Phil Gyford


Wednesday 2 July 2003

PreviousIndexNext Birkenstock

You’d think that someone writing an article about how Birkenstocks are accidentally fashionable would have done some, any, research and then pointed out that in the US the company is going out of its way to appear trendy with an entirely new range of footwear.

Every summer I think my years old, worn out, paint-spattered Birkenstock sandals probably need renewing, but if I sport shiny new ones now everyone will think I’ve descended from splay-toed hippy to bandwagon-jumping, Heat-reading fashionista! Curse the diffusion of innovation!


I was particularly taken with a Mercedes advert once which showed an elderly Spanish owner with a 1936 model that had covered a million miles on one engine. I thought to myself, 'I should have a Mercedes, it would last a life time, I'd never need another car'. These thoughts have helped numb me to the purchase price and the price of spares. I have never had the money to buy one, but if I do, then I've got all my justifications ready and waiting

In the same way you could say 'I want one pair of sandals for the rest of my life, I'll pay more but they will last me forever because they have quality'. The longer I have them, the more they will become part of me, after a time they'll come to resemble Van Gogh painting of peasant shoes, they'll not just become part of me. Anyone who comes across them will be able to discern, just from the wear and tear, how they open up the world in which I inhabit. Heidegger was always rambling on about this.

Its all about brands, I think we are reaching the "twilight of the brands", this is a cool shoe, this is a cool motorcycle, my mobile(cell) phone is smaller than yours. Well its cool to be uncool. Just think of the mirth you could spread by getting on the Piccadily line with an eighteen inch mobile phone and then trying to use it. I remember being ridiculed by my class mates in 1972 for wearing a Slade tee shirt rather than one with Led Zeppelin on. Ever since then I've been determined to be uncool and its come quite naturally. I take pride now in going into five star hotels clutching my Morrissons carrier bag. I've always fancied riding across North America on a Honda C70.

Terence Stamp was really into designer shoes. I saw a TV program once where a cocky and smug Noel Gallagher was brandishing, in front of an admiring Chris Evans, some branded boots which had cost 700 pounds. My own policy on shoes, which I'm sure your dying to read, is the inverted snobby one of buying the cheapest comfortable ones possible. I keep waiting for people to compliment me on my shoes so I can tell them how little they cost, but no one has ever complimented me on my footware or any other item of clothing for that matter.

I had this pair of canvas boots once, they were soooo comfortable you wouldn't belive it, it was like entering heaven every time you put them. One evening at the dining table someone remarked on an awfull smell, I realised to my horror that it was my canvas shoes. Sadly they were in no state to be washed, as they were nearing the point of disintegration. I refused to get rid of them until I was eventually identified as the source of the awfull smell.

So many of these things are lifestyle accessories. My lifestyle no longer allows me to wear sandals. You can't kick a ball properly with sandals, you can't chase your children, one of whom is about to run across a road, wearing sandals. I stopped wearing jeans too, I think you need a cold climate or plenty of outdoor work for jeans, otherwise they are just too heavy and uncomfortable.

Posted by Richard Hyett on 2 July 2003, 11:14 pm | Link

Phil, if you need to refresh your summer footwear *and* retain the fashonista's seasonal sneer, I'd recommend substituting your Birkenstocks for a sandal by Teva. I sported a pair of "Universal Approach" for about eight months contiguous daily wear, it

Posted by Tim Brayshaw on 3 July 2003, 12:52 am | Link

What do you do when your brand new puppy eats your favourite pair of sandals, like Richard's probably hundreds of years old which have moulded to your toes, one could even say mouldied to your toes...(euch!)

And this year, can you get the sort of sandal I want? No indeed, they are not "fashionable" - i even thought about resorting to good old comfy unfasionable Birkenstocks until a quick run through ebay alerted me to what any cool fashion bod knew a long time ago - Birkenstocks are now desirable items! How? When?

Is it still essential to wear them with a full leg beard, as demonstrated on the beaches of Europe by a certain nationality (and they know who they are) for a very long time now?

Somehow I doubt Kate Moss will be doing that. But Richard, you can chase children in sandals - very well. and you are excused football duties. Perfect in my book. Just let me get a pair that's far enough out of fashion for me to like.


Posted by Polly on 6 July 2004, 10:22 pm | Link

You can still wear your old Birkenstock...have a shoemaker remake them with new cork footbed and soles, and you will have the old top, with the new bottom...After you wear them a couple of weeks, no one will be able to know what you did...

Posted by gene on 20 September 2004, 5:04 pm | Link

Good idea Gene. But the leather straps are splattered with paint from foolishly decorating in them once, so they could really do with an entire replacement at some point. They've lasted another summer though!

Posted by Phil Gyford on 20 September 2004, 5:13 pm | Link

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