My Very Serious Internal Struggle With Birkenstocks


There are stacks of shoes in the living room, piles of sandals and sneakers and everything else foot-related we’ve dragged into our little Mexican casita for the holiday weekend. My pair is there: strappy and delicate and now, unfortunately, completely covered in mud. There they sit, simple and feminine, amongst four other pairs of Birkenstocks, none of which belong to the granola-munching, hemp-milk making, farm-working hippie that they have been associated with over the last one billion years. They belong to my friends, who are, if you’ll forgive my boastfulness, some righteously fashionable babes.

I—like a little girl with her mother’s heels, only, like, not because my feet are too big—slip one on one, attempting to imagine what it might possibly be like to transition over into the world of Girls Who Wear Birkenstocks, an ever-growing community if ever there were one. I squint, sending skin and leather and buckles into a fuzzed, painterly blur. Naaahhhh, can’t do it.

Maybe it’s because my feet are too big—have always been too big—and too wrecked with evidence from a decade modeling to commit to something as ultimately unflattering as a Birkenstock. As a size 41 (easily 42 in Chanel… thanks, Karl), I can assure you that confidence in your feet is inversely related to its size. My dad has been calling me Sasquatch for as long as I can remember—this, for the record, is Sasquatch. In my experience, the uglier the shoe, the smaller and better looking your foot’s got to be. The principle is not dissimilar to why Karlie Kloss can wear a potato sack and still look hot. What I’m working with are not the foot-equivalent of Karlie Kloss; they’re the foot-equivalent of Sasquatch. And Sasquatch does not wear Birkenstocks. Because Sasquatch is one ugly motherfucker.

Doubling up my resistance is a close association with the sandals to my ex-stepdad, a deceivingly casual, life-is-good, ain’t-got-no-troubles type of dude with shoes to match. Laces? Those are for uptight people who still have to work! Boots? Not for a life spent by the pool! Sneakers? What am I, European? All he needed were a pair of tan-suede slip-ons to get him from the house to the car to the golf course with the least amount of effort or interference possible. Ergo, BIRKENSTOCKS.

Now the fashion community has taken up with them for reasons fashion takes up with any anti-trend, which is to say when something becomes so horrible to look at, so ironically placed within the realm of luxury and absurd beauty, that it becomes transcendental. It becomes an item to have, to want. Something that will have you standing outside of an incredibly normal, incredibly average shoe store on Broadway–not in Barney’s or Opening Ceremony (both of whom are likely selling them now anyway, to be honest)–and contemplating the selection of Birks in the window. Oh, Fashion, how transparent you are!

So I’m beating up against this trend with my ugly feet and my weird ex-step-daddy issues (they exist), which is unfortunate, because at my core, I get this Birkenstock thing, even though I recognize that six or whatever years ago, when Heidi Klum started to bring that shit back hardcore, we collectively resisted… just like we resisted that moment Kate Moss wore bell bottoms and we thought, “For serious? Are bell bottoms back? Like back back?” But the tide has turned, an unavoidable tsunami of gratuitous bulk, comfort, and categorical anti-fashion that makes fashion-fashion look lame. These hippie sandals are here to stay, my friends, and I regrettably acknowledge that there are some things just not meant for me, like a bowl haircut, floppy hats, and, now, Birkenstocks.

But Tevas, tho… let’s talk.

Jenny Bahn

Jenny Bahn is a writer living in New York, happily awaiting the apocalypse. Until then, she'll keep buying shoes. Oh, yeah. She edits this site with Arabelle Sicardi.