For the record, I was totally kidding when, at the close of New York Fashion Week last September, I stipulated that Birkenstocks may be coming back.
I would have chased the query with a sweeping “LOL! JK! That’ll be the day!” had I believed it was necessary but the thought seemed so farfetched, so sardonic, so down right impossible, I, uh, “opted out” of what seemed like otiose clarification. As fate (and my luck) would have it, though, two weeks later in Paris, Phoebe Philo publicly-but-silently aped The Pussycat Dolls and sang to me, “be careful what you wish for ’cause you just might get it.”
My response? No way. No how. Sorry I’m not sorry.
My current stance? You know, they’re not that bad.
But who should I blame for the personal uptick in amicability? Nearly one year later and through an exhaustive number of consumer stories and personal essays on the unsung joys of electing to wear ugly footwear (I’ll plead guilty on milking the latter accord), the brand of manipulation powerfully indigenous to fashion is in high gear once again.
Stripped of all the referential jam-band, drug-infused, granola munching stigmas, they’ve staked their claim in the upper echelons of fashion (as evidenced by Vogue and a series of pro stories care of New York Magazine). Even I, who was still not entirely on board, not acknowledged but endorsed their rebirth in a story last march.
And all of these factors have probably helped catalyze their proliferation. (The documented blue and red plastic, white soled variants hail from Zara and have induced the yuck heard ’round the world.) Recently, though, I’m less concerned with how ubiqutious they’ve become and more with whether we’re writing these stories to convince ourselves that we love the certifiably ugly shoes, or if we are actually growing fond of the Schiaparelli-elicited trend? (I’d be hard pressed to tell you the recent surge is not at least a bit derivative.) The Marni shoes in the gif above, for one, predate any explicit trend by a lengthy two years.
Still, in the name of experimentation, I test drove the Birkenstocks not once, but twice in the last month. (This is a fancy way for me to say that I have fallen victim to the very manipulation specified above and it is the fault of an image of one Kate Moss, smoking a cigarette while wearing white jeans and the matching-hued ‘stocks). But frankly, I haven’t been able to crack the code on pseudo-comfortable, hideously high fashion shoes. Especially not in conjunction with my own proclivities, which have just left me feeling deeply self conscious and, I don’t know, maybe enthralled but only from a distance.
On the one hand, when I look down I don’t recognize the feet strapped to my ankles at all. This means I’m clearly not doing me to the best of my ability. On the other, even in spite of how romantically I’d idealized them pre-proprietorship (see: if only I had white Birkenstocks to wear with those cropped jeans, or that short dress, or this full white ensemble plus blazer), I can’t get past the stains of their previous identity.
I want to let them in. I really do. I want to be able to wear them without hesitating, without wondering how wide they make my feet look. I want to feel like Kate Moss, though I’ll take perverse French-ness if it comes. I’m just not quite sure I’m there yet–so what now? Back to the drawing board? Even more importantly–how do I amount for the dissatisfaction in trying to concede to a hyper trend but failing?