The ’70s flower children wore them first. Form and function once again take the forefront in campus fashion.
By Kris Dreessen
While other students on cam-pus in the early 1980s sport-ed Birkenstock sandals, Denise Reed Lamoreaux ’84, P’11 never did — until her friends pooled their money and bought her a pair for her birthday. She didn’t think they looked great, but she eventually gave in.
“They were my guilty pleasure,” says Lamoreaux, “because they were comfortable.”
If she wore them to campus today, she’d be right in fashion.
Birkenstocks are everywhere. If a dozen students walk by, it’s a good chance half of them are wearing them.
“I feel like everyone I know wears them,” says Emma Boskovski ’21. “They are comfortable and super casual. They match everything. I see people wear them with dresses and they don’t look out of place.”
Birkenstocks, created by German brothers in the 18th century and boasting the first molded footbed in a shoe, were first sold in the United States in the 1960s. Hippies made their functional, orthopedic style popular, and the sandals faded on and off the fashion dial in the 1980s and 1990s. Now? The May 2019 issue of Vogue magazine featured a spread of a high-style Italian vacation with male and female models rocking Birkenstocks.
Recently, Forbes highlighted how Birkenstock’s successful comeback can inform other brands: When luxury brands copy your utilitarian style, update it and capitalize on it. Birkenstock kept styles familiar to their older customers and expanded the line with variations for a younger audience, such as bright colors, leopard prints and metallic finishes.
Catherine Gluchowski ’21 has suede and leather versions. Boskovski has a pair with rubber straps. Richie Kaler ’19 had several pairs — until, he says laughing, he traded one of them to a roommate for a flag to hang on his wall. He and Gluchowski have been wearing themfor years; their moms had Birks in college and still wear them today.
“I wear mine at some point every day,” says Kaler, adding that a lot of his fellow geology majors wear Birkenstocks.
Boskovski and Gluchowski embrace the stereotype that has followed the brand since Lamoreaux and her friends walked the same footpaths. Birkenstocks are earthy, crunchy shoes. If you’re wearing them, says Boskovski, you’re likely also carrying a reusable water bottle.
“They are for people who like to be outside and in nature but who also have a relaxed vibe to them,” she says.