I was in a meeting with a bunch of enviros, and I spent some time analyzing the footwear of all the attendees. Around the table it went like this: Teva, Birkenstock, Keen, Keen, Birkenstock. From what I’ve observed during my (admittedly brief) foray into the environmental nonprofit world, these three brands represent the holy trinity of footgarb. Naturally, there are other footwear options, but the incidence of these particular brands is much higher in the environmental community than in the community at large. All of this really got me thinking: What is this meeting about?
I wore Birkenstocks religiously from age 16 to 19 when I fancied myself a hippie. I wore them barefoot in the summer and with wool hiking socks in the winter. You know, because sexy. I was looking for photographic evidence to include in this post, but somehow, I possess no pictures of myself that show my feet lovingly caressed by leather and cork. However, my sister searched her archives and provided me with this gem (in the dark recesses of this picture one can, just barely, make out my sweet three-strap Birks):
This picture raises so many questions. Why do I look so angry? Is that fist intended to menace the photographer? Why are my legs so tan? On a related note, why does my face look so pale? Does my nose still look that big? Is that a friendship bracelet or a Swatch? Are those acid wash jorts? And why are they undone? Was I gassy? Too much after-school cheese, perhaps? Also, in case you were wondering, I grew out of that awkward phase. For reference, here’s what I look like today:
But I digress. The point is: Birkenstocks. I loved them. I loved them so much. I had three pairs. I even had them resoled when they wore too thin. They were incredibly comfortable and projected the tree hugging hippie image I so desperately wanted to cultivate. Look, I also rocked an unshorn armpit region, so I was heavily invested in this enterprise.
My Birkenstocks phase lasted through college, at which point I got into footwear that didn’t register so obviously as hippie or, rather, as unfathomably ugly. My Birks went unworn for years before I finally sent them on to Goodwill. By that point, my high heeled boots had become number one in my heart. Every once in a while I would long for the tickle of leather across my feet, or the sensual embrace of a cork sole imbued with years of compressed toe jam. But, for real, my stumpy legs need the kind of elongating help that Birks are not equipped to provide.
So, imagine my horror when one of my favorite fashion bloggers, Garance Dore, proclaimed that Birkenstocks are making a comeback in fashion circles. Now, she actually sounded the alarm last year, but I ignored it on account of NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Convinced that lovely Garance had just been brainwashed by the Fashion Illuminati, I did a little digging. And it turns out, this is actually a thing.
Exhibit B: The Daily Beast designated this summer as The Season We All Started Wearing Birkenstocks Again. Speak for yourself, Beast.
Exhibit C: Even Glamour got in on the action, reporting that Birks have been embraced by fashion designers, editors, and even Hollywood celebs.
Exhibit D: Vogue is the worst of the bunch, tracing the current Birks trend back to this Celine Spring 2013 monstrosity:
Because I try to maintain some immunity to the changing whims of the fashion world, I am not about to go and get a pair of Birks. However, because I’m enmeshed in the Birk-friendly environmental nonprofit world, AND because they are Vogue-certified stylin’, there is a teeny tiny part of me that wishes I’d kept one pair tucked away. Just in case.
I mean, they are SUPER comfy.