The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences acknowledges Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land and gives respect to the Elders – past and present – and through them to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are advised that the MAAS website contains a range of Indigenous Cultural Material. This includes artworks, artifacts, images and recordings of people who may have passed away, and other objects which may be culturally sensitive.
89/1346 Thongs, rubber, unknown maker, 1977-1979. Click to enlarge.

Worn rubber thongs

Made in Australia, Oceania, 1977-1979.

This well worn example of Australian rubber thongs reflects not only a very popular type of footwear worn in Australia from the late 1950s, but illustrates how attached some wearers became to their thongs. Thongs came to represent the carefree way of life in Australia. Thongs were adopted as a symbol of beach culture so dear to the heart of many Australians. Australian feet became wider than other nations' feet due to the time spent barefoot or in sandals.The Australin sizing system now gives a...


Object No.


Object Statement

Thongs, rubber, unknown maker, 1977-1979

Physical Description

Thongs, rubber, unknown maker, 1977-1979.

Pair of rubber thongs with red soles and straps and white uppersoles. The straps are moulded with musical notation motifs. The thongs are very well worn to the point that the imprint of the heel and individual toes are worn into the red rubber. The right thong post has been repaired with wire.



20 mm


140 mm



Australia, Oceania 1977-1979


Thongs were manufactured by Dunlop in Australia in vast numbers during the 1960s and 1970s. The Japanese first influenced Australian thong wearing at the 1956 Olympics when Japanese swimmers used them beside the pool. In Australia they proved practical for hot tarmac and sand .

Engineer Jim Merser was in charge of perfecting thong design for Dunlop. The plugs would tend to pull out from the sole. So he designed and papented a cup shaped stopper which, when pulled, would widen across the sole so it did not pull out.



The Japanese first influenced Australian thong wearing at the 1956 Olympics when Japanes swimmers used thongs beside the pool. David Jones imported 10,000 pairs of thongs for a retail promotion and they sold so quickly they had to order 20,000 more fast. In Australia they were practical for hot tarmac and sand but they evolved into a cultural statement - defiant and anti establishment. They were subsequently banned from many venues and restaurants. Dunlop soon started to make their own thongs in the 1960s and some years sold more than a million pairs.

These thongs were bought in Australia in about 1978 for 99 cents by Mr A. Fuller and worn on a 6 month trip European trip in 1983. The trip was based around Belgrade, close to his favourite places - Greece, Sofia, and Vienna. Subsequently Mr Fuller wore them to drive around Australia. He mended the right thong post with wire.

On 21st July 1989 Mr Fuller wrote:
'For the past couple of years members of my family, frinds and acquaintances, and in one case an impertinent stranger, have all suggested that I give the enclosed thongs to a museum.
I don't agree with this suggestion; to my mind the thongs still have several years' wear in them. However recently the matter has been brought to a head; I have been given a new pair of thongs. So far as I can recall the enclosed thongs were brought round about 1978 for 99c. They have served me well including a six month or so visit to Europe and a drive around Australia. Anyway even if you throw the thongs in the waste paper basket immediately you open this packet, could you please let me have some sort of acknowledgement on your letterhead that I have given the thongs to you.
If you would kindly do this that should satisfy those people who have been harping at me for years to give the thongs to a museum. Thank you.'
Mr Fuller (b1925) was at this time a retired barrister from Devonport, Tasmania, whose cattle property, Troonar, lay between Latrobe and Railton.


Credit Line

Gift of A W Fuller, 1989

Acquisition Date

11 September 1989

Cite this Object


Worn rubber thongs 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 17 February 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Worn rubber thongs |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=17 February 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

Know more about this object?


Have a question about this object?