Guy Trebay has a little “Noticed” story tucked in the back of the New York Times‘ Thursday Styles today, called “Even Macho Toes Like to Breathe,” about how Birkenstocks have become hip with hipster guys, thanks to the fact that “a posse of American fashion editors” have been having a moment with the thong style Birk (above).
I was going to write more about cellulite today because it’s been the theme of my week at Beauty U (stay tuned, you’ll get it next week) but instead, I have to drop everything and address this.
As I blogged a few weeks ago, I am a fairly shoe-obsessed person, in fact a reformed Shoe Astronaut — the type of woman who claims obviously uncomfortable shoes are so comfy because she wants you to think she’s just that hot. I’ve been working on this, embracing my love of Converse and other shoes that are comfy while still being cute, and no longer pretending that not-comfy shoes are anything other than an absurd indulgence.
(And I know you non-shoe people out there are like, What the what? How can uncomfortable shoes be an indulgence? When they are this pretty, is how. It’s the same part of your brain that says yes to the third mojito even though you know the hangover is now a foregone conclusion.)
So, okay, yay for me. But Birkenstocks, people? BIRKENSTOCKS. I’m having a very complicated reaction to this news.
Reaction #1: It’s just an indisputable fact that Birkenstocks are never going to shake their Hacky Sack associations. They don’t even want to! They’re too busy playing Hacky Sack. From today’s article: “It was never a goal of ours at Birkenstock to be fashionable with capital F,” said Shelly Glasgow, the director of product development for Birkenstock USA. No fear there, Shelly. And while I respect Hacky Sack-ing and the related fashion choices as a valid alternate lifestyle, I just linked to a $320 Kate Spade shoe. Also I have the hand-eye coordination of a drunk five-year-old. It’s not gonna be me.
Reaction #2: People are either Birk Lovers or Birk Haters and I’m a Birk Hater. Because of the above connotation issue and well, the general fugliness of the original Birks (I mean. What is this?). I think it comes down to the way they make people look all toes. Also, they are particularly popular among vegetarians, and I’m real pro-bacon. One of my best friends, K, recently promised to take a 75 minute train ride from her house to mine in order to smack me upside the head if she even sensed I was contemplating a Birkenstock purchase. Actually I requested that she promise to do this, because I was having a little panic attack (and purchasing a pair of blue wedge sandals to calm me down) after that whole Shoe Astronauts post.
Reaction #3: K, get on the train. Because I’m wavering. It started when I was doing some pulse-taking and figured out that not one, not two, but at least three of my other good friends — who are all extraordinarily stylish from the ankles up — have hopped on this Birk thong trend with glee and abandon. One of them is a lifelong Birk wearer, but the others are more recent adopters and they’re proud of it, thankyouverymuch. Suddenly, the Birk Lovers are outnumbering the Birk Haters in my life, which I guess just proves that this article is right. So now I’m thinking about this thong style with ripped, rolled up jeans and cute tops, and I’m like, well that’s kind of sweet. Ditto just-above-the-knee-length sundresses. What is happening here?!
Reaction #4: Hating Birkenstocks is maybe kinda pointless. I mean, they’re just ugly (and maybe not even all that ugly now that I know they come in lavender, plus, I know, I know, ugliness is totally subjective, aren’t I always the one telling you that?). They don’t hurt anyone.
And the whole love/hate Birk thing is really about finding your social norms and clinging to them, even when they stop making so much sense. I don’t want to be that girl. I’m just not sure I’m a Birk girl. Even if the creative director at Lucky says they’re cool.
Though I admit that’s really helping me out.
Okay, let’s hear it. Where do you stand on Birks? Have they become hip and are you okay with that? Am I being horribly Beauty Industrial Complex-indoctrinated to be so anti-Birk? Or is that okay because it really is a travesty, what they do to people’s toes?
Oh God. I just looked at them on Zappos where you can see all the shoe at all angles, and I have serious concerns about what they do to ankles, too.
[Photo of the Lavender Natural Leather Luxor Birkenstock, from Birkenstock, obviously. PS. I wear a size 6.5.]