The family-owned German brand has more than doubled production since 2012. This is the story of how stylish shoppers have embraced the sandals once regarded as the aesthetically challenged footwear of comfort-minded hippies.
If you didn’t know that Birkenstock has seen a huge resurgence in the past few years, it’s probably because you never stopped wearing them, like my friend Rob, who got his first pair 37 years ago, when he lived on a commune. This summer in Provincetown, says the stylist Miguel Enamorado, “since Birkenstock has made the rubber sandal, everyone in P-town is wearing them. It’s the new flip-flop.” He means the new polymer sandals, known as EVAs, which are molded in the shape of Birkenstock’s tried-and-true styles — the two-strap Arizona, one-strap Madrid, and thong Gizeh — and cost $40, as opposed to $100 and up for the traditional styles. The EVAs now account for as much as 15 percent of the 25 million pairs of shoes the company will make this year.
Americans, particularly younger generations, are losing their connection to the idea of private ownership. For the individual, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But for the overall U.S. economy, it might not be so great.
In his 1956 book The Marlinspike Sailor, marine illustrator Hervey Garrett Smith wrote that rope is “probably the most remarkable product known to mankind.” On its own, a stray thread cannot accomplish much. But when several fibers are twisted into yarn, and yarn into strands, and strands into string or rope, a once feeble thing becomes both strong and flexible—a hybrid material of limitless possibility. A string can cut, choke, and trip; it can also link, bandage, and reel. String makes it possible to sew, to shoot an arrow, to strum a chord. It’s difficult to think of an aspect of human culture that is not laced through with some form of string or rope; it has helped us develop shelter, clothing, agriculture, weaponry, art, mathematics, and oral hygiene. Without string, our ancestors could not have domesticated horses and cattle or efficiently plowed the earth to grow crops. If not for rope, the great stone monuments of the world—Stonehenge, the Pyramids at Giza, the moai of Easter Island—would still be recumbent. In a fiberless world, the age of naval exploration would never have happened; early light bulbs would have lacked suitable filaments; the pendulum would never have inspired advances in physics and timekeeping; and there would be no Golden Gate Bridge, no tennis shoes, no Beethoven’s fifth symphony.
So, even though we may be surprised by the “Mickey Mouse” quality of what we actually sound like, it is the extralinguistic content of what our voices may reveal that could be more disconcerting. Yet it is unlikely that others are similarly surprised by a high-pitched aspect of your voice, and moreover others probably aren’t making the same evaluations about your voice that you might. We tend not to be critical of other people’s voices, so the chances are you’re the only person thinking about your own.