The Birkenstock is Back in Town

I noticed something peculiar in my religion class the other day: Almost every foot was clad in a Birkenstock sandal. I’ve been slowly
adjusting to the idea that Birkenstocks are cool again—but, of course, ‘cool’ is always subjective. Being given the it-status by the fashion world doesn’t always guarantee an item will be seen in the same way by the general public.

Regardless, it is hard to
ignore the shoe’s resurgence in popularity, both among the Claremont populace and in the world of trendsetting celebrities. My mother always said Birkenstocks were for the ‘granola-y’ type, implying an ex-Deadhead
or wannabe bohemian free spirit. When
the likes of Miranda Kerr, Alexa Chung
and the Olsen sisters start to incorporate Birkenstocks into their wardrobe, though, it’s clear that these shoes no longer belong only to flower children and beatniks. Like ’em or hate ’em, these comfortable sandals now carry serious indie fashion cred.

In the spirit of Regina George, I still can’t decide if
Birkenstock sandals are just plain fugly,
or if they are utilitarian and stylish. I swing more on the side of the former, but can’t help but wonder if the shoes are as comfortable as their uncomely cousin, the Ugg boot. Perhaps, like Uggstheir popularity is solely due to
the comfort level provided, negating the need for aesthetic craftsmanship. 

I face the same dilemma as many people do in this age
of mass production and consumption: Do I buy a pair just because everyone
else has them? Moreover, do I disregard my own sense of style to fit in? So, dear readers, journey with me as I attempt to
discover whether Birkenstocks actually have the potential to enhance a well-crafted
outfit or if we as a society have merely given in to comfort, accessibility and
an undemanding design.

On the subject of design, the bottom of the shoe creates one of my biggest hang-ups. Try as I might, I just can’t embrace the corkboard—known as the footbed to Birkenstock elites. Taken with the leather straps, it strikes me as an odd combination, reminiscent of swinging a ratty backpack on top of an elegant dress—a pairing I’ve unfortunately noticed on campus. 

Once I get past the oddity of
the cork footbed, I have to admit that I really do like the newer styles that Birkenstock has
created. The Gizeh, Kairo and Mayari are attractively designed and aesthetically pleasing. On a side note, I really dig the
naming choices of the newest sandals. The names conjure up images of ancient
temples, sandy beaches and cavernous lakes and waterfalls, making me want to buy a plane ticket and a pair of Birks and go adventuring. 

But back to talking about the actual shoe: The Madrid has the feeling of the popular Chloé mules that are ever-present in high fashion editorials. To be
honest, those mules were abhorrent at first sight but have since grown on me. Perhaps the Madrid will too.

If these four designs were scrapped, though, I have a hard time imagining that the other
types of sandals offered by the company could complement an outfit that might grace the pages of The Sartorialist or W. Birkenstock’s other creations are no better—the London and the Boston are terrible combinations of a
clog, a mule and an open-backed sandal.  

But maybe that’s the entire point of
the shoe: It doesn’t aspire to heights of great fashion; it’s content with normalcy. Normcore is a hot
trend right now, thanks, in part, to the comfortable aesthetic that goes along with it. 

With Normcore, though, it is incredibly easy to traverse into the
territory of plain laziness and uncreativity. The idea of creativity in one’s own personal style is highly important; I think of style as a reflection of one’s identity. So, if adding a pair of Birkenstocks to your outfit embodies you as a person, then I suppose they
are okay. 

My opinion on various fashion items is constantly changing. I used to hate Dr. Martens because of the enormous shape of the toe, but I now own several pairs. Not only are they damn comfortable and
supportive, but the style has grown on me and fits like a puzzle piece into my style of
dress. I hope that I will change my mind about Birkenstocks, but for now
they remain only a slightly better option than my least favorite footwear: creepers, kitten heels,
nurse’s mules, wedged sneakers and the ubiquitous Uggs.

Chabrina Bruno PO ’15 is a religious studies major with a minor in studio art. She loves to collect vintage clothing and jewelry.  

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