The footwear that was synonymous with Lilith Fair and hacky sack players of our generation is making a comeback in modern fashion. Birkenstocks were unembellished leather sandals that skyrocketed to popularity in the 1990s. Their earthy look fit in with the low-maintenance, grunge style and hippie resurgence of the era. Record has it that they are also the most universally comfortable sandal that anyone ever wore, due to a unique cork sole that would conform to the foot.
Subtly Defying the Rules of 90s Fashion
Much of 90s fashion was based in gaudy patterns and neon colors, not subdued shades of brown. Hi-top sneakers, Doc Martens and Converse All-Stars dominated the footwear fashion trends, but somehow these clunky, unassuming sandals were on everyone’s feet at some point by the time the decade was finished. No one was ready to argue that Birkenstocks were a profound expression of one’s individuality through fashion, but who could deny how good they looked with a comfy pair of jeans?
A German import, Birkenstocks first became popular in the States in the the late 60s and have long since been associated with the hippie counterculture that was originally so fond of the shoes. The über-comfortable footwear was commonly worn by people in active positions at work, such as waitresses, nurses and marijuana dealers.
The Stigma Since
Birkenstocks are utterly iconic, but that’s not necessarily a good thing for the brand. A person wearing Birkenstock sandals evokes ideas of die-hard liberalism, tofu consumption, dreadlocks and protest signs. Merely strapping one’s feet into a set of comfortable footwear can apply the headstrong "let me educate you" impression of any second-year Poli-Sci student with an agenda.
Birkenstocks have been slowly creeping their way back into mainstream media and the consciousness of modern consumers. Perhaps the most recognizable instance of Birkenstock pride in recent media was The Office’s Dwight Schrute declaring that he had an "extra pair in the car" in the event that a more special occasion should arise. The shoes have also made typecast costuming appearances in liberal-parody movies and television shows such as 2006’s Thank You for Smoking and IFC’s Portlandia.
More fashion-forward wearers like the Olsen twins indicate that Birks are making a more mainstream comeback.
The Return of the Understated
Not just seen on celebrity feet, this is a bonafide comeback. The very-in-the-know gals at fashion blog, Stylebriefs.com, predicted the trend back in February of this year. In recent years, the Birkenstock company has been slowly clamoring its way back into the solar powered, renewable energy spotlight. With more varied color options and an ever-so-slightly more forward sense of style, Birkenstock sandals are making a strong comeback in the wake of the 90s nostalgia wave. Check out these examples (found on Pinterest) of modern styling of this 90s classic.
Heavy, Chunky-Heeled Shoes