Ethical Elegance: Birkenstocks

May 07

Seriously. Even five years ago, I would not have considered bringing Birkenstocks into my closet. You might think it was the NY Times approval that changed my mind, but, no. Last summer before I left for my trip to Scotland and France, I considered the Gizeh as my research showed me they were favored by the ever-elegant French women. As a Birkvirgin, though, I didn’t want to order online birkwithout knowing more about the fit. So the Gizeh crush subsided as shopping-related crushes often do.

Until I drew up my packing list for a visit to Wilmington, NC in April.

I was due for new sandals. And I wanted shoes that would last, that would look adorable with jeans or dresses, that would be comfortable, that were ethical.

I asked my style guru Heather which Birk to start with, and her answer: Mayari. I visited a local retailer and tried on a few sizes. I’m usually between a 7 and 8, depending on the manufacturer. I went with the 37 (in Uggs, for comparison, I wear 38) and the antique lace color. I couldn’t be more pleased. The foot bed is already conformed to my foot, making this shoe delightfully comfortable.

And here’s another thing. Birkenstock is a company that’s been around since the 18th century, and they’re still made in Germany.

Here’s another thing. While I have found it difficult to give up leather (I know, I know…I’m trying), the Birks I own are vegan. And that feels really ethical to me.

And suprisingly elegant.

What has surprised you as a piece you’ve grown to love in your wardrobe?


  1. I fought it for a while (they were so ugly!) and finally got a pair. My originals must be 10 years old and I’m so hesitant to part with them. I’ve got a second pair that aren’t the same. I’m due for a new pair of the original. I hope wear them as well as I have. My husband even jumped on the ship a few years ago and is close to wearing his out! I love your style!

  2. I’m so tempted by their new styles…but haven’t jumped in yet. Maybe it’s time! (I thought Uggs were ugly when they first came out and my six year old pair is nearly worn out now)

  3. Hahaha a Birkvirgin! I was a Birkenstock-wearing granola-muncher through the 80’s–in fact when I graduated college, I worked for a while in a hippystyle shoe store selling Birks, and I could probably still give you the sales pitch. My wardrobe of them lasted well into the 90’s. The color and styling options are much wider (and definitely more elegant) now. They last forever, so that’s another could argument for them. I was considering an orange pair, myself.Or possibly metallic silver (why I do not know).

  4. Ellen /

    My Mom and my Grandmother and I bought them in the late 80’s. Clancy bought his first pair last week, and has worn them every day since. How often do shoes please four generations?

  5. Oh, Birks! I resisted and resisted and resisted for ages until my acupuncturist pointed out that my back issues always flare up when I transition to flip-flops. So, now, I have several pair: a red Gizeh, a black patent Mayari, a black wedge-style (they are a bit too narrow), and a black Rio on the way (because my district decided that all sandals must have back straps on them). I’m sold . . . I live in them come warm weather.

  6. Those are really wonderful! (I’m a birkvirgin, myself. Maybe it’s time I give them a try.)

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