Birkenstocks: Awful or Awesome? Weigh In!

I do my darnedest to ignore articles in trendy magazines and Birkenstock Arizonastyle blogs about this shoe or that shoe being suddenly back in vogue. (If you ask me, everything eventually becomes a “must have” again.)

So when a girlfriend dropped by recently to show off her “new” Birkenstocks, I had my hands full trying to hold my tongue. Am I the only one in America who remembers that these funky-comfy sandals were introduced to the U.S. market in 1967?

There’s no denying the anecdotal evidence that the brand is back in robust circulation: Walking down New York’s Lexington Avenue the other day with my 16-year-old daughter—- the official fashionista in our family — she practically swooned over a pair of Birks gracing the feet of a modelesque 20-something woman walking our way. Wait, it gets worse: Her equally style-obsessed friend just created the T-shirt below proclaiming her devotion to the shoe.

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Tie dye shirtsClearly the trend demanded further investigation. So I went online and Googled “Birkenstocks.”

Up popped an article from the venerable Vogue, anointing Birkenstocks as cool and therefore worthy of wearing. Here’s a snippet of their praise:

“[T]he most comfortable sandal in the world [is] having a stylish renaissance.”

Those who can remember Woodstock (I’m one) will all agree that Birkenstocks, even in their ’60s heyday, were never exactly “cool.” Functional, yes. Comfortable? Absolutely! But cool? I don’t think so.

Another Vogue editor added the male perspective: “When my husband sees [me in Birkenstocks], he says I’m lucky we’re already married.” I shared that assessment with my husband, and he replied with a “ditto.”

Intrigued by the rebirth of a shoe so ugly you just gotta have it, I posed this question on social media:

“Do you now, or will you ever, own and wear a pair of Birkenstocks?”

Within an hour, I had more than 100 responses. A sampling:

No, no, and no!! -Julia

Yes, yes, & yes! My 20-something daughters like mine to the point of asking for them! -Laurie

Never been able to understand the attraction to such horrible footwear. -Kim

Love mine! -Shelly

No! The style is too “Earth mother” for me. At 64, I still want to be stylish. -Diane

Balenciaga rubber sandalsI never have, but would love to. They’re classic and will never go out of style. -Becky

wore them up until about 5 years ago, when my daughter retired them for me. -Robin

Birks, Crocs, Topsiders, Converse. It’s all about comfort – something of a feminist issue for me. -Terri

(You can check out more Facebook comments here and here.)

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Cool Millennials of both sexes are snapping up the classic two-strap “tree-hugger” shape, known as the Arizona, faster than you can say “crunchy granola.” No need to rock such an old-school look, though: Rival shoe designers are churning out knockoffs in a range of styles, colors and prices ranging from $100 to — are you sitting down? — $1,000. Among them are Givenchy, Isabel Marant, Balenciaga (above) and Michael Kors.

So here’s the sole-searching question: Would you ever wear a pair of Birkenstocks? 

I’ll spill if you will! Write a comment here, and we’ll showcase the best ones in a follow-up post. Or send a photo of you sporting your favorite Birks to

*The first five commenters will receive a copy of The Best of Everything After 50*

Until next time, remember: We can’t control getting older, but we can control how we do it!

For more tips on living your best life, look inside The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts’ Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and Moreand subscribe to The Best of Everything After 50 video series on AARP’s YouTube Channel.

Photos: ASOS; MatchesFashion; Barbara Hannah Grufferman


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mtnflower 5pts

I ran across my Birkies the other day. Yes, I will wear them now. My old bones will appreciate the comfort and they have lasted for all this time. They are well built shoes and worth the cost. That trumps any fashion concerns with me at 66 years of age. I think it is all in the way you act and carry yourself. My confidence isn't based on someone else's idea of style.

marjact91 5pts

I like Birkies. I'm sixty-five and walk a lot on trips. I'll define "stylish" for myself. Thanks!

se49419735 5pts

Yes! I love my Birkenstocks. They are super comfy and I actually have to tell myself to "change shoes" once in awhile because I like them so much!

kg36553317 5pts

No, they are too frumpy looking for my tastes.  There are plenty of comfortable sandals out there that are still stylish enough or at least avoid the frump.