When I say “Birkenstock” what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it a free loving hippie, dancing around Woodstock with long hair and Birkenstocks? Or is it of a liberal tree hugger walking around with socks and Birkenstock sandals? To me, it is the naked lady I saw at Bancroft and Telegraph in Berkeley. It was around 1992. She was heading to school at Cal and was completely naked except for her backpack and Birkenstocks. If had to break down the stereotype, this person was smart (heading to Cal) and comfortable (in her own skin and in her shoes).
Whatever stereotype might come to your mind regarding Birkenstocks, I bet it is somehow related to a person who might be “anti-establishment”. I would like to ask you to put that stereotype aside and keep an open mind about Birkenstock wearers.
Through the course of my studies, I have learned a great deal about stereotypes. There are 2 sides to stereotypes: good and bad. A stereotype might be considered good because it is a cognitive shortcut. Stereotypes allow an individual to easily process a great deal of information by quickly putting things into categories. Stereotypes, positive or negative, can become problematic because they can lead to bias. This is when a person believes a stereotype is true, even when it’s not true.
Let’s take for example, the stereotype that all old people are feeble. This leads to the belief that seniors are unable to take care of themselves, which heightens the discrepancy between the younger generation and the older generation. Through my line of work, I have met many older adults that are able to independently care for themselves as they age. And many of these older adults are very physically active seniors.
So when it comes to people who wear Birkenstocks, let’s not stick them in the “hippie” category. Though I see old hippies around Berkeley and wanna be hippies in West Marin running around in their Birkenstocks, there are several other groups of people who wear this brand of shoe. These other groups of people do not fit into the “hippie” stereotype. People, like me.
I can be stereotyped into various categories: 40-something, working mom, vegetarian, avid reader. Although I might be considered a Berkeley tree hugger, there is no way I would ever want to be stereotyped as a Birkenstock wearing hippie.
The good news is that Birkenstocks are breaking out of this hippie stereotype. The Birkenstock brand is crossing over into the fashion world.
This article from June 26, 2014 by Kurt Soller in Bloomberg explains how fashion designers have “rediscovered” Birkenstocks.
Believe it or not, Birkenstocks are showing up on the runways in the 21st century. Which proves that non-hippies are embracing the Birkenstocks.
In fact, these shoes are being becoming so popular that they seem to be flying off the shelves. New Birkenstock styles show up in stores or online and sell out quickly. If you see a Birkenstock style you like, I suggest you grab it before it’s gone. The new Birkenstock materials and snazzy designs are taking comfort shoes to a whole new level in the fashion world.
No longer does wearing Birkenstocks mean you are a granola eating, tie dye wearing hippie. Birkenstock shoes can be dressed up to wear to work or dressed down to wear on the weekends. Over the past year, I have seen a pre-school age kid wearing Birkenstocks, heard of teenagers begging their parents to buy them Birks, and met a 90+ year old client whose closet is stocked only with Birkenstock brand shoes. It is really exciting that Birkenstock can reach such a wide age range and provide peerless comfort to so many different groups of people.
Let’s crush that 50+ year old Birkenstock “hippie” stereotype and open our minds. Just as we would not want to stereotype all old people as feeble, we don’t want to categorize all Birkenstock wearing individuals as hippies.
I Love Birkenstocks and I am not a hippie!