The Birkenstock Debate

Birkenstocks remind me of my sixth-grade science teacher, Ms. Tufo. She was the first person I knew that I’d consider a hippie, what with her waist-length, middle-parted hair and admirable dedication to saving the environment. She lived in a house boat. One time, her roommate went insane due to a lack of proper nutrients and tried to stab her with a carrot.

But Birkenstocks were everywhere where I grew up: at various SF farmers markets, all over the streets of neighboring communities like Davis, and Berkeley, and on the feet of practically everyone who worked in a coffee shop that featured fair trade beans and locally sourced sandwich sprouts. So when Céline sent the fur-lined iterations down the runway, it took me a minute to realize that they were meant to be worn with one’s most expensive white blouses — as opposed to being an ironic styling prop.

It was, however, immediately clear that they were the perfect solution to slouchy, wide leg trousers. They also worked well with baggy cuffed pants. And while the trend caught on immediately (though I laugh to use the word “trend” for a sandal that’s been around since what, ancient Jerusalem?), and I understood their sartorial worth, I worried that the very specific look would die out the moment I caved and bought a pair.

So I didn’t. I haven’t. Did you know, though, that it’s been almost four years since I’ve repeatedly thought about the same shoe? The last time I thought about a sandal this much was in Fall 2010, when I actually thought I was going to die if I didn’t own those remarkable color-blocked Fendi heels. This industry makes you fickle, and the second you love something, you’re sick of it. I look at so many shoes that just as soon as I declare something my new favorite — I’m on to the next thing, and both my wardrobe and physical self are able to survive.

But these Birkenstocks have stuck. I can’t get them off my mind and I have no clue why. They’re not attractive. They make my feet look large and flat, like Bilbo Baggins without all the hair. They’re also an annoying price. 100 dollars is technically cheap when considering I just compared my desire for them to Fendi. But 100 dollars is also kind of expensive for a pair of cork-bottomed feet luggers that are going to make me shlep and slouch like a hobbit. These won’t make my legs look leaner, and they won’t “jazz up” a pair of jeans. But I want them. I do.

So should I get them? And if so, should I get the original brand in honor of Ms. Tufo? Or should I be safe in case the trend suddenly dies and go with a cheaper pair? I need your help quickly before I do something rash, like purchase a designer version or worse, stab someone with a carrot.

— Amelia Diamond