Today, our society faces such a dwelling debate: to Birkenstock, or not? More and more each day, birks are resurfacing and appearing on the feet of many celebrities and comfort-loving people. Made in Germany, these shoes may seem ugly, but they are literally pillows on your feet. After about a week, they perfectly contour the shape of your foot–which personally makes me walk comfortably and confidently. But, some critics persist: these shoes may be comfortable, but they aren’t cute. Will we ever agree on the fate of these shoes?
I had Birkenstocks in 5th grade when it was considered “cool” and “trendy.” I loved my birks then because they were comfortable and fashionable. My feet were cozy and supported every day of my awkward 5th grade life. Honestly, I was quite hurt when I saw them go out of style and was forced to put them in the back of my closet when moving onto middle school because I wasn’t ready to give up the comfort for the sake of fashion. But now, they have resurfaced and people (even Heidi Klum aka international supermodel) are starting to wear them more often to the point that they have become almost fashionable.
This made me wonder, why would I, as the little 6th grader that I was, force myself to give up a pair of shoes that gave me so much comfort just because they were deemed as “unfashionable” and “out of style.” So, this summer before I left for my camp counselor job in Vermont, I decided that even though my friends may say they’re “disgustingly ugly,” I was going to buy another pair of birks for a little fashion experiment.
When I arrived in Vermont, wow oh wow did my birks thrive. I looked around on my days off–people wearing birks everywhere. It was so normal to wear birkenstocks, and my feet loved me for it. My freshman year at college, I mostly wore the classic “southern choice” of shoe: Jack Rogers. But when I wore my birks almost every day I thought–why would I ever choose any other shoe? My Jacks made my feet hurt and callous, but my birks made my feet comfortable–and myself confident as a result! I found out that my friends at camp, who mostly went to New England schools, all loved Birkenstocks, and couldn’t fathom how my friends from school thought they were ugly. My friend even said that at her school in Vermont, birkenstocks are “basically worshipped.”
But, when I got back to school, I got some hate for my birks. Turns out, camp fashion and school fashion do not match up. This was a hard fashion reality check when I got back to school: people said they’re ugly, unflattering, clunky, and “too granola.” One friend at my school even came up with the phrase, “BirkenSTOP.” I found myself wearing my birkenstocks less and less, and my feet suffered because of it. Suddenly, I had blisters from my Jack Rogers and my walk to classes became unbearable. I thought to myself, if my birkenstocks keep my feet comfortable and supported, then why am I choosing to wear shoes that hurt my feet just because they are deemed as “more fashionable?” And if these shoes make me feel confident through feeling comfortable, then why do we have to sacrifice comfort for fashion?
After pondering this wide debate for a few months now, I’ve realized that I’m going to wear whatever makes me happy and confident. For me, those are my birkenstocks. So slip ‘em on, or keep them far away from sight–just do whatever let’s you feel like your best, most confident self!
Megan Graves is a student at Elon University.