In 2015, Birkenstock sold Arizonas and Gizehs with a beautiful nubuck upper and a white sport sole. I have a pair of the Arizonas in red. I find that the white sport sole gets soiled easily. In June 2016, I made a video and wrote a blog on how to clean the white soles of these Birkenstocks.
I found that with a little elbow grease, one can make the white sole Birkenstocks look as good as new in no time.
In addition to cleaning the soles, the nubuck uppers need to be cleaned every couple of months because even the slightest soil spots can make the uppers look grubby. Before ever wearing my Arizonas with the nubuck uppers, I applied a stain guard to the leather. Even with this preventative measure, I find that the uppers still get filthy.
Nubuck uppers are made from top-grain cowhide and are buffed to create a soft, velvety finish. To clean this type of material one must brush the surface with a plastic bristle or leather cleaning brush. I do not have a leather cleaning brush at home, so I substitute by using an old toothbrush, a pumice stone, or some sandpaper to clean the uppers. I did purchase a $6 nubuck eraser for this project and found this to be money well spent. The eraser got rid of some of the most hard to remove soil spots on the nubuck.
Items Needed to Clean
3. Pumice Stone
4. Kiwi Suede Cleaner
5. Kiwi Stain Eraser
7. Kiwi Camp Dry
How To Clean Your Birkenstocks with Nubuck Uppers
1. Use a toothbrush to remove dirt from straps
2. Wipe away any excess dirt with a dry towel
3. Use the stain eraser to clean the toughest soiled areas
4. Gently wipe away additional stains with the pumice stone
5. For areas needing extra cleaning, use sandpaper (gently)
6. If stains or dirt remain, use the stain eraser a second time
7. Wipe away debris with a dry towel
8. Use the brush from the top of Kiwi Suede Cleaner bottle and brush the uppers
9. Lightly Spray the Uppers with the Kiwi Suede Cleaner
10. Wipe the straps clean with the brush from the top of Kiwi Suede Cleaner
11. Use a toothbrush to gently freshen the nap of the suede
12. Apply a water/stain protector to the clean uppers
Here is my video demonstrating this process:
Below are the pictures I took before and after cleaning the nubuck.
It should only take about 10 minutes to clean the nubuck. Even though I tend to rotate my Birkenstocks daily, I find that the Birks with the nubuck uppers require frequent cleaning. In fact, these are the highest maintenance Birkenstocks that I own. I am willing to take the time to clean these shoes because I absolutely love them. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to clean nubuck uppers.
I Love Birkenstocks…..and with a little elbow grease I can make them look like new in no time.
NOTE: For other tips on how to care for your Birkenstocks, please read this blog.
The story of Cinderella begins with the narrator saying….“Once upon a time in a faraway land, there was a tiny kingdom; peaceful, prosperous, and rich in romance and tradition…” This description of Cinderella’s chateau reminds me of the iconic Birkenstock building in Novato. The building sits on a large piece of land off the beaten track. The mid-century warehouse is a hyperbolic paraboloid. The roof of this warehouse reminds me of ski slope moguls and the eves of the building are pointy triangles. The building itself is like something out of a fairy tale.
I have driven been past this beautiful building countless times and I have always wondered what it was like inside. I even wrote a blog about it. What could be more exciting than going inside a building full of all things Birkenstock?
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would step foot into the Birkenstock building. Then one day something magical happened. The CEO of Birkenstock USA contacted me. He had been made aware of my “I Love Birkenstocks” blog and invited me to tour the Birkenstock USA headquarters in Novato. I gratefully accepted the invitation.
Cinderella says that “a dream is a wish that your heart makes”. My heart made this wish decades ago and now my wish was about to come true. I would get to tour the iconic building and meet the people that help carry on the Birkenstock tradition within the United States.
The day of my tour I was full of mixed emotions. Excitement, nervousness, and curiosity. Just like when Cinderella needed to find something to wear to the ball, I needed to find something suitable to wear to Birkenstock. I did not have a fairy Godmother who could manufacture me a pair of glass slippers with her magical wand. Besides, showing up to Birkenstock in a pair of glass slippers would be a silly idea. I needed to wear Birkenstocks!
I pulled out all my Birkenstocks to decide which would be the most appropriate to wear on this special occasion. I didn’t want to wear my favorite pair because they are well loved and well worn. I didn’t want to wear a brand new pair because then the employees would think I didn’t properly break-in my Birkenstocks before wearing them for the day. I didn’t want to wear my most dressy pair because they are the wrong width. I settled on a fairly new, but properly broken-in, pair of Arizonas that I had purchased directly through Birkenstock USA.
Birkenstock USA is located in Novato, CA. I worked in Novato for several years and am quite familiar with the area. I even worked in a building on Redwood Blvd, the same street where Birkenstock is located. However, my office was at the other end of town.
When I arrived in Novato and approached the street where Birkenstock is located, I started to get butterflies in my stomach. I didn’t know what to expect. I was a Birkenstock wearer that started a Birkenstock blog a few months ago. Would my tour involve questions about my blog? About what I have written? Suggestions for future blogs? How would the Birkenstock employees respond to me?
All my nervousness quickly faded away after I was buzzed into the building. The receptionist’s warm smile and cordial welcome eased my concerns. As I signed myself in, I noticed from the corner of my eye, a framed welcome sign with my name on it. In all my years as a working professional, I have never once attended a meeting that displayed a welcome sign with my name on it. To me, this personalized welcome sign was like Cinderella’s luxurious pumpkin stage coach. It was the beginning of an unforgettable adventure.
I was promptly greeted by the Director of Merchandising, the Director of Marketing, and the Customer Service Manager. My time at Birkenstock started with a guided tour of the campus. There is so much rich history surrounding the Birkenstock USA campus that we spent over an hour just touring the space.
The Birkenstock family owns the buildings and the land on which the buildings sit. Birkenstock likes to keep a low profile and is very happy having their office space off the beaten track. Several times throughout the day I was reminded how rare it was for Birkenstock to allow an outside individual a “behind the curtain” tour. Birkenstock likes its privacy.
One might imagine that because Birkenstock shoes are seen on fashion runways all over the world that this high end theme would carry over into their office setting. That’s not that case at all. The inside office space is down to earth and modest, much like their shoes. Essentially the building remains true to it’s 1960s architecture with just a few upgrades here and there.
We started our tour inside and walked into a meeting room that had rows upon rows of Birkenstock shoes on display. I felt like Cinderella entering the ball. I was overwhelmed with emotion. My first thought was, have I ever been in a room with this many Birkenstocks? It was enchanting. On the far wall I got a sneak peek of the Spring 2017 collection. Sorry, friends, I can’t say much more about this other than 2017 will be an exciting year for Birkenstock lovers.
As we continued our tour through the office space, I noticed cork boards (very apropos) filled with pin ups of celebrities photographed wearing Birkenstocks. These are not paid Birkenstock advertisements, rather they are images caught by the paparazzi. As you may know, Birkenstock does very minimal advertising in the U.S. They have such a great following of wearers that the shoes almost sell themselves.
Walking through the office space, I also noticed that everyone who worked at Birkenstock was actually wearing Birkenstock shoes. Customer service staff members were wearing the shoes for which they were providing assistance. Does customer service get any more personal than that? #1 human beings were answering the phone and #2 they have first hand knowledge about the product because they are wearing Birkenstocks.
We walked out of the office space and into a garden oasis.
The first thing one sees upon exiting the building from the back is a beautiful hand painted mural. Birkenstock had local high school art students paint a mural on the wall. The mural enhances the landscape and brings vibrance into the building for its employees.
As we turned to the right, there was a lovely garden area and a human-made creek bed. Behind this garden is a retaining wall that protects the building from the hillside. Birkenstock commissioned an artist to decorate it to bring beauty to an otherwise dull cement wall. I don’t know how to describe the type of art on the wall other than designs that are embedded into the cement that are reminiscent of hieroglyphics.
There was a small pond covered with lily pads and water lilys. The pond area was lovely and looked like a Monet painting. Birkenstock is a home to a turtle. I did not get to meet this turtle because it was hiding from a dog that was out on a quick walk. Birkenstock is a dog friendly work environment. Birkenstock is visited by other animals as well. The open space around the property brings in many different types of animals, like deer, rabbits, turkeys, lizards, and snakes.
On the northern most side of the building is open space. Part of the land is being used by a beekeeper from Petaluma. Apparently, bees are very happy on the Birkenstock land and produce flavorful honey.
Another section of the land is fenced off and used for an employee garden. Just below the garden are a few oak trees that had been planted to honor Birkenstock employees that have passed on. The oak trees were a lovely tribute to those that have passed away.
Just below the open space and oak trees is the warehouse. This hyperbolic paraboloid building is magnificent up close. John Savage Bolles originally designed the warehouse building for the McGraw-Hill publishing house. This is the same architect that designed the IBM campus and the now demolished Candlestick Park.
Mc-Graw-Hill moved out of the space in 1991 and Birkenstock moved into the space in 1992. This was home to Birkenstock USA for 15 years until Birkenstock moved its distribution center to Kentucky to be close the UPS hub. When Birkenstock downsized, they left the office space and moved to a smaller building on Hamilton Field in south Novato for about 5 years. In late 2012, Birkenstock returned to its office space on Redwood Blvd.
The parking lot and office buildings sit a little higher up on the hill than the warehouse. One can easily see the roof of the warehouse from the parking lot. It was pointed out to me how the lower areas of the eves were fenced off with wire as a safety precaution. Apparently, skateboarders use to climb up onto the roof and used it as a skate park.
I did not get to tour the warehouse because it is empty. All these years I thought it was full of Birkenstocks, but for the past several years all those Birkenstocks have been housed in Kentucky. There are 2 other empty buildings that I did not tour. One is an another office space and the other is a small cafeteria which has been closed since the distribution center relocated out of state. Peeking through the window of the cafeteria everything looks like it is paused in time.
After my tour, I met with two Birkenstock staff members to learn more about the brand. It was clear they were experts in their profession and that they took pride in the brand for which they work. I learned about how the shoes were made, the footbeds, the widths, insoles, sandals, shoes, boots, and many other fun facts. The information that I gathered from them will be shared in upcoming blogs.
There were no attempts to censor what I had written or guide me in any direction regarding future blog topics. The Director of Merchandising, the Director of Marketing, and the Customer Service Manager provided me a wealth of information about the Birkenstock brand and willingly answered all my questions.
I am thankful to the Birkenstock USA CEO for the invitation. I am also extremely thankful for the amount of time that each of three staff members spent with me during my tour. I feel like the Birkenstock USA family opened their doors to me and gave me a glimpse of their private home. For that, I am forever grateful.
Cinderella says that “a pair of shoes can change your life”. A pair of Birkenstocks certainly changed my life. And my tour of the Birkenstock USA headquarters was like a magical fairy tale come true. It is a day in my life that I will never forget.
I Love Birkenstocks….thank you again for this once in a lifetime tour.
I like a good tequila as much as I like a great pair of Birkenstocks. Just as there are many classifications of tequila, there are various collections within the Birkenstock parent company. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to tour the Tequila region in Mexico. I visited tequila distilleries and learned about the classifications of tequila. When I tried to better understand the collections under the Birkenstock parent company, it helped me to categorize them, as one would classify a tequila.
The reason I started to research the various Birkenstock collections is because I came across a pair of Papillio sandals online. The Papillios looked liked a Birkenstock Gizeh yet had a different name. I thought they were fakes and did not purchase them. I could not stop thinking about the Papillios and Googled the name. This led to an overwhelming amount of information about the Birkenstock family of brands.
Before classifying the different collections, it is important to first provide a brief history of Birkenstock to better understand why these companies were created. The brand of Birkenstock has evolved over the course of 230+ years. Birkenstock was created in 1774 by Johann Adam Birkenstock. Before making shoes, the Birkenstock family sold specialized footbed insoles for factory made shoes. Karl Birkenstock created the original Birkenstock sandal by attaching leather straps to an updated version of the original footbed. According to Birkenstock Group, in 1963 “Karl Birkenstock launch[ed] the Madrid model, the first fitness sandal with a deep and flexible footbed, thereby laying the foundation for today's comfort footwear market.”
After the invention of the original sandal, Birkenstock continued to grow its shoe-making business into what it is today. Karl Birkenstock’s three sons joined the shoe-making business in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Each son created their own brand within the Birkenstock parent company. The three main brands were Birkenstock, Papillio, and Birki's. Additional companies were created over the course of many years. Birkenstock Group notes that at one point there were over 38 companies within the Birkenstock family.
Each of the different Birkenstock companies were run by a different Birkenstock family member until 2013. Per the Birkenstock Group, “2013 heralds one of the most significant turning points in the company's history: Birkenstock becomes a corporation...The group is led by an executive team, which for the first time is not composed of family members – an unprecedented event in the company's almost 240-year history.”
Putting the pieces together of all the companies would be a difficult task. To make things easier, I am going to focus on four different Birkenstock shoe collections that I have seen sold within the US. I will classify the collections into certain categories, just as tequilas are classified.
Here is a chart I created to help you better understand the type of shoe in relation to the tequila classification, along with “Gina Mama’s Ranking System”. Each level has its own unique properties that make it great a product in its own right.
As tequilas age their qualities improve. They become more complex and smoother to drink. An Añejo Tequila is made from 100% Blue Agave. It has been aged more than 1 year and less than 3 years in barrels with a maximum capacity of 600 liters (www.tequila.net). Añejo Tequila is your top shelf tequila.
Think of a Birkenstock as an Añejo Tequila. A tequila labeled “100% Blue Agave” is a certificate of product quality. A shoe embedded with “Birkenstock” means it has been made with premium materials. A tequila is classified as Añejo if it follows certain distillation guidelines. A Birkenstock shoe is made only from the highest quality materials. According to Birkenstock, their brand "represents top-notch products manufactured with close attention to detail and a high level of hand-crafting. Eco-friendly production and the use of select, high-grade, long-lasting materials all help to protect our environment.” Birkenstock makes superior quality shoes for women, men and children. Birkenstocks and Tequila Añejo are both costly because they are crafted in a time honored traditional way.
One shelf down from the Añejo, a connoisseur will find Tequila Reposado. A Tequila Reposado also uses 100% Blue Agave. However, a Tequila Reposado is still in the first step of the resting process compared to a Tequila Añejo. This classification of tequila, according to tequila.net, “is aged in wood barrels or storage tanks between 2 months and 11 months. The spirit takes on a golden hue and the taste becomes a good balance between the Agave and wood flavors. Many different types of wood barrels are used for aging, with the most common being American or French oak. Some Tequilas are aged in used bourbon / whiskey, cognac, or wine barrels, and will inherit unique flavors from the previous spirit.” While not as smooth as Tequila Añejo, a Reposado Tequila has it own distinct qualities and many people prefer it over an Añejo Tequila.
I would rank the Papillio collection at the same level as a Tequila Reposado. There are many reasons for this ranking. First, the Papillio brand uses high quality materials like Birkenstock but the uppers tend to be more colorful. Second, Papillio use many different types of materials to create their vibrant uppers. Similar to how tequila makers use many different types of wood barrels to age the tequila when creating a Tequila Reposado. Third, the Papillio brand inherits the look of Birkenstock styles, but are unique in their own right because of the more trendy uppers. This is akin to how a Tequila Reposado takes on unique flavors from the various barrels in which they were aged. Fourth, Papillio is also downgraded one shelf on my ranking because they only make these shoes for women, whereas Birkenstock designs shoes for women, men, and children. Finally, the footbed of the Papillio is similar to a Birkenstock, but has a rounder toe area and a more square heel area, thereby providing a slightly wider footbed. The Papillio is a great choice of shoe for women with a wider foot because the footbed offers a little more space compared to a Birkenstock. Just as some people prefer a Reposado Tequila over an Añejo Tequila, some people prefer the Papillio collection over the Birkenstock styles.
One will find Tequila Silver two shelves down from Añejo Tequila. Tequila Silver is made from 100% Blue Agave. A tequila classified as Silver “is the Blue Agave spirit in its purest form. It is clear and typically un-aged, where the true flavors and the intensity of the Agave are present, as well as the natural sweetness. It can be bottled directly after distillation, or stored in stainless steel tanks to settle for up to 4 weeks.” (www.tequila.net). Since Tequila Silver is not aged very long, it emits a much stronger flavor of the agave plant compared to any of the higher classified tequilas noted above.
Of all the Birkenstock collections, the most similar to an un-aged tequila would be that of the Birkenstock EVA. Birkenstock EVAs are available in a wide variety of vibrant colors. Like an EVA Birkenstock, a Silver Tequila is fresher and brighter on one’s palette. Although a Birkenstock EVA sandal does have an anatomically formed footbed, similar to a Birkenstock, they tend to use synthetic materials to produce these shoes. An EVA Birkenstock can even be classified as Vegan because they use no animal products in the making of the shoe. Some people prefer to have shoes made from non leather materials, which makes the EVA collection a good option. There are many styles of Birkenstock EVA available for men, women, and children. While EVA Birkenstocks and bottles of Silver Tequila are not as expensive as their counterparts, they are still rich in style and flavor.
The last shelf would display a Tequila Gold. Gold Tequila is not made from 100% Blue Agave. Tequila Gold is mixed from 51% Blue Agave and 49% other sugars. Tequila.net explains that Tequila Gold contains, “colorants and flavorings [that] have been added prior to bottling. These ‘young and adulterated’ tequilas are less expensive and used in many bars and restaurants for ‘mixed drinks’”. Tequila Gold is a much less refined spirit compared to the aforementioned classifications made from 100% blue agave.
If a Birkenstock brand shoe were like a Tequila Gold, that shoe would be the Birkenstock Professional. Birkenstock Professional shoes are specially designed work shoes. These types of shoes can be used in a wide variety of work environments because they include slip resistant treads as well as oil resistant soles. Even though the Birkenstock Professional shoes are placed on the last self, they are still a great shoe.
The main reasons that I placed the Birkenstock Professional collection on the bottom self is because they are only made for adults and there are few color options available. If you look at the Birkenstock Professional shoes you instantly recognize the Birkenstock-style uppers and footbed. However, the soles of the shoe differ greatly from that of the iconic Birkenstock sole. In other words, like Tequila Gold, a Professional style shoe is a large percent Birkenstock (uppers) and a smaller percentage other materials (the soles). Tequila Gold is a great choice when making mixed drinks, just as Birkenstock Professional shoes are the perfect option for those who work in an environment that require slip-resistant soles, steel toe shoes, or a shoe that can withstand oil and grease spills.
Under Lock and Key
On a side note, in 2006, a new classification of tequila was created. This is the Extra Añejo Tequila. As defined by tequila.net, an Extra Añejo Tequila is “a product that may be enhanced by mellowing, subject to an aging process of at least three years...” Extra Añejo Tequila is the best of the best tequila. This is the type of tequila that you don’t keep on your shelf. Instead, you keep it hidden away and under lock and key. The Extra Añejo Tequila only comes out on special occasions with your most cherished loved ones.
I can think of only one type of shoe within the Birkenstock collection that might be kept tucked away, like an Extra Añejo Tequila. This would be the Birkenstock sandals made with exquisite leather. According to Birkenstock USA, these specially made shoes are “handcrafted and the footbed is completely wrapped in premium leather”. A Birkenstock wrapped in premium leather is not the type of shoe that you would putz around in or take to the beach. This is the type of shoe worn only for special occasions.
With the addition of the Extra Añejo classification, “Gina Mama’s Ranking System” has been revised:
Tequila and Birkenstocks have been around for centuries. Tequila was first produced in the 16th century by the Aztecs. Birkenstock has been around since 1774. Tequila and Birkenstocks are only produced in the countries in which they were created. Tequila is made in Mexico. Birkenstock brand shoes are made in Germany.
Just as each individual may have his/her own preference of tequila, each person may like a different type of Birkenstock shoe. Some people prefer Birkenstocks, others might like Papillios, EVAs, or the Professional shoes. Birkenstock brand shoes and tequila brands each have their own unique qualities that make them special in their own way.
I Love Birkenstocks as much as I love a good tequila. How about you? What are your favorite shoes within the Birkenstock collection? Do you prefer a certain type of tequila? Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts.
The only thing more controversial than whether or not you wear Birkenstocks, is whether or not you wear them with socks. Some people love to wear Birkenstock sandals with socks, while other people think such a concept is an abomination to the fashion world. Which side of the fence are you on? Are you a sock and ‘stocks lover? Or, are you a Birkenstock purist?
Some people love to wear Birkenstocks with socks. Some people love to wear Birkenstocks without socks. Other people love them both ways: with and without socks. It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you stand on because it all boils down to loving your Birkenstocks.
I strongly believe that anyone can wear Birkenstocks. How you wear them is entirely up to you. Birkenstock purists would likely never wear their sandals with socks. If the weather turns cold, purists would either grin and bear it or switch to a closed toe pair of Birks. Non-purists would just throw on a pair of socks to stay warm.
People in the fashion world might consider the worst faux pas one can make is to wear white gym socks with Birkenstocks. In their world this is a big no-no.
Fashionistas sometimes label those who wear gym socks with Birkenstocks as being sloppy, lazy or dorky. Negatively labeling, categorizing and stereotyping other people is just plain wrong.
Maybe someone woke up late and had to rush out of house in their socks and Birkenstocks. Or perhaps an individual was too lazy to change socks or shoes before leaving the house. It’s ok to be lazy once and awhile. Finally, what’s wrong with being dorky? We are all dorky in some way, whether we want to admit it or not.
Plenty of people who are not sloppy, lazy or dorky wear white socks with Birkenstocks. Take for example pro-athletes who wear white socks with their flip flops post game. They are staying warm and giving their feet a break from constricting athletic cleats. Same can be said for Birkenstock wearers who want to stay warm and slip into their comfy Birks after a long work day on their feet. Many people who wear socks with Birkenstocks are not trying to make any fashion statement at all. They simply want their feet to stay warm in a pair of comfortable, supportive shoes.
It’s not just gym socks that people are wearing with Birkenstocks. These days it is very on trend to pair wool socks with Birkenstocks. Birkenstocks with silly designs are all the rage too. Many people choose to wear bold, colorful socks when wearing neutral color Birkenstocks. Doing so makes the sandal “pop” and the Birkenstock becomes the focal point of the outfit.
Some people wear socks with Birkenstocks when it is cold outside because they have minimal options. People who are on a budget or who follow a minimalist lifestyle may have one pair of Birkenstocks that require maximum usability. Purchasing one pair of socks is less expensive and takes up less space, than buying a new pair of closed toe Birkenstocks for cold days.
It is also convenient to wear socks with Birkenstocks if you live in an area with microclimates, like the Bay Area. Around here, one might wake up to dense fog in Berkeley and then travel across the Richmond bridge to be embraced by warm sunny skies in Marin. For these situations, why not slip on toasty wool socks in the morning? This person would be able to strip off the socks upon arrival at their warmer destination and be able to enjoy Birkenstocks sock-free. Bay Area residents are experts when it comes to dressing in layers. This includes dressing your feet in layers too with socks and ‘stocks.
I know many people who wear socks and Birkenstocks due to medical conditions. For example, diabetics often wear socks as a protective layer to buffer their feet when wearing sandals. Others may be required to wear compression stockings for issues related to blood clots, varicose veins, lymphoedema, or skin ulcers. Certain people may even be required to wear compression stockings post surgery.
Although people without medical conditions and Birkenstocks purists may not like wearing Birkenstocks with socks, a large majority of the Birkenstock wearing population does enjoy combining socks with their ‘stocks. Birkenstock is well aware of this trend and they even have their own line of legwear. Birkenstock Group’s webpage shows the types of socks available. They even make socks for Gizehs and Madrid models! Unfortunately, finding a pair of Birkenstock socks in the US is virtually impossible.
I believe that anyone and everyone can and should wear Birkenstocks…with or without socks. I like to remain non-judgmental and neutral when it comes to other peoples’ fashion choices. People should wear Birkenstocks however they feel most comfortable.
Do I know people who wear Birkenstocks with socks? Absolutely. Do I mind if other people wear Birkenstocks with socks? Not at all.
At this point you might be asking, “Gina Mama, which side of the fence are you on? Are you a socks and ‘stocks lover? Or, are you a Birkenstock purist?” I am purist on most fronts. I don’t add sugar to espresso. I don’t put coffee in milk. I prefer a shot of tequila over a margarita. And I don’t wear socks with my Birkenstocks.
I am a Birkenstock purist and I Love Birkenstocks….without socks. How do you like to wear your Birkenstocks?