Typically, the Pacific Northwest isn’t known for fashion icons and trending flair. Here, we dress for the weather. We dress for comfort. It’s not that we aren’t fashionable, we definitely are. We just aim to meld the beauty of style with function.
And that’s probably why Birkenstock shoes are a staple in so many closets throughout Washington. They’re just a smart choice.
But when does a smart footwear choice cross the line and become a super trend or, dare I say, embody a cult-like following?
Well, I think we’re about to witness it.
Next time you’re out and about, assess the footwear of those around you. Do you sense a theme? A Birkenstock theme?
For years I scoffed at the Birkenstock style. No way could these sandals be categorized as fashionable. They were home shoes, garden shoes … not going out shoes! The signature Birkenstock footbeds, soles, and broken in leather held a certain mode of comfort. Maybe even an aged style. Like an old, baggy sweatshirt that was well-loved, maybe even cherished, but definitely wouldn’t appear at something like a wedding.
But wait. Can Birkenstocks make an appearance in a wedding?
"I've worm them in a wedding as maid of honor!" said Melissa Moore, a proud owner of three pairs. "Camping, walking around Disneyland...I currently have black Gizehs, silver Mayaris and brown Granada, but have had several [other]pairs over the years.”
And Moore isn’t the only one, I’ve seen Birkenstock-clad feet on many wedding guests, especially outdoor weddings. Church and parties too! And these days, about everywhere in between. No doubt, Birkenstocks are making a comeback. Or, perhaps it’s considered more of a re-infusion thanks to their huge selection of styles and colors being picked up by major retailers like Amazon and Nordstrom.
Birkenstocks are nothing new though. In fact, they date back to 1774. Germany’s prized shoe brand made its way to the US in 1966 and in the last few years their popularity has swelled.
Just this summer Layla Laurence added a new pair of Birkenstocks to her collection.
“I’m obsessed with the waterproof Birkenstocks," she said. "I don’t care if they look like Birks and Crocs had a love child. They are all I wear!”
One thing is for sure, everyone I spoke with talks about their Birkenstocks with adoration and many exclamation points. Have you ever felt such love for a shoe? If not, maybe it’s time to take the Birkenstock plunge!
Personally, I fondly recall my grandmother having a pair of Birkenstocks; a pair she purchased on a trip to Germany. I had a pair as a child - neon green because I was 90s like that - and then a basic pair of thrifted Arizonas in college. These days my collection is up to five, but most days you’ll find me rocking metallic gold Gizehs. It’s those updated colorways and chic-er styles that have allowed Birkenstocks to go more mainstream, in my opinion. And like Laurence, I recently added a pair of the waterproof Arizonas and I’m loving those as well.
In my quest to learn why Birkenstocks are so dearly loved and accepted as footwear for every day of the year I heard over and over just how comfortable they are … after a short breaking in period that is. Thanks to their arch support, roomy toe box, shock absorbing sole, and leather material, Birkenstocks literally mold to your feet. That’s right, they hug your footbed in a unique, supportive way and thus, become the most comfortable shoe of all time.
"I have 20+ pairs!" one Chloe Kadel confessed, who is blessed to live near a Birkenstock outlet while her family served in the military overseas. Hop a flight to Germany, folks, THAT is where to stock up on the best of Birkenstocks for only 20 euros a pop!
Kadel isn’t alone in her Birkenstock collecting, Cindy Burrell believes she has around 80 pairs. Eighty! I asked if she had a favorite among them and she couldn’t pinpoint just one.
And I concur, the comfort of Birkenstocks make them, hands down, my favorite shoe of all time.
So, there you have it. What’s the deal with Birkenstocks and their mass of followers? It’s the comfort. Comfort wins by a landslide.
P.S. If your first (or 80th) pair of Birkenstocks are on your wish list and you have a Costco membership, run to Costco.com. The women’s Gizeh style is available in two colors for just $55 which is a mega steal!