Why is there a controversy about men wearing Birkenstocks? The stereotype of men being “effeminate” for wearing Birkenstocks is inaccurate. While some men may chose to wear Birkenstocks as an accent to their feminine style, other men can wear the same shoes and present total masculinity. I think a man who wears Birkenstocks exudes a sense of comfort, style, and total self-confidence. That is a winning trifecta of awesomeness!!!
Men wear Birkenstocks for many of the same reasons that women chose to wear them. Men like the style, the arch support, have wide feet, or have health issues that may require the support of a Birkenstock shoe.
There are many styles of Birkenstock available and most can be considered unisex. I wrote a blog about “Birkenstock Styles". While certain models may be considered more feminine by some people, I believe that all models can be worn by any sex or gender. There is such a wide array of colors available with Birkenstock uppers, that there is something to match everyone’s need.
The good news is that if one model of Birkenstock does not meet the needs of a man’s foot, another model can easily be selected. While some men might prefer the Arizona or the Milano models, others might not be able to comfortably wear that style shoe. For example, I have a friend who has bone spur on the top of his foot and the Arizona straps are painful for him because they go right over the spur. In his case, another model, perhaps the Gizeh or Ramses, would be more appropriate. Or guys who have hot feet might prefer the single strap Madrid because it allows the foot maximum breathability.
How a man styles his wardrobe while wearing Birkenstocks will determine how people interpret his appearance. The same holds true for how a woman chooses to wear her Birkenstocks. People can look sloppy in Birks while others can look fresh, clean, stylish or trendy. Regardless of sex or gender, people can appear masculine or feminine when sporting Birkenstocks. How you look in a pair of Birkenstocks all boils down to how you style the shoes.
It’s not about one model of Birkenstock being more feminine than another. It is all about how a man chooses to wear that model shoe. What color upper is the shoe? What outfit is being paired with the shoe? What other accessories are part of the total ensemble? What is the personality of the Birkenstock wearer? All this must be taken into consideration to determine how one presents his Birkenstocks to the world.
I have seen all types of men wearing Birkenstocks around the Bay Area. Just walking around downtown San Francisco makes me think of the song “Girls and Boys” by Blur. The first line in the song is “Street's like a jungle” and that is how you might describe a stroll through the streets of San Francisco. In the city, one may encounter all types of men wearing various models of Birkenstocks with just about any ensemble imaginable.
It’s not just Bay Area men wearing Birkenstocks. The trend has already spread through Europe and is growing across the US. Even celebrity men like Leonardo Di Caprio, Usher, Ashton Kutcher, and Christian Bale, have been photographed wearing Birkenstocks.
There is nothing “effeminate” about the man who won an Oscar for playing a 19th Century frontiersman that survived a bear attack. And for goodness sake, Christian Bale played Batman. BATMAN! Batman radiates masculinity.
If a man wants to wear Birkenstocks and present a masculine front, that’s awesome. If a man wants to wear Birkenstocks as a gesture of femininity, that’s great too. It’s all good. Men can wear the model of Birkenstock that best fits his foot and his style. It’s all about how a man chooses to rock the Birk. Wear what you want and be happy wearing it. I am not going to judge a man for wearing Birkenstocks. Rather, I am going to celebrate his choice of shoes.
It’s 2016 and these days we should not be limited by stereotypes. Men can wear Birkenstocks. Women can wear Birkenstocks. Anybody and everybody can and should wear a pair of Birkenstocks.
I Love Birkenstocks....and some men love Birkenstocks too.
An article on CNBC, by Ari Levy, titled "Birkenstock quits Amazon in US after counterfeit surge" was published on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. The article explains that as of January, 1, 2017, Birkenstock will no longer be supplying any of its products to Amazon. This is in response to the increase of counterfeit Birkenstock merchandise being sold on the Amazon marketplace. Please read the article!
I wrote a blog in May 2016 about "Spotting Fake Birkenstocks." Please make certain you only purchase Birkenstocks through an authorized vendor to ensure your shoes are authentic.
NOTE: To read my most current blog about counterfeit Birkenstocks, click here.
In the past, I have mentioned a gap between when I first wore Birkenstocks and when I rekindled my love with these great shoes. A friend of mine asked, “Gina Mama, why did you stop wearing Birkenstocks?” Good question.
I got my first pair of Birkenstocks in the early 90s and those shoes lasted me a decade. One day they were beyond repair. It was so hard for me to part with those Birks, that I asked my mom to properly dispose of them. It was my way of repressing the grief that I felt for losing my favorite pair of shoes. If the internet had been as prevalent in 2000, as it is in 2016, a simple Google search would have shown me that my shoes were fully repairable.
After I said good-bye to my beloved
Arizona’s, I did not replace them. Why? I’m
not quite sure. I think there were many
reasons contributing to this 15 year
Birkenstock-less gap in my life.
For starters, my boyfriend at the time
considered Birkenstocks a man repeller. He
suggested that I opt for a more feminine shoe. I liked this guy a lot and he influenced my style choices at the time. I was in my
early 20s and, even though I was a feminist at heart, I was still young and impressionable.
Another reason that I may not have bought a replacement pair of Birkenstocks was because of financial constraints. When my original Birks fell apart, I was working part-time and a graduate student. Birkenstocks are an investment piece to one’s wardrobe. At the time, I had to opt for a less expensive pair of sandals.
Moreover, in the early 2000s, I was about to enter the working world. I felt obligated to dress a certain way to fit into a business environment. Wearing Birkenstocks did not seem like a wise choice. Back then, Birkenstock did not have fancy uppers. These days, Birkenstocks are much less granola looking. They make shoes with shiny and glittery uppers. One can easily dress up or dress down the shoes for work or for play.
The shoes I wore for work usually had a heel. Thankfully, I was never the type of girl to wear shoes with ultra high, super thin heels. The heels of my shoes tended to be chunky. Chunky heels provide better foot support compared to thin heels.
I realize now that even though wider heels are less problematic on one’s feet, they can still cause foot discomfort and other ailments. These issues compound over time. One typically does not notice them until the damage has already been done. Thus, I spent most of my 20s in heeled shoes and it was not until I approached mid 30’s that I started having issues with foot discomfort. I can only imagine how much worse my feet and back issues would have been if I had I worn high, thin heels.
One of the primary reasons that I stopped wearing heeled shoes is because of what I have learned about chronic conditions at work. I work in the health care field. Years ago, I had a 90 year old patient with rheumatoid arthritis in her hands and feet. In addition to the arthritis, she had bunions on each foot from wearing narrow, high heeled shoes most of her life. I met with her one day after she had fallen in her home. She wished that she would had worn more supportive shoes when she was younger. She explained that ill fitting shoes caused her to have abnormal feet. This lead her to have an unsteady gait in old age and, hence, made her a fall risk.
The aforementioned interaction has stuck with me for 15 years. Soon after my conversation with this patient, I stopped wearing heeled shoes. I transitioned into my Dansko years. I wore Dansko shoes from my mid 20s to early 30s. Compared to my previous work shoes, Danskos provided me with a wide width shoe and offered me arch support.
After several years of wearing Danskos, I started noticing problems. I was slipping and often twisting my ankle while wearing Dansko clogs. I also began having excruciating pain on the balls of my feet. That’s when the arthritis in my big toes emerged.
The pain in my toes worsened when I became pregnant and started carrying extra baby weight. No longer would I wear a shoe that was not slip resistant. One of my co-workers sprained her ankle while wearing Danskos. I was not going to chance a sprained ankle while carrying a child.
Keens were my shoe of choice for the next few years. I gave up style, in lieu of comfort. After having kids, I no longer cared what people thought about my style. The only thing I cared about was getting enough sleep to make it through my work day.
Keens were practical and comfortable, yet in no way were they “cute” or “stylish”. I remember ordering a pair of slip-on Keens when I was too pregnant to bend over and buckle/tie a shoe. I was very nauseous the day I purchased those Keens. I remained nauseous the duration of my pregnancy while I wore those slip-on shoes. One day after giving birth, I pulled those Keens out of the closet and I was hit with a wave of nausea. I now associated Keens with nausea. It was time to find a new brand that made me not want to puke.
I wanted a cute, supportive shoe that was not going to create a fall risk. I tried a number of different styles of shoes before one day coming across a Zappos ad for Birkenstocks. I saw the ad and felt warm fuzzies inside. The sight of Birkenstocks brought back great memories of my youth. I clicked the link.
In 2015, Birkenstocks re-entered my life. The Birkenstocks immediately provided arch support and metatarsal support that my feet desired. I no longer needed to continue my search for the perfect shoe, I had re-discovered it. Birkenstocks came back into my life like an old friend. We were happy to see each other and started our reunion right where we left off.
Birkenstock now offers so many varieties of uppers that I felt stylish and feminine again. I did not feel this way while wearing Keens. More importantly, I was not at risk for twisting an ankle, like when I wore Danskos. Also, my feet were no longer being destroyed in narrow, heeled dress shoes. Birkenstocks allowed my feet to rest in their natural position.
Critics argue that Birkenstocks make one’s foot “splay” because the footbed is wide. Per the Meriam Webster dictionary, to splay is “to cause to spread outward”. What parts of the body splay and grow abnormally when confined? None. When your foot is removed from a shoe from which it has to conform, your foot will be free to move toward its normal form. People who wear non-binding footwear do not grow sasquatch feet, they grow normal feet.
Incorporating Birkenstocks back into my life has made my feet feel normal again. No longer am I attempting to conform my foot into shoes that do not fit. With Birkenstocks, my feet are placed into shoes that feel as if they were custom made for me. When I wear my Birks, I feel like I am walking on supportive clouds. My feet are happy, therefore I am happy. I have found a balance between what feels good and what looks good.
Birkenstocks allow the muscles in my feet and tendons to stretch correctly. I no longer have discomfort in my feet and back. I am counting on my feet to hold me upright as I age gracefully.
I plan to thrive well into old age alongside my boyfriend from 2000. That guy who disliked Birkenstocks so much is my husband. His view on Birkenstocks has changed over the years. (He now even owns a couple pairs -- thanks to me). These days, my husband encourages me to wear shoes that work best for my needs.
Too bad it took me 15 years to realize that my feet needed the support offered by Birkenstock shoes. I feel like I lost a decade and a half of having truly comfy shoes. The good news is that Birkenstocks are now back in my life and my feet are happy.
Happy feet = Happy Gina Mama.
NOTE: Want to learn more about Gina Mama? I recommend you read her Frequently Asked Questions blog. Click here for that blog.
Last summer I felt like a baseball scout trying to find the best prospect for his team. I was searching for the right pair of Birkenstocks to carry me through future seasons. I found a pair of Arizona’s in Copper and knew they would be the right addition to my wardrobe.
Unfortunately, this style was only sold in a narrow width in the US. I had struck out with this shoe because I require a regular width Birkenstock. At first, I was disappointed, but then I found a happy medium when I located the Mayari in Mirror Rose Gold. It turned out to be a great shoe for my needs. I wore the Mayari’s most of last summer and even took them on vacation to Mexico in November. The Mayari’s were the perfect shoe for work and play.
This summer, Birkenstock unveiled the Arizona in Copper, Silver, and Gold. I no longer wanted Copper because the Mirror Rose Gold is too similar in color. The Gold Arizona was going to be my summer sandal for 2016. However, once again, these beauties are not available in a regular width within the US. Since last summer, I have learned a great deal about how and where to locate Birkenstocks in my size. I went straight to my secret source in Germany to find the shoe. I was not going to strike out a second time in my attempt to add this chic shoe to my wardrobe.
Girls with wide feet like swanky shoes too and I am tired of feeling left out. I decided to step up to the plate and take matters into my own hands. I was going to order my shoes directly from Europe.
I placed the order from Germany and my shoes arrived 3 days later. Shoes ordered from Germany cost slightly less than one would pay for Birks in the US and I don't have to pay tax (which in California is 10%). The shoes that I have been trying to find for the past year, in my width, were quickly delivered to my door. Now that’s a win-win situation. The shoes got here faster than if I had ordered them from other reputable online shoe retailers in the US.
I thought I had hit a home run with the arrival of these shoes. I expected them to be fully broken-in within 1-2 weeks. That’s my typical break-in period. I was following the steps I presented in my “How to Break-In Your Birkenstocks” blog, yet these new shoes threw me a curveball. I continued to have hot spots from the straps even after 3 weeks of wear.
The footbed was not an issue, it was the straps that were causing me discomfort. These straps were much stiffer and more painful for me to break-in, compared to my Amalfi Leather Arizonas. I was going to need to take extra steps to loosen up the rigid straps.
After 3 weeks of wearing the shoes around the house, I felt like I had tried everything to break them in. I was heading into extra innings with the break-in process of these Gold Arizonas. It was time for me to look to the bullpen for some relief if I was going to win this game.
One day, my kids were playing baseball in the backyard. It gave me a brilliant idea. I needed to treat the stiff leather straps of the Arizonas, like they were a new leather baseball glove.
Not all new baseball gloves are game ready. In fact, most mitts need to be softened up before initial use. Akin to how Birkenstock shoes need to be broken-in before you wear them for long periods of time. Every baseball player has a different way that they want the glove to feel before using it in a game. I wanted the leather straps on my Gold Birkenstocks to loosen up before wearing them outdoors.
Ball players often use oil or cream to break-in their new leather mitts. I was going to attempt to soften the inside of the leather straps in the same way. I have leather conditioning cream that I considered using to do this, but I find this conditioner to be sticky, like honey. I did not need the straps to be sticky on my feet causing even more discomfort. I thought about what other oils I had around the house that I could utilize to alleviate some of the rigidity of the straps. I landed on coconut oil.
I have had great success using coconut oil for many different things. Cooking, baking, foot care, hair care, and even helping heal my dog’s skin issues. Coconut oil is a natural product that I knew, from experience, would not irritate my skin.
In addition to the coconut oil, I needed to smooth out of the rough edges of the straps. The leather was so rigid that parts of the edges were digging into my skin. I used sandpaper to lightly smooth down the areas creating problems.
I made a video demonstrating all the steps involved with this process:
The Items Needed To Soften Up Leather Birkenstock Straps:
How To Soften Up Leather Birkenstock Straps:
1. Unbuckle Straps
2. Expose the inside portion of the straps
3. Use sandpaper to lightly sand down the sharp edges
4. Only sand a little bit of the leather at a time. It does not take much sanding to smooth
the areas causing discomfort
5. Before applying coconut oil shake off leather shavings created from sanding
6. Put about 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil onto a cotton swab
7. Apply a thin layer of coconut oil to the inside portion of the straps (Avoid getting oil
onto the finished uppers)
8. The coconut oil easily absorbs into the leather
9. If you find a greasy spot, use a paper towel to wipe it off
10. Buckle the straps
11. Put on a pair of socks walk around your home for about an hour to continue the
12. Take off the socks and walk around in the shoes
13. If you continue to have areas causing discomfort, repeat the above steps
14. Repeat this step by step process until the leather has softened to your liking
One of the reasons that I Love Birkenstocks is because with just a few simple steps, one can easily help facilitate the break-in process. Every ball player has a certain way that they want a new glove to feel before using it in game. Just as every individual has a unique preference to how soft one’s Birkenstock straps need to be before wearing them all day. After completing the aforementioned process twice, I think my shoes are now game ready.
NOTE: For other tips on how to break-in your Birkenstocks, read this blog.
Summer has arrived. It’s time to pack up your sandals and pull out your warm shoes. If you live in the Bay Area, you know what I mean. Summer by the Bay means thick blankets of fog and cool temperatures. Bay Area residents likely won’t need their summer sandals until late September.
With record low temps on the horizon for the Bay Area this week, it seems as good a time as any to discuss Birkenstock shearling lined shoes. When Birkenstock began to market their shearling lined Arizona and Boston models, I was intrigued. Could Birkenstock have created the perfect winter shoe for my needs? Support and warmth, sounds delightful. I am a sucker for shearling lined shoes.
I have been wearing UGG boots for several winters. I love the warmth that their shearling lined boots provide, however, they lack any type of arch support. Adding an over the counter arch support never worked in my UGGs. For awhile, I was willing to overlook the lack of arch support because my UGG Brooks reminded me of an updated version of Doc Martens. Then one day, after wearing UGGs for 12 hours, I had the worst back discomfort of my life. It lasted a few days. I was no longer willing to ignore body pain for a pair of UGGs.
I ordered a pair of shearling lined Birkenstock Bostons in hopes that they would become my new winter shoe. I was willing to turn a blind eye to the price tag, if these worked for my needs. My motto is quality over quantity. I would be satisfied with one good pair of toasty winter shoes vs many pairs of less supportive shoes.
When I slipped my foot into the Bostons, the shearling lining felt heavenly. I ordered my regular size and the fit was ideal. I immediately felt the arch support. I put the other shoe on and assumed these would be keepers. However, with the very first step, I noticed something in the shoe. I thought it was a loose piece of paper from the packaging. I took off the shoe to pull out the paper, only to discover that the roughness was from the seam where the shearling lining had been glued to the footbed.
If you have ever worn UGGs you know that their shearling lined shoes are well constructed. Their shearling lining is thick, supple, fuzzy perfection. I have never had an issue of my foot rubbing against a glued seam in my UGGs. I thought perhaps the Bostons I ordered were fakes, even though I purchased through a reputable online shoe store.
I believe in second chances, so I ordered another pair of Bostons. This time, I placed my order directly through BirkenstockUSA. Unfortunately, when those shoes arrived, I experienced the exact same problem. My little toes could feel the glued seams. There was no way that I would be able to wear the shearling lined Bostons without socks.
I put on a pair of socks and walked around the house. The good news was that the socks provided a barrier against the scratchy seams. The bad news was that I noticed my foot slipping upwards into the shoe as I walked. The socks made the shearling lining slippery with each step, defeating the whole purpose of the contoured footbed. I could not wear the Bostons without socks because the seams rubbed and I could not wear them with socks because my feet were not secure on the footbed. Sizing up was not an option because the shoe would have been too big.
What’s a girl to do? Well, I ordered a pair of the shearling lined Arizona sandals. I thought perhaps a different model of shearling lined Birkenstocks would provide a better experience. Since shoe shopping with two toddlers is next to impossible. I ordered the Arizonas online. From the pictures, I could not tell if they were cute or ugly.
When they arrived, the shoes appeared to be cute out of the box. Yet, I had a good belly laugh once I put them on my feet. I looked like Big Foot in these shoes.
My friend traveled to Canada last week and found a pair of blue shearling lined Arizonas and affectionately named them “the Cookie Monster shoe.” She texted me this picture:
I cannot grasp the concept of shearling lined sandals. I understand the closed toed Boston being shearling lined, but not the Arizona. Are people hot and cold all at once? What’s the purpose of creating a warm shoe with lining and then exposing the toes? It does not make any practical sense to me. It must be a fashion statement that is beyond my understanding. For those readers that wear shearling lined sandals, I would love to hear your reasons for liking this shoe. Please leave your comments in the section at the end of this blog. Perhaps I can be talked into becoming more open minded about shearling lined Arizona sandals.
At this point, I gave up my shearling lined Birkenstock shoe search. I continued to wear my UGGs even though the back pain lingered. Until one day when Zappos sent me an email that new Birkenstock styles had arrived. Guess what I found? The Birkenstock Woodbury shearling lined boot. There were no reviews and I took a chance ordering the boots. New Birkenstock styles seem to sell out like hotcakes and I was not going to miss the opportunity of trying on these boots.
The Birkenstock Woodbury shearling lined boot was incredible. All the support of an original Birkenstock with a shearling lining. That’s a win-win situation. I initially had a problem with sizing. I learned that with Birkenstock boots I needed to size up for a perfect fit. Once the correct size shoe arrived, I didn’t want to take it off. I wore it all winter. With the Woodbury, the shearling only covers the shin area and the top of your foot, the shearling is not on the footbed. I preferred the footbed to remain unlined because I like to wear socks with my boots. My foot stayed put in the unlined footbed. This is the opposite experience I had when wearing the shearling lined Bostons with socks.
The Woodbury is even more awesome because it has a removable footbed. I took the Birkenstock footbed and put it inside my UGGs and I was in heaven. The size 39 footbed fit perfectly inside my size 8 UGGs. I now had arch support for my UGGs! I could wear the Birkenstock insert inside the UGGs with or without the UGG shearling lining. With this many options, I felt like I had won the shoe lottery.
I am so satisfied with my Woodbury Birkenstocks that I am looking forward to purchasing another pair of shearling lined Birks in the future. Even though the shearling lined Arizonas were not for me, I am hoping to find a pair of Bostons. Perhaps Birkenstock quality control will improve next season’s shearling lined Boston clogs. I would be willing to try the Bostons again, if I could be assured that there were no exposed glue seams.
A pair of Birkenstock shearling lined Boston clogs are the perfect summer shoe for the Bay Area. If I had a pair, they would be on my feet right now because it is freezing, windy, and foggy outside. I would feel a little silly wearing my winter Woodbury boots in early July, yet I would be comfortable slipping on a pair of Birkenstock Bostons on this cold summer day. This type of shoe can be worn just about all year round in the Bay Area.
I Love Birkenstocks and I hope to find a pair of shearling lined Bostons (without exposed glue seams) in the near future.
NOTE: If you would like to learn more about Birkenstock Shoes, read this blog.