Maybe if God had been into acrylics, Charlie Carr wouldn’t have had to invent the strapless sandals that stick to your soles. But Charlie always liked to go barefoot, and he didn’t much care for cut feet. So when the onetime waiter and real estate salesman fled hectic L.A. for Hawaii, he took with him a plan to save soles. That was in 1973. Two years later he perfected a nongluey acrylic adhesive that makes his Sole Sucker sandals cling to your feet and follow you everywhere. “It feels like you’re barefoot, but God gave you a vinyl cushion,” says marketing ace Robert Warren, who joined with Carr, now 36, and money man Earl Russell to found the sandal-making firm known as Cheap Charlie’s.
Admittedly, Sole Suckers may look just a little too basic for some customers, who can’t believe that a shoe with no visible means of support won’t simply flop off when put to the test. That’s where model Diane Beers comes in. She’s the designated Sole Sucker wearer at Hilo Hattie’s and several other Hawaiian tourist shops. “My favorite part of the job is running up and down the aisles for the customers,” she says. Beers has no trouble keeping her Suckers on; the secret is the patented adhesive, which sticks to her feet without leaving a residue. “The magic combination is clean, dry feet and clean, dry sandals,” says Warren. No problem, says Beers. “I’ve used Comet and a scrub brush, and it hasn’t affected the adhesive. You don’t want anything to come between your skin and the shoes.”
Naturally, Charlie Carr feels the same way. Living comfortably in Lanikai, just outside Honolulu, he looks on with paternal pride as a factory in L.A. churns out his footloose footwear, which costs $9 a pair in Hawaii. More than a million pairs are already out there somewhere, and distributors and foot fetishists in all 50 states are gearing up for a long strapless summer.