You may be surprised to see that we’re writing about Birkenstocks. They typically get no love on menswear blogs, as the sandal has some unstylish baggage that comes with it.
Well, we’re different. While we don’t necessarily recommend that everyone get a pair of Birkenstocks, they’re a popular name and they deserve to be talked about.
What Are Birkenstocks?
Birkenstock is actually a footwear brand, not a style of shoe. While the company has expanded its offerings and now sells all types of casual shoes for men, women, and kids, they’re a household name for sandals. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on their “Arizona” model, which is pictured above and in the infographic below.
From a high level, it’s a flat shoe with two buckled straps.
We’ll be honest: they’re not exactly the most handsome pair of sandals ever made, so why are they so well-known?
History & Focus On Comfort
If you go back far enough, you’ll learn that the Birkenstock name dates back to a man named Johann Adam Birkenstock. He was listed as a “subject and cobbler” in the archives of his local church in 1774. Over 100 years later in 1896, Konrad Birkenstock (a master cobbler) began to manufacture and sell flexible insoles. Unfortunately, the company offers no history of the 122 years between these events.
It would still be many years before Birkenstock became a full-blown company, but Johann’s legacy set those wheels in motion. In 1932, after many years and family members focusing on developing ergonomically correct shoes, Carl Birkenstock’s “Carl Birkenstock System,” a series of Birkenstock training courses, was endorsed by top podiatrists at the time.
This was the culmination of many years of focusing on ergonomically correct footwear, and the medical community took notice. They were, in a way, the first orthopedic shoes that became popular with us regular folk.
In the mid-1960’s, the shoes were brought to market in the United States, and they’re currently sold in specialty shoe stores.
How To Wear Birkenstocks
It would behoove us to mention that Birkenstock sandals have been popular with two sets of people who aren’t known for being stylish:
- Dads. Not DILF’s, but guys with Dadbod who wear Dad jeans and do so non-ironically. If you see a guy wearing shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, socks and sandals, he’s probably a Dad and those are probably Birkenstocks.
- Hippies, tree-huggers, flower children, et al.
The company was on the receiving end of a high fashion rebranding a few years ago, and you can still see that on their website (their collaboration with HighSnobiety further cements this). Tragically, they also photographed models wearing their sandals with socks.
If, after all this, you’re still curious about Birkenstocks, this is how to wear them:
These are sandals and they are therefore very casual. They can be worn with:
- Shorts (without socks)
- Jeans (without socks)
- Casual cotton or linen trousers (again, without socks)
It cannot be stressed enough that you mustn’t wear Birkenstocks with socks.
For these sandals to work at all, you must wear clothes that fit extraordinarily well. No cargo shorts that hang past the knee. No jeans with ripped hems. No oversized khakis, and definitely not if they’re pleated.
Birkenstocks won’t look right with tailored clothing like suits or odd jackets and trousers. Even if you’re a super stylish man who could make a clown suit look good in public, don’t wear Birkenstocks with a suit. However, if you do this and somehow it works, we would be very curious to see pictures.
In 90% of cases, this is a daytime shoe. Though they’re sandals, they’re known for being extremely comfortable, so you’ll probably be inclined to do a lot of walking in them.
If you’re going out for dinner or something of that nature, we see Birkenstocks as acceptable under the following conditions:
- The venue or restaurant has a casual atmosphere
- You’re in a resort or beach town where everyone is wearing sandals all the time anyway
- The weather is warm enough to justify wearing sandals at night, and
- Your feet are objectively not gross
Then, and only then, can you wear Birkenstocks.
Being a sandal, these have limited wear. In temperate climates they can be worn roughly three months out of the year, but if you live somewhere tropical, you can wear them all year round.
- Spring: Basic Earth tones like beige, brown, and olive, only on particularly warm days (after Memorial Day in the U.S.)
- Summer: Whatever color tickles your fancy
- Autumn: N/A
- Winter: N/A
Who Makes The Best Birkenstocks?
Only one company makes them, and that’s Birkenstock. They run anywhere from $35 up to about $125.
Do We Recommend Buying These?
This is a thorny question. Generally, we would say no. These sandals are chunky and heavy-looking, and as a result they they don’t present well compared to sleeker flip-flops or slides. A man of style would avoid these like the plague.
Not all men are created equal, however. Some of us have foot issues, back problems, or poor circulation in the legs. These guys, stylish as they may be otherwise, need an option for sandals that don’t hurt. With as many colors and styles that Birkenstock offers, this gentleman can find something that minimizes his discomfort while looking at least halfway decent.
We should also remember that it’s not Birkenstocks’ fault that poorly-dressed dads ruined co-opted the brand. As easy as it is do to, we shouldn’t let that taint our view of a brand that has built itself around the literal physical well-being of its customers.
In summation: if you suffer from certain physical ailments that Birkenstocks can remedy or minimize, we support your decision to buy these.
Just please, for the love of God, don’t wear them with socks.