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For other uses, see Birkenstock (disambiguation).
Founded 1774
Founder Charlotte Birkenstock
Headquarters Neustadt (Wied), Germany
Products Shoes
Pairs of Birkenstocks (original in the back, Birki's in the front (Birki's owned by Birkenstock))

Birkenstock Orthopädie GmbH & Co. KG is a shoe manufacturer headquartered in Neustadt (Wied), Germany.[1] The company sells Birkenstock, a German brand of sandals and other shoes notable for their contoured cork and rubber footbeds, which conform somewhat to the shape of their wearers' feet. Representative products include the two-strap Arizona sandal and the Boston clog.


The Birkenstock brand traces its roots to the Johann Adam Birkenstock, registered in 1774 as a "vassal and shoemaker" in local church archives in small Hessian village of Langen-Bergheim. In 1897 Johann's grandson Konrad Birkenstock developed the first contoured insole for use by shoemakers in the production of custom footwear. 1902 saw the development of the first flexible arch-support for insertion into factory-made shoes; and in 1964, Karl Birkenstock developed these inserts into a shoe — thus producing the original prototype of the Birkenstock sandal.[citation needed]

Since 1967 these shoes have been sold in the USA, as well as elsewhere. American Margot Fraser "discovered" Birkenstock sandals while on a holiday in Germany. She gained relief from a foot condition, and founded a trading company called Birkenstock Footprint Sandals, Inc., in Novato, California, based on her enthusiasm for the sandals. Renamed Birkenstock Distribution USA, Inc., in 2005, the company remained until 2007 the exclusive importer and distributor of Birkenstock name-brand products in the United States.

In the United States, Birkenstock first became popular among young men and later on among flower children, a group traditionally associated with American liberalism;[2] in the early 1990s "Birk" enjoyed a surge of popularity among high-school and college-aged Generation Xers comparable to the 2000s popularity of Crocs.[3] During the 2004 U.S. presidential primary, some conservatives derided Howard Dean's supporters as "Birkenstock liberals".[4] As of 2013 Birkenstock continue to enjoy high popularity with teenagers and college-aged young adults.

Union avoidance and busting[edit]

The Birkenstock Company, mainly under Karl Birkenstock, has a long history of union busting. The management split factories to discourage elections and had family members involved in counter organizing. Between the 1980s and 1996, more than 100 legal proceedings by unions and works council against the management were successful; once Karl Birkenstock had to pay DM 15,000 for calling a representative an "idiot". Mitglied des Bundestags Ulrich Schmalz called Birkenstock a despot, stuck in the 19th century.[5]

Sie werden ganz zu Recht wie Aussätzige behandelt und verachtet. Und das ist auch das mindeste, was angemessen ist.

You are rightly treated as lepers and scorned. That is the minimum of what is appropriate.

— Karl Birkenstock[5]


  1. ^ "Imprint." Birkenstock. Retrieved on July 8, 2010.
  2. ^ Carr, Collie (12 March 2006). "Thank You for Insulting Our Sandals". The New York Times. Accessed 7 May 2012.
  3. ^ Lydia DePillis (15 November 2013). "The rise and fall and rise and fall of Crocs". Washington Post. Accessed 7 November 2015.
  4. ^ Eric (31 August 2003). "Who's Afraid of Howard Dean?" Classical Values. Accessed 7 May 2012.
  5. ^ a b Kirbach, Roland (17 May 1996). "Krieg im Werk" (in German). Die Zeit. p. 6. Archived from the original on 13 January 2013. Retrieved 2014-06-14. Sie werden ganz zu Recht wie Aussätzige behandelt und verachtet. Und das ist auch das mindeste, was angemessen ist. 

Further reading[edit]

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