Birkenstocks are not just for hippies or hipsters. Even elderly individuals love to wear Birkenstocks. The other day I met a woman in her late 90s who only wears Birkenstocks. You might think that because she is an older adult that her doctor prescribed Birkenstocks for a medical condition. That’s not the case at all. She wears Birkenstocks because they are comfortable and she likes them.
I met this woman at the store and we had a long conversation about Birkenstocks. This person has been wearing Birkenstocks for decades. She was born in Germany and was introduced to this brand of shoe as a child. Wearing Birkenstocks has been part of her entire life. When she moved to the US in the 1960s, Birkenstocks had became fashionable in America. In fact, she introduced many of her American friends to Birkenstock shoes during the 1960s.
This person continued her Birkenstock wearing tradition even as the fad phased out in the US. She returned to Germany each year to visit her family. Every time she journeyed to her home country, she purchased a new pair of Birkenstocks. Over the course of decades, she has amassed quite the collection of vintage Birkenstocks.
Birkenstocks are highly durable shoes and can last decades. She informed me that she has many pairs of Birkenstocks that have been resoled, recorked, and/or repaired over the years. She has not traveled out of the country for over a decade and has not purchased a new pair of shoes since her last trip. She told me, “my Birkenstocks last me ages and I have not had to buy a new pair of shoes for 12 years”.
The day I met her, I was wearing my gold Arizonas. I shared with her my story behind the shoes. She wasn’t that impressed. She tells me that one woman with whom she is friends has the same shoes, but “she’s really a young girl and likes flashy things”. Turns out that “young” girl is in her 80s.
This person clearly did not like my trendy gold Birkenstocks. She is a self admitted Birkenstock purist. She likes her Birkenstocks in neutral colors. She only wears open toe Birkenstocks and never, ever wears her Birkenstocks with socks. When I asked her how she manages the winter months in open toed Birkenstocks, she looked at me sideways and said “we live in California, we don’t need socks”.
Though she did wish she was wearing socks the day she stubbed her toe on a sharp object. She said her toe bled like crazy. She mentioned these days that she is extra cautious when wearing her open toed shoes to prevent other accidental cuts.
I asked her if she has ever worn the Boston model Birkenstock. She said “no, I hate the Bostons. I have one pair and I never wear them. I like my toes to be free”. I told her I love my Bostons and wear them all winter long and even keep a pair under my bed to wear as slippers.
When I mentioned slippers I saw her face light up. She said she recently went to a lecture given by the local Fire Marshall and he recommended that everyone keep a closed toe pair of shoes under their bed in the event of an earthquake. (Remember, we live in the Bay Area). The Fire Marshall explained that one of the biggest dangers after an earthquake is the broken glass. She said, “I am going to put my Bostons under my bed as my emergency shoes. Finally they will be of use to me.” She continued to explain that the last thing she would want to deal with after the next big earthquake is walking on broken glass.
Before I left, I asked her which style of Birkenstocks were her favorite. She said, “they are all my favorite because the help relieve my back pain.”
It’s amazing to think that she and I wear Birkenstocks for the exact same reasons, even though I am 50+ years young than her. It just goes to show that Birkenstocks are not just for hippies or hipsters. All people, young and old, love to wear Birkenstocks!
Birkenstock blogger since 2016.