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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Birkenstock sandals: timeless or terrible?

As long as fashion trends have existed, there have been movements that took hold of the general public that are looked back upon with embarrassed laughter. Those who never partook in things like bell-bottoms and Ed Hardy smugly affirmed their biases against them when they fell from grace, and everyone moved on with their lives. Today, that stupid fashion trend is Birkenstock sandals, and I will be the one calling them for what they are—ugly, childish and highly overrated, to say the least. Let me take you on a journey where I describe what’s wrong with these overhyped crimes against humanity.

To start, let us define the pillars of good footwear: form, function and quality. Considering the amount of nasty, beat Birks I catch on the street, I’ll own up to the fact that these disgusting granola loafers are rugged, and can withstand the abuse of the foul hooves that usually inhabit them. However, in terms of aesthetics and utility, these shoes are awful, no matter if you’re running with the wannabe folk-rock, pseudo-hipster crowd, or just don’t give a damn. While each individual may have a unique reason for wearing them, the problems plaguing the shoe generally fall into common areas.

I’ll address the poseur camp first. Your clodhoppers look like that feeling you get looking at that couple that makes out on Bascom Hill, and will soon smell like a trash can at Coachella. Don’t listen to Tumblr or Pinterest; there are plenty of other shoes to wear with a sundress or romper than your earth-toned dew kickers. When the weather gets cooler, don’t think nobody’s noticing how you put on your one pair of cute socks with your leggings and Birks to try and get some worth out of them. For the menswear-conscious reading this, I assure you that you can look just as try-hard and European without taking a page from “The Big Lebowski.”

The dilemma surrounding the die-hard wearers of Birkenstocks who have transcended giving a damn about their appearance is more serious. They’ve internalized the need of function over that of looking ridiculous. That’s fine until you realize that you fall under the category of people who wear cargo shorts and running shoes or toe shoes everywhere. You look like your parents didn’t trust you to wear anything that wasn’t as ugly as sin when I spot you cruising down University Avenue in your crunchy slides. Do yourself a favor and wear normal people clothes; your friends and family can thank me later.

Even if you are unfazed by accusations of trying to look like you belong at Burning Man or Berkeley, you can’t deny the human factor of simply wearing them. First off, by donning Birkenstocks in public, you’re giving me a great view of your probably ashy heels and crusty phalanges; while other open-toed shoes exist, there’s a correlation between these corkboard huaraches and uniquely heinous feet. Second, even if you attempt to rock the dad look of “socks and ‘Stocks” (which you really shouldn’t), they will develop a foul stench matched only by boat shoes in summer. In summary, aside from being eyesores, the Birkenstocks are also revolting once you add a wearer.

Before you begin either penning your think piece in defense of Birkenstocks or quietly chuck yours into the back of your closet, I will concede that I am far from the trendiest human being myself, and that this article was a fun way to express my indignation or premature judgment of others. My daily outfits vacillate between stay-at-home dad, freshman who tried too hard to dress up to get a bid and the guy who won’t shut up about his last hiking trip. I am by no means an authority on what should be worn, and the anger that I attempted to channel into this article is more of a joke than it is advice you find in GQ. If you can rock a pair of Birkenstocks, I respect you more than the clown in Timberlands or Hunter rain boots. Just think about what you dress yourself in, and if you’re confident in what you’re dressed in, nobody can stop you; let your toes breathe, and don’t let any angry Cardinal writers step on them.

How do you feel about Birkenstocks? Are they a fashion staple in Madison or an embarrassing faux pas for Wisconsin? Send all comments and responses to

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