Birkenstock

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Birkenstock Orthopädie GmbH & Co. KG
TypePrivate
Founded1774
FounderJohann Adam Birkenstock
Headquarters,
Germany
ProductsShoes
Websitebirkenstock.com

Birkenstock Orthopädie GmbH & Co. KG is a German shoe manufacturer known for its production of Birkenstocks, a German brand of sandals, and other shoes notable for their contoured cork footbeds (soles) made with layers of suede and jute, which conform somewhat to the shape of their wearers' feet.

Founded in 1774 by Johann Adam Birkenstock and headquartered in Neustadt (Wied), Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. The company's original purpose was to create shoes that support and contour the foot, compared to the flat soles of many shoes during that time. In 1896 the Fussbett (footbed) was created and by 1925 Birkenstocks were sold all over Europe.

In 1966, Margot Fraser first brought Birkenstocks to America. In the US, they were sold in health stores, thus becoming associated with hippies in the 1970s.

In 2015, the EVA, a rubber sandal made out of ethylene-vinyl acetate, was made as a cheaper alternative to the original cork Birkenstock.

Birkenstocks have appeared in the world of High Fashion many times, with designers giving their own spin on Birkenstocks. Phoebe Philo created one of the more well known designs for Céline. Composed of Birkenstock's Arizona and a mink covered footbed, the sandal is commonly called the "Furkenstock".

In February 2021 L Catterton, the private equity firm backed by Bernard Arnault's LVMH, has agreed to buy the German footwear group Birkenstock in a deal that values the company at about €4bn.

History[edit]

Early Years[edit]

A pair of Birkenstocks near the ocean.

The Birkenstock brand traces its roots to Johann Adam Birkenstock, registered in 1774 as a "vassal and shoemaker" in local church archives in the small Hessian village of Langen-Bergheim. In 1896, Johann's great-great-grandson Konrad Birkenstock developed the first contoured insole for use by shoemakers in the production of custom footwear.[1] Also in the year 1896 Konrad created the Fussbett (footbed) and opened two shoe stores in Frankfurt, Germany where he continued to make and sell his insoles.[2] The Birkenstock company created many educational courses to help spread awareness of the benefits of its shoes, in 1947 Konrad's son, Carl Birkenstock wrote the book "Podiatry-The Carl Birkenstock System", one of many books released by Birkenstock.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. In 1925 Konrad Birkenstock expanded the company by buying a large factory in Friedberg, Hesse. After World War II (1939–1945) the Birkenstock sandal was popular among returning soldiers because of the orthopedic support.[3] Starting in 1963 and continuing into 1964 Karl Birkenstock released his first athletic sandal with a flexible footbed called Madrid. The shoe was constructed so that the wearer would have to grip their toes in order keep the sandals on, this resulted in toning the calf muscle, which became quite useful to athletes, especially among gymnasts.[4]

Margot Fraser and introduction to U.S.[edit]

In 1966, Margot Fraser a German dressmaker who resided in California, decided to travel back to Germany to visit a spa in Bavaria, where she was recommended Madrids to help with a foot ailment caused by tight shoes.[5] Due to Margot Fraser's relief from her foot condition and her enthusiasm for the sandals, Birkenstocks were introduced in the United States -- though some hurdles stood in the way of their eventual acceptance by American buyers. The sandals were rejected by many shoe stores due to their appearance, which led Margot Fraser to health stores, specifically near the granola section.[6] The 1970s brought a spike in sales, In the United States, Birkenstock were first popular among young men and later on among flower children, a group traditionally associated with American liberalism. The shoe became popular with hippies and others who had a "back to nature" philosophy and appreciated the natural foot shape and foot-friendly comfort of Birkenstocks.[7] In 1973, Birkenstock's most popular sandal, the Arizona, was introduced.

Expansion and Present Day[edit]

Margot Fraser founded a trading company called Birkenstock Footprint Sandals, Inc., in Novato, California, 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 2007 the owners of Birkenstock Orthopädie GmbH & Co. KG purchased their long-standing distribution partner Birkenstock Distribution USA, Inc. (BDUSA).[8]

In 1986 Nordstrom became the first department store to sell Birkenstock sandals.

Birkenstock EVA Gizeh

In the early 1990s "Birks" enjoyed another spike in sales among high-school and college-aged Generation Xers, this was in part do to the introduction of Birkenstocks into High Fashion, most notably, Kate Moss. Birkenstocks continued to spread to Britain in the early 2000s due to headlines of Gwyneth Paltrow, who was spotted wearing the sandal.[9] Birkenstocks saw another comeback among teens and young adults in the early 2010s, as well as in the late 2010s due in part to the VSCO girl trend.[10] During the 2004 U.S. presidential primary, some conservatives derided Howard Dean's supporters as "Birkenstock liberals".[11]

In 2018, the company was given PETA's Libby Award for being the "Most Animal-Friendly Shoe Company."[12]

In 2020, with more people staying at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, comfort became an important part of fashion. Birkenstocks became a staple due to their convenience and comfort, this included the original cork sandal as well as the newer addition to the family, the EVA.[13]

High Fashion[edit]

Birkenstocks introduction into high fashion started in the early 1990s when Kate Moss wore the sandals for a magazine shoot. Birkenstocks continued to spread to Britain in the early 2000s due to headlines of Gwyneth Paltrow, who was spotted wearing the sandal.[14]

In 2012 Birkenstocks were spotted on a Céline runway in Paris. Called "Furkenstocks" this recreation of the Arizona sandal incorporated a mink covered footbed. Many other designers have also created their own version of the sandal including, Giambattista Valli and Givenchy.[15]

In 2019 Valentino collaborated with Birkenstock to create their own version of the sandal featured at Men's Paris Fashion Week.[16]

On June 3rd, 2021, the Birkenstock Group announced a collaboration with fashion designer Rick Owens.[17] Starting on June 4th of that year, interpretations of the Arizona and Boston models were released. A new Rotterdam style was also presented and released for sale.

Production[edit]

The original footbed of the Birkenstock shoe was created in the 1930s and possesses four different layers that complete the shoes. The first layer of the shoe is the shock absorbent sole, followed by a layer of jute fibers, a firm cork footbed and another layer of jute. The last layer is the footbed line which is a soft suede.[18]

In addition to the original footbed, Birkenstock also gives the option of a soft footbed. The shoe is made of the same materials as the original footbed, with the addition of a foam insert placed under the suede lining.

Birkenstock has also introduced an environmentally friendly shoe called the Birkenstock EVA, made of a material called Ethylene-Vinyl-Acetate or EVA.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "History of Birkenstock @ BIRKENSTOCK". birken.tw.
  2. ^ "History: Birkenstock Group". www.birkenstock-group.com. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  3. ^ e.V., Deutsche Zentrale für Tourismus. "Johan Adam Birkenstock". www.germany.travel. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  4. ^ "Madrid: Birkenstock Group". www.birkenstock-group.com. Retrieved 2020-11-16.
  5. ^ "Talk with founder and former CEO of Birkenstock, Margot Fraser". 2010-04-07. Archived from the original on 2017-04-26. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  6. ^ Horyn, Cathy (2018-08-20). "Cathy Horyn Travels to Germany to Understand the Unlikely Return of Birkenstocks". The Cut. Retrieved 2020-11-16.
  7. ^ Carr, Collie (12 March 2006). "Thank You for Insulting Our Sandals". The New York Times. Accessed 7 May 2012.
  8. ^ "History: Birkenstock Group". www.birkenstock-group.com. Retrieved 2020-11-16.
  9. ^ Helen Jennings. "The secret of Birkenstock's enduring success". CNN. Retrieved 2020-11-16.
  10. ^ Wu, Jasmine (2019-09-09). "Teen culture shifted to embrace brands, and the VSCO girl was born". CNBC. Retrieved 2020-10-28.
  11. ^ Eric (31 August 2003). "Who's Afraid of Howard Dean?" Classical Values. Accessed 7 May 2012.
  12. ^ Barbara Schneider-Levy,"Birkenstock Is Voted Most Animal-Friendly Shoe Company by PETA’s Youth Group," FootwearNews.com, 14 February 2018.
  13. ^ Yotka, Steff. "The Look of 2020? Birkenstocks and Masks". Vogue. Retrieved 2020-11-16.
  14. ^ Helen Jennings. "The secret of Birkenstock's enduring success". CNN. Retrieved 2020-11-16.
  15. ^ Mead, Rebecca. "Happy Ugly Feet". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2020-11-18.
  16. ^ Klerk, Amy de (2019-01-17). "Valentino has given Birkenstocks a high-fashion spin". Harper's BAZAAR. Retrieved 2020-11-18.
  17. ^ "News Detail Press: Birkenstock Group". www.birkenstock-group.com. Retrieved 2021-07-29.
  18. ^ "Our Footbed". www.birkenstock.com. Retrieved 2017-05-07.
  19. ^ "BIRKENSTOCK Footwear: Birkenstock Group". www.birkenstock-group.com. Retrieved 2020-11-13.

External links[edit]