The key of Birkenstock’s enduring success

Written by Helen Jennings, CNN

Pandemic restrictions have meant one factor for many wardrobes: consolation. As many people proceed to do business from home — and staying secure with a visit to the park stays the peak of summer time’s social calendar — wise flat sandals are actually extra pervasive than ever.

And, it appears, the last word expression of this phenomenon is a pair of Birkenstocks.

Final month British Vogue declared Birkenstocks the official sandal of 2020, whereas trend search engine Lyst reported that they’d grow to be the platform’s most searched-for shoe. In the meantime fashions Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid and Kaia Gerber have all stepped out in theirs — with and with out socks. Not unhealthy for a shoe that claims to have at all times put its orthopedic prowess above its trend enchantment.

Kendall Jenner wearing Birkenstocks with socks in SoHo, New York City

Kendall Jenner sporting Birkenstocks with socks in SoHo, New York Metropolis Credit score: Raymond Corridor/GC Pictures/Getty Pictures

Earlier than Ugg, Crocs, Hasbeens and Fitflop, there was Birkenstock. With its tagline “usually copied, by no means equaled,” the storied model’s lineage goes again over two centuries. Now, in these occasions of uncertainty, there’s something reassuringly dependable about this sturdy sandal.

With its boat-like pure cork, jute and latex sole and chunky buckled straps, Birkenstocks make an anti-fashion assertion that transcends traits — but in some way retains managing to set them.

Origins of consolation

The earliest information of the household shoe enterprise date again to Johann Adam Birkenstock, who labored as a cobbler in Langen-Bergheim, Germany in 1774. By 1896 his grandson, Frankfurt-based shoemaker Konrad, had opened two shops and launched the fussbett (footbed), anatomically formed insoles that assist and kind to your foot. By 1925 they have been being bought throughout Europe.

The corporate expanded into week-long instructional programs for medical professionals on the musculoskeletal and circulation advantages of its specialist footwear. Then in 1947 Konrad’s son Carl printed the e book “Podiatry — The Carl Birkenstock System,” expounding his method to supporting one’s “pure gait” to realize wholesome ft. This was the primary of a number of Birkenstock textbooks and manuals stuffed with bracing concepts — resembling strolling barefoot in nature and soaking ft in spruce needle salts and chilly water.

Attendees at a Birkenstock training course, 1935

Attendees at a Birkenstock coaching course, 1935 Credit score: BIRKENSTOCK

The Sixties proved to be the making of Birkenstock as we all know it right this moment. In 1963 Carl’s son Karl launched the primary sandal, the single-strap Madrid, initially marketed as a gymnastics shoe and nonetheless a key fashion right this moment. Three years later, Margot Fraser, a German dressmaker dwelling in California, was holidaying again house — drawn as many have been to the nation’s no-nonsense sanatoriums (austere precursors to the trendy spa) — and was really useful a pair of Madrids as remedy for her aching ft.

Birkenstock ad from 1968

Birkenstock advert from 1968 Credit score: BIRKENSTOCK

Instantly smitten, she approached the household to grow to be the model’s first US distributor. Fraser initially struggled to drum up curiosity from shoe sellers, and ended up discovering a spot for the sandals at well being meals shops as an alternative.

Right here hippies found them snuggled subsequent to nutritional vitamins and dried lentils, and because the Summer season of Love unfolded, Birkenstocks turned the shoe of alternative for beatniks from San Francisco to Vermont. This new-found cool did not cease the model’s catalogs from selling the sneakers to everybody — housewives, golfers, docs and cooks come all.

The 2-strap Arizona sandal arrived in 1973, which turned — and stays — the model’s bestselling fashion.

Birkenstock wearers at a German foowear fair, 1972

Birkenstock wearers at a German foowear truthful, 1972 Credit score: BIRKENSTOCK

Counterculture couture

Over time many subcultures have embraced Birkenstocks as a part of a uniform, from surfers and skaters to Deadheads, however it took till 1990 for top trend to completely take discover. The pattern (like many from that decade) originated with Kate Moss. {The teenager} posed for photographer Corinne Day’s July cowl shoot for The Face journal sporting Birkenstocks on the seashore. This youthquake second led to Marc Jacobs selecting the sandal for his Spring-Summer season 1993 grunge assortment present for Perry Ellis, and shortly the shoe was duly adopted by school college students and musicians to enhance their plaid shirts and child doll attire.

A model wears the classic two-strap Arizona sandal for a Birkenstock poster, 1991

A mannequin wears the traditional two-strap Arizona sandal for a Birkenstock poster, 1991 Credit score: BIRKENSTOCK

A decade later Birkenstock noticed one other spike in standing because of West London A-listers together with Jude Regulation and Jade Jagger, then Gwyneth Paltrow, who made headlines for foregoing heels in favor of those flats throughout her time in Britain’s capital in 2002.

Two years later Heidi Klum launched her personal limited-edition sandals, that includes biker studded leather-based and distressed denim. (In tandem with these movie star endorsements, the noughties have been additionally a time when the pejorative time period “Birkenstock liberal” was utilized by conservatives to invoke the stereotype of a granola-eating, Volvo-driving do-gooder.)

Gigi Hadid in double denim and Birkenstocks

Gigi Hadid in double denim and Birkenstocks Credit score: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Pictures

These seemingly incongruous fanbases are what makes Birkenstocks so bulletproof. The nonetheless family-owned, nonetheless German-made model (it has 4 factories throughout the nation) has traditionally put little emphasis on advertising and marketing or endorsements.

That did not cease planet trend calling once more in 2012 when Phoebe Philo invented the Furkenstock — a black Arizona lined in mink fur — for CĂ©line’s Spring-Summer season 2013 assortment. This immediately sparked a tsunami of demand and different manufacturers, specifically Givenchy, Giambattista Valli and Pimples, to comply with swimsuit with different luxurious variations. By the point normcore landed in 2014 — a pattern wedded to fugly, non-descript footwear — Birkenstock discovered itself driving yet one more sartorial wave.

Proenza Schouler Spring-Summer 2020 show at New York Fashion Week

Proenza Schouler Spring-Summer season 2020 present at New York Style Week Credit score: Matteo Carcelli/Getty Pictures

Since then, underneath the watchful gaze of present CEOs Oliver Reichert and Markus Bensberg — who helm on behalf of Karl’s sons — the enterprise has grown exponentially. It’s now distributing to over 100 nations and presents round 800 types — together with the tried and trusted Gizeh thong sandal, and Boston clog — all of which keep unwaveringly true to the footbed. Its in style vegan vary has received awards, and the model has additionally moved into different classes together with (precise) beds and pure cosmetics.

Future fashion

The corporate’s latest initiatives are 1774, its Paris studio that manages premium collaborations, and Birkenstock Field, a “cellular, spatial retail idea” that pops up world wide in partnership with idea shops resembling Andreas Murkudis in Berlin. Certainly one of 1774’s relationships is with Rick Owens, whose gender fluid aesthetic presents an apparent synergy. The designer first put his uncompromising spin on Birkenstock for the Spring-Summer season 2019 season. Present designs embody the Rotterhiker boot and Rotterdam sandal with sturdy rubber straps. “Mainly Birkenstocks are like denims, purposeful and attractive. Possibly Birkenstock are even the sexiest sneakers ever,” Owens advised GQ Germany.

An attendee at the Pitti Uomo 94 fashion trade show in Florence.

An attendee on the Pitti Uomo 94 trend commerce present in Florence. Credit score: Matthew Sperzel/Getty Pictures

Valentino has joined 1774 too, which has resulted in a clear, tonal Arizona in purple and black. The model’s artistic director Pierpaolo Piccioli additionally developed an acid-yellow pair for Frances McDormand to put on along with her Valentino high fashion robe to the 2019 Oscars. “I’ve worn Arizona sandals for many of my grownup life. They’ve actually shaped me bodily and philosophically… The spark caught hearth and there is no going again,” stated the actor in a press assertion.

A model in Birkenstocks at the Rick Owens show, Paris Fashion Week  Spring-Summer 2019

A mannequin in Birkenstocks on the Rick Owens present, Paris Style Week Spring-Summer season 2019 Credit score: Peter White/Getty Pictures

In the meantime Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez have reinvented each the Arizona and the ankle-strapped Milano with Velcro fastenings and distinction prime stitching.

However that is to not say the model has lastly succumbed to leaping on each trendy bandwagon. It is extensively reported that it has turned down avenue fashion giants Supreme and cult model Vetements as a result of a collaboration would have resulted in little greater than brand placement.

Central Saint Martins student Alex Wolfe's "Moto" Birkenstock sandal design

Central Saint Martins pupil Alex Wolfe’s “Moto” Birkenstock sandal design Credit score: Matteo Carcelli

A cannier partnership is Birkenstock’s instructional mission with London’s Central Saint Martins. First the BA trend historical past and idea college students have been invited to analysis the model’s prolific archives, then the MA trend college students got here up with progressive designs. 4 graduates’ types have been proven on the 2020 MA present and they’re now as a consequence of go on sale subsequent February. Certainly one of which, the Moto sandal by Alex Wolfe, takes its cues from motocross boots and covers the decrease leg in multi-colored, wing-like shin braces.

“Investing in and connecting with future abilities is working with free spirits. A precedence for a democratic model that embraces all like Birkenstock. The scholars confirmed a real understanding of design and delivered a convincing finish outcome,” stated Reichert. Maybe an outdated canine can study new tips in spite of everything.

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