Birkenstocks: the trendy shoe that lasts a lifetime


You may have seen these peculiar two strap sandals called “Birkenstocks” trending on campus and possibly the fashion realm. How did these become so widely popular?

Well, according to the Birkenstocks website, it all started back in Langenberg, Germany.

In 1896, Konrad Birkenstock developed the special “contoured footbeds” inspired by his shoemaker grandfather Johann Adam Birkenstock, from whom the name is derived. Konrad took Birkenstocks to another level by creating their arch support into a factory-made commodity. Karl Birkenstock developed the inserts for these shoes, and created the original prototype of the shoe in 1964, according to an article in the Titusville Herald.

Today, Birkenstocks is headquartered in Germany. The company sells shoes and its notable sandals, which have “contoured” cork and rubber footbeds. These footbeds are unique because they mold to a wearers’ foot. Some insist Birkenstocks are heinous, but they clearly haven’t tried a pair.

You can thank the shoes’ integration into the American market to Margot Fraser. The German-born Santa Cruz, California native came across these sandals on a trip back to Germany and wanted them in U.S. stores. Although at first many stores felt people would not like these sandals and would perceive them as ugly, they were still introduced and many were “smitten.”

Birkenstocks have had a slow progression into the fashion industry. As a self-proclaimed fashionista, I was really never exposed to Birkenstocks until walking through the K-State campus, where my affinity to the sandals can be linked to the most likely mere-exposure effect.

The New York Times article “Thank you for insulting our sandals,” helps indicate that Birkenstocks’ popularity has been cascading into American culture for quite some time. Whether it be ex-Lakers coach Phil Jackson wearing a pair from the sideline, the Olsen twins or Dwight Schrute of the Office who wears Birkenstocks with socks to events and even has an additional pair in his car for “special occasions,” according to the New York Times article.

Birkenstocks are no longer perceived as, “Granola-crunching, Volvo-driving fill-in-the blank stereotype” which the company finds entertaining since it gets more press. Birkenstocks are now cool.

Their coolness can also be thanked to Céline’s creative director Phoebe Philo who introduced a chic, luxe interpretation of these originally “jolie laide,” or “pretty ugly” shoes, according to the Vogue website. The late Giambattista Vali also deserves praise for creating a metallic pair of Birkenstock-inspired sandals with studs on them for $850 in 2012, according to the Bloomberg Business website.

Even Target jumped on this trend last summer when Sam & Libby released Ashland Studded Sandals that combined the look of Rachel Zoe’s Berk and Vali’s sandals, which cost $30. I spent my entire last summer living in these sandals. On the other hand, Birkenstocks aren’t cheap, and they start at $100. My suggestion for buying Birkenstocks or Birkenstock-inspired sandals is to invest in a pair that suit your style, whether it be monochromatic, floral or metallic. Know that “replica” designs aren’t ripping off the shoe since the shoes are patented to start with, and it’s “practically impossible to copyright a shoe’s shape.”

For those who wear “Birks” already and have an affinity for the shoe and the shape, avoid the socks with shoes trend. There is absolutely no reason to wear sandals until its warm. Wearing Birkenstocks with socks make you look like Dwight Schrute from the Office and even more, they look like high school boys who think wearing Adidas or Nike sandals and tube-socks are cool. Instead it looks tacky and overdone.

What’s really cool is what Vogue offers as a solution to the overdone Birk look: a fresh pedicure and a cute dress or tailored pants (I often prefer baggy trousers to keep the look cool). Fashion assistant Emma Morrison had it right when she said, “There’s nothing better than a really pretty dress with an ugly shoe.”