Birkenstocks—because it’s apparently still an issue

Emma Knudson, Staff Writer

They’ve been around longer than you probably think. 1774, to be exact (check their website, it’s true). But we still talk about them as if they’re this new, crunchy-granola, henna-appropriating fad that everyone either drools over or rolls their eyes at.

They’ve become a cultural icon for the 2010 decade as a shoe that “every basic girl wears.”

People think that if you’re wearing them, no matter the style, they can make a reasonable assumption that the wearer, at one point in time, referred to himself or herself as a “flower child” or considered going raw-food vegan for a second or two.

I have the stereotypes of the typical Birkenstock-wearer ingrained in my brain. And I even wear them on a regular (daily) basis.

When I go back to my hometown in Montana, people take one glance down at the Birks on my feet, look back up and say, “You’ve really become a liberal Oregonian, haven’t you?” This chortle, they assume, frees them from the same judgment despite their own stereotypical pitfalls.

Did they forget that they still haven’t made their payment on their jacked-up Dodge diesel truck? Because I haven’t. But it’s comical how visceral our reactions can be to well-known articles of clothing.

People have always placed their stereotypes on articles of clothing. That’s why those “starter pack” memes became so popular: everyone knew the stereotypes.

So if someone wants to look at my Birkenstocks and call me granola, I’m okay with that. It won’t make the shoes any less comfortable. And I’m sure my Montana friends feel the same way about their Carhartt’s or their Buff’s.

At the end of the day, I think Birkenstocks are pretty great. They’re a comfortable, trendy way to spend around $100 dollars to look a little biblical. And I think the stereotypes behind them are funny. Mainly because I see people of all kinds wearing them, and laughing at themselves for it.

I’ve seen Star Wars-junkies wearing them, jocks perpetually carrying around gallon-jugs of water around every day wearing them, and even classy socialites strolling with their purse-dog names Winifred or Jameson wearing them.

Birkenstocks are for the people. So why are we still talking about them?

I’m not asking because my feelings are hurt or I feel like there’s a level of character assassination in my choice to wear them. I’m wondering because some people find a real issue with them. Like, blood-boiling issue. Which I don’t understand.

Maybe it’s because it’s easy to laugh about it. They’re shoes, it’s harmless, and people enjoy projecting their stereotypes onto a branded object.

Take watches, for example. Nearly everyone owns one in some form, but who do you picture when you hear that the watch is a Rolex? What about those $15 Timex watches from Walmart with a velcro strap? I wouldn’t say watches produce a reaction like Birkenstocks, but you get the idea.

I feel like these people who actively hate Birkenstocks either hate them because everyone has a pair and their MO is to hate mainstream products, or are the people who, themselves, wear the same thing everyday. Like black Nike mid-socks or Chacos.

It’s all-relative. And it’s all pretty comical. But I’ll still wear my Birkenstocks. And if you’re wary about wearing them because of the social stigma, don’t be: you do you.

If you’re one of the people whose blood pressure rises at the sight of Birkenstocks, you do you as well. That’s the beauty of America, consumerism rooted in individualism with a pinch of narcissism all wrapped up in staunch and passionate opinions.