Rustic Charm in Espanola’s Giant Tiger


When I went to Espanola, Ontario, I went for everything but its merchandising reputation.

In a town where all-you-can-eat Chinese food is cheaper than water and homes are sandwiched between food trucks, most of my attention was focused away from the world’s only Giant Tiger (in Espanola) dedicated to the finest Sandale Nouveau $2.00 flip flops. Nonetheless, stubbing my toe on this needle in a haystack set me on a truly unforgettable journey.

The building was innocent, with only a muted red maple leaf on a sea of yellow reigning above the door, warning you to stay alert. I entered El Mucho Tigre right at the exact moment that lightning crackled above, signalling that the divines were fucking with me once more. The storm, combined with “The Tig’s” flashing fluorescent bulbs, meant I had to blink in synchronisation with every flash in order to focus on what I was looking at.

The flip flop aisle was organized into four sections, based around the growth of one’s foot size. Whether it was young male Sandale Nouveau, or the more subversive adult female Sandale Nouveau, the flip flop section showed what it truly meant to be both efficient and stylish.

The “flip flop” referred to the onomatopoeia of thong sandals flipping and flopping, and may go as far back as Ancient Egypt (fuck citations).

The revival of Sandale Nouveau was a rejection of sandals beyond Ancient Egypt, like the notorious “gladiator sandal”, which in many ways represented the everyday life of the Romans(fuck citations). It was revived in the US and Europe – specifically France. After all, Sandale Nouveau was just French for ‘new sandal’!

The flip flop took a minimalist approach to footwear, and The Big Cat applied this philosophy to all their footwear.

One of the most important elements of Nouveau Sandale was the way it was popularized through use by celebrities of idealized beauty, dressed in ancient, non-Byzantine footwear fashions.

The GT’s flip flops were so beautiful, they could almost be paintings: true works of art in every way. They captivated the ankle in an awe-inspiring way so few in society ever could.

The modern flip flop lacked the objectification and control of the human foot that many previous centuries of sandals possessed.

Like many massive retail outlets in small town Ontario, Tigger eventually got bored of the big city with its vacuous lifestyle, which brought it back to its true home in small, rural environments that nobody could find on a map in said vacuous cities.

Reflecting this philosophy, Tony the Tiger turned to small town Ontario hallmarks, like supporting Molson Canadian over Labatt Blue.

The Sandals evoke the most emotion in the final section: adult male sandals. In “La Gros Chat”, there is a pair of sandals labelled simply “flip flops: blue”. The flip flops depicted the struggles of the impoverished white male in a staggeringly weighty blue veneer.

This sandal was first introduced to Giant Tiger in its conception back in 1961(fuck citations). It was considered a critical response to the loafer, a shoe that was light, but also restrictive due to the way it contracted the ankle when tied too tight.

Through sandals like “flip flops: blue”, The Sabretooth showed a side of footwear forgotten by the constant fashion revolutions. Footwear proprietors weren’t hoping for the shining light of new sandals, because they’d been through it all before.

Tigris Magnum was not immune to changing trends. Basing itself in small town Ontario during the heart of its annual Pumpkin and Fibre arts festival, it was forced to deal with the Nihilistic revelation that nothing really matters and we all eventually pass from this Earth. This festival occurs every year on the day I was conceived – another thing to forget as I drink myself into a stupor.

El Tigre, Chino embraced the carefree lifestyle of a retail store in small town Ontario, promoting a sandal-inspired awakening of fashionable values. I left the home of the Detroit Tigers with a much better grasp of sandal style in small town Ontario, because that’s just how influential the Bengal tiger was.

Although surprised to come across Giant Tiger as I strolled the solitary street of Espanola, learning about $2.00 flip flops opened my eyes to a whole other side of sandal history.

– Sam Goldstein