and said “I don’t think they work.” Adam Sandler in 20 First Dates. And Colin Farrell wearing sandals during a kitchen chat scene in Miami Vice.
It’s not just mandals but footwear in general. Directors almost never allow an audience to consider whatever kind of shoe, boot or sandal…none of that. Even in the matter of really slick-looking shoes, like those polished lace-up cordovans Cary Grant wears in North by Northwest.