Photo by Muffy Aldrich
The Modern Guide to The Thing Before Preppy

Friday, August 31, 2018


Photos by Salt Water New Engalnd
In the latest issues of New York Magazine:
"Birkenstock has seen a huge resurgence in the past few years."
- The Cut <
And linked:
 "Some bright, shiny shoes look best when they’re brand new. But Birkenstock wants to remind everyone that their shoes are coolest when they’re well-worn and loved." <

Comments from TDP and SWNE Readers on Birkenstocks

"Volvos for the feet. Can't live without them. " - Maggie

"I wear a pair of the Boston model as house shoes. They are very comfortable, but I don't wear them anywhere but my house and yard. GLH "

"I resisted Birks for years, thinking they were the ugliest shoe ever. But last summer I fell under the spell of the Gizeh. Since then I've also gotten a pair of Arizonas so that I could wear socks with them in the fall and winter. I'm a convert to these and will wear them most everywhere except the most formal occasions. " - SLF

"Independent of their incredible comfort and durability, there can be a fine line where New England prep and earth/crunch aesthetics intersect. Much like an old Volvo wagon, they can both easily bespeak a lefty-granola association or conservative Yankee practicality. That said, around my MA college campus in the mid 2000s, they were everywhere, having undergone a renaissance... and I still have the pair of clogs I bought in 2004. Think they can for sure be housed under the prep umbrella if done correctly. "

"Sure - I often wear suede Arizonas with SmartWool trekking socks, Patagonia Stand-up shorts or Royal Robbins Bluewater shorts. De rigueur summertime wear here in the West. " - Keith Baker

"Birkenstocks "flatter" no one. But that's not the point. "

"As an alternative to the Jack Rogers sandals, I would suggest Birkenstock's Gizeh, which is essentially a well-structured leather flip-flop without the JR slippery soles. I bought a pair in a warm pink patent leather and they look excellent with Lilly prints and other summer clothes. For those who are struggling with Jacks, they might be a useful option."

"Yes, yes, yes! I'm a former ballerina and have all the associated foot issues/high arches now that I'm older...I wear them all summer long for the support they provide and have several styles to choose from. They are the only truly comfortable shoe for me. I make sure I don't wear them anywhere they are not appropriate but they are my favorite! - ER "

"At a very preppy summer camp in Maine in the early 90's, they were de rigueur. And yes, in Maine for morning chapel one also needed ragg wool socks until it warmed up. Shocking but true. " - ken22

"I'd say Birkenstocks are preppish, but not preppy. :)" -  raizans

"We are natives of the Garden District of New Orleans and feel some styles of Birkenstock shoes are top drawer. Boston clogs in the winter with rag wool socks (available at L.L. Bean), and some sandal styles are excellent. They have the qualities we seek in all of our purchasing choices: craftsmanship, comfort and they are repairable. " - Cheri DeMarginey

"Preps take classics and make them our own; it's not the other way around. Other groups wear khaki, flannel, button-down cotton shirts, etc. What make it all distinctively preppy are materials, cut, quality, and most importantly, the way in which the overall aesthetic is pieced together. These shoes were not made with hippies in mind. Is there room in a preppy ensemble for well-made, practical, and comfortable shoes made by a German footwear company founded in the 18th century? The answer, at least here in the Northeast, is yes! They get my vote. "

"My Birkenstocks cracked last summer (after 12 years), so I started keeping my eye out for something to fill their niche in my summer wardrobe -- hoping to find something just as sturdy & comfortable, but more suited to my walking commute in D.C.  After a year, I have finally decided to give up on making my feet look Professional, and to just get a new pair of Birks. Preppy or not, they are arguably unique and irreplaceable. - In addition, I like to think that every stiff-collared lawyer and lobbyist will be stealing wistful glances at my unfettered feet! "

"I think it's an East Coast preppy friend's husband who grew up in Swampscott Mass/ St Pauls/Princeton still wears his and he is 50- something. "

"I'm 27 and went to private school in Manhattan. I've also spent a fair amount of time in Connecticut and Maine. I would say that Birks do have some preppy elements, in the way that in the Northeast preppy and hippie/crunchy sometimes combine. So you see those guys with khaki shorts, ralph lauren oxfords (with tattered sleeves sometimes) and birkenstocks. "

"I remember the time, decades ago, when Birkenstocks were the province of the counter-cultural. Today, however, informed people who care about how their feet look and feel in the long run wear Birkenstocks (or a similar brand) at least some of the time. That is why I see so many at such Preppy locations as Marblehead, Nantucket, and the Vineyard. "

"Coming from a Connecticut teen, I think Birkinstocks are preppy! In the winter, I wear the "Boston" clogs all the time. They go well with just about any outfit I wear to school, albeit they are on the casual side. I've never worn the sandals. "

As Part of a Business Uniform

"I wear shirts and (mostly repp)ties to work. If the weather calls for it, I often throw a sweater over or maybe a sport coat (rarely). I wear a lab coat in my office with Birkenstocks on my feet so my look changes when I get through the door. I have a couple of suits that I wear if I need to go to court, meet attorneys or other formalities. But the lab coat and Birks are mostly my life in the office. "

"OCBDs or patterned (gingham, tattersal) shirts, khakis, 501s, Ties ( long and Bow) Navy Blazer or Tweed Jacket, foot issues limit the Alden loafers to special occasions, otherwise birkenstocks boston or arizona yes socks with later "

On the Other Hand

"No... they just scream, "I have given up!"

"Depends on what self-image you want to run up the flag pole. " - Greenfield

"Not preppy in any way. Worn by Berkeley Hippies and the Granola Crunchers. Guys with personal hygiene issues who have "Question Authority" and "Visualize World Peace" stickers on the back of their old Volvos. Yuck. Where a Granola Cruncher would wear Birkenstocks a prep would wear boat shoes. "


"On Chicago's North Shore... Rainbow sandals out-prep Birks, though. "

"Birks, never. Chacos, always. "  - Birddog

"Here at a New England boarding school I don't see Birkenstocks too often. Lots of Rainbow or Eliza B. flip-flops, Jack Rogers or Stephen Bonnano sandals,even L.L. Bean shearling slippers (our students' way of pushing back against the dress code)--but Birkenstocks tend to be confined to the studio art teachers or our crunchy retro-hippy types. " - Michael

"Mephisto Helens. A bit sleeker and great colors. " - Hadilly


  1. Birkenstocks are a little too hippie looking for my taste you'd look great Muffy in Jack Rogers sandals!

  2. Certainly not hippie!
    You HAVEN’T seen the new line of wedges, high heels, platforms, metalics, boots, shoes, sneakers and high tops…

  3. Birkenstock makes beds now...

    "Birkenstock's "sleep systems" are based on the design of the company's proprietary footbed, the multilayered and contoured sole on all Birkenstock shoes. Like its sandals, Birkenstock mattresses are made from cork, leather, and natural felt. The slats are beechwood, and the beds' shape, texture, and layering are exactingly designed for maximum comfort. The six bed frames debuted are all named for destinations: São Paulo, Montreal, Iona, Montevideo, Canberra, and Maine. Each model is decidedly modern, but the styles range from more traditional silhouettes to sleek, stylized designs."

    more at

  4. "2018 will be "the best year in sales" to date."

    240 years later, Birkenstock is having a fashion moment. Reportedly selling 25 million shoes in 2017, the privately held German company has spun out at least 1,700 styles. Its shoes are sold in 90 countries--and in the U.S., they have been for over 50 years. Birkenstock, which reportedly generated $800 million of revenue in 2016, plans on opening its first global flagship store in New York City's SoHo neighborhood this fall, timed right around New York Fashion Week. The company declined to disclose sales figures but says 2018 will be "the best year in sales" to date.

  5. Little known fact;
    Take a hammer to your soles to speed up the custom fit of your Birkenstocks foot bed, heel cup, too high of arch support, etc.
    Carefully pound the area- don’t break the leather/cork- just compress it, try it on- repeat till you get it compressed/looser, fitting better footwear.

  6. Birkenstocks—crocs for smart people.

  7. They were of critical importance to your outfit here in Cape Elizabeth, Maine when I was a teenager in the 90s, worn with rag wool socks from Beans. I was pleasantly surprised when my son's girlfriend was lusting after a pair for herself this summer. They are back with a capital B.

  8. Birkenstocks are the shoe I most frequently wear around the house. That is, when I'm not in my Bean slippers. I have various styles of sandals and several pairs of Bostons, including some that are over 20 years old and still in good shape. I keep the leather conditioned and the cork sealed, and hope to get many more years out of them.

  9. Please forgive my contrarian nature beforehand. . . My wife, a long-time fan of these sandals, has two or three pairs she wears around the house and outside during the summer when when at home. Somehow, I pursued and married her anyway. I know, I know. . .

    Best Regards,


  10. Birkenstocks are still "hippy" in my mind. At college in VT in the 1990's, it was only the hippy/crunchy kids who wore them. I'm sure they have better designs/styles now, and perhaps in time they will become "classic," but not now. Women can probably get away with wearing them, but for males, they just don't work, especially on older gentlemen. As Dr. Evil said: "there's nothing more pathetic than an aging hipster."

  11. I walk a great deal, and was accustomed to being barefoot once safely in the privacy of my own home. Doctor treating me for foot pain scolded me and insisted the need for arch support, so now I wear my Arizonas with the comfort (thicker) sole around the house, and orthotic footbeds in my boots and shoes. Foot pain is minimal now, the Birks are part of my life, though I rarely wear them in public.

  12. I resisted Birkenstocks until they came out with the Gizeh style in silver. Every time I wear them (which is almost everyday in the summer), I get compliments and questioned about where they can be purchased. I wear them dressed down and dressed up - they go with everything and are the most comfortable sandals. I have since purchased the Arizona to wear in the fall and winter with rag wool socks and, again, I wound up wearing them almost every day!


  13. I brought back a pair of super comfortable sandals from Germany (in 1968) but I don't think they were Birkenstocks. It wasn't much later that the Earth Shoe appeared on the scene. Whatever happen to them?

  14. This may say more about Birkenstock wearers than about the shoes themselves, but they -- the shoes -- always look so dirty. I hate 'em. In fact, I'm not a big fan of sandals generally.

    1. I'm with you, Sartre.


  15. Sartre, you once remarked 'We must act out of passion before we can feel it'. I believe this covers those who wear sandals, don't you?

  16. I really don't like them at all. They just look sloppy.

  17. Hated them as a kid and associated them with my Danish Grandmother who wore nothing but practical and unstylish footwear.

    Now I refuse to wear anything but Birkenstocks in the summer time.

    Grandma knows best!

  18. The lovely young lady in the first photo probably could wear anything and look great. I myself prefer Mephistos.

  19. Birkenstocks are comfortable, but I prefer to wear wooden clogs. Clogs are comfy and a little more stylish but impractical for wading in streams. That is where the Chaco sandals come in.

  20. A little late to this post, but they are the ultimate shoe of economy in the sense that they are good for your feet and last forever. What hasn't been mentioned, I don't think, is that they can be resoled and repaired by an authorized retailer / shoe repair and continue on and on. I've been wearing them since the mid 1980's and all of the sudden, they are hip. When people comment on my silver ones, I say they are from 2011 (and look a little different from the ones sold this year).

  21. Rondini...leather, hand made, classic and simply beautiful. I have 2 pairs which should retire but still looking great. Birks are perhaps comfy but very ugly and, how naive I was, have nothing to do with natural materials actually...

  22. Birkenstocks are Bohemia prep, like any Quaker school or school in which farming or manual labor is part of the required curriculum. Or a school in which teachers are addressed by their first name.


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