The Unexpected Revival of Birkenstocks.

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A decade ago if you asked anyone what they thought of Birkenstocks their answer would’ve probably included some contrarian remark about either dead heads, frat bros, or both. For at least some of us though, these connotations are now a thing of the past, as we have entered into a new era in which Birkenstocks are not only acceptable, but dare we say stylish.

First produced in Germany in 1774 by Johann Adam Birkenstock, the brand’s signature slip ons have been celebrated for centuries as some of the world’s most ergonomically advanced footwear. When they were introduced to the U.S. in the sixties, they were immediately polarizing, as those that adopted Birks praised their comfort, while those that disparaged the shoes wrote them off as being plain old ugly. The shoes outdoorsy fans could care less about their critics, and Birks became an integral part of this culture, which in turn actually helped to make the shoes fashionable as mountaineering style has become popular during the past few years.

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As pioneering shops like Nepenthes and Unionmade have begun to carry Birks, it has become quite clear that the shoes are now desirable not for their practicality but for their aesthetic. Of course, these are not the strapped sandals that most people associate with Jerry Garcia and poor hygiene, rather the #menswear approved Birkenstocks include more subversively stylish models like the Boston and Amsterdam, which are a closed toed, mule style shoe. These styles have become particularly popular in Japan, where Birkenstock Japan (which organized similarly to Red Wing Japan which operates with a much higher degree of autonomy to the mother brand) release some of the most sought after designs in the world. The American workwear, by way of Japan look doesn’t seem to be losing steam anytime soon, and so we would imagine Birkenstocks’ popularity will only grow from here. Just go easy with the patchouli. –JG

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Comments on “The Unexpected Revival of Birkenstocks.

    BlueTrain on March 26, 2014 10:31 AM:

    I’m gonna hold out until Earth Shoes come back. I don’t see any mountaineering connection, however.

    J Markley on March 26, 2014 12:43 PM:

    Love “hobbit shoes”.

    mason c on March 26, 2014 2:31 PM:

    are the top ones bostons? if so, any idea where to pick up those colours?

    Jefferson Burruss on March 26, 2014 6:39 PM:

    There is a lot of similarity between the classic Birkenstock wide strap leather sandals and some sandals that I’ve seen in Men’s collections for spring.

    Marylynn on March 26, 2014 9:58 PM:


    I dig it. Nothing sexier than a girl in Birkenstocks? I always felt self conscience with guys joking my birks. Now it’s cool WTF! Figure it out guys…..

    Terry on March 26, 2014 10:31 PM:

    Long-time fan of Birks. They last forever if cared for and resoled properly. Boston and London for work. Super Birki in the rain. Zurich around the house. The third photo looks like Dundee and Maine lace ups, which I’d very much like to try. Might be a good choice for someone who wants a classic Clarks look, but needs better support.

    Chris on March 27, 2014 1:43 AM:

    @masonc they’re called amsterdam room shoes.

    iblamesummers on March 27, 2014 10:41 AM:

    i never stopped wearing the pair of Birkenstock sandals i bought nearly 15 years ago intheTwinCities. super-quality footwear & brand.

    Ray Hull on March 27, 2014 3:54 PM:

    To me, they are painful. No sale. (wide and high: instep and arch)

    Bebe on March 28, 2014 3:07 AM:

    Frat bros? I never saw a single member of a fraternity wearing Birkenstocks at my private college or public grad school. Now, my friends and I did wear them (Arizona model) to the occasionally decent parties at those places of group conformity. I get the Dead heads and patchouli thing, though they were usually the Stuck-in-the-Sixties hippies with love beads. Even we made fun of them. We were into hiking though, so maybe there’s that “mountaineering” connection (but we used rough-out boots with Norwegian welts).

    It’s always hilarious to me when ACL notices some ancient line of clothing, and “re-discovers” it as suddenly marketable for its fashion aesthetic to the 20 and 30-somethings who shop at “pioneers” like Unionmade. Closed models of Birkenstocks have always been around. Kudos to ACL for great market research on its (probably) majority reader demographic. Still, I read ACL for moments like this one, so thanks kindly for the chuckle.

    @ Blue Train

    Kalso Earth shoes were very comfortable, though a little break-in period might have been needed for the negative heel. Unfortunately 2011 was the last year for men’s versions. You might try the website for your closest retailer, because the little store I’ve been to here in SoCal has dragged out a couple of dead-stock men’s shoes. And, if you can fit in them, there are a few of the women’s that aren’t totally “yoga class,” i.e., a couple of trainers, the old Trigg model, and the Pace.

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