In Defense of the Ugliest Birkenstocks

The Arizona is a classic, but it's time to embrace the Boston

In Defense of the Ugliest Birkenstocks
Birkenstock
By Lee Cutlip / May 14, 2020 11:01 am

Birkenstocks are kinda ugly. But their ugliness is at least in part where their charm lies, as it poses a challenge for many to make something seemingly so uncool cool. Those who once shunned Birksa and now find themselves converts (myself included) can attest to this — had it not been for their ubiquitousness among a certain set of fashionable individuals (for me it was the Olsen twins), the footwear would have remained firmly in uncool territory.

Yet despite the renaissance Birkenstocks have experienced in the past few years, and their transition from staple of granola-yoga types to staple of the fashion conscious, there remains a style of Birkenstock that has yet to receive the same due recognition as it’s open-toed counterparts: the Boston Birkenstock.

The Boston silhouette is the even uglier stepchild of the Birkenstock line. Whereas the brand’s other styles are clunky, the Boston is clunkier, if not the clunkiest. In fact, it’s a straight up clog, a divisive enough shoe in its own right made all the more polarizing with the addition of the brand’s signature elements, from the buckle to the cork footbed. But if we’re going to welcome Birkenstocks into our homes and closets, shouldn’t we welcome all iterations? Boston Birkenstocks need love, too.

Had the Bostons been at the forefront of the movement to make Birkenstocks cool, rather than the ever-popular Arizona style, then those are the Birks we would be wearing — it just happened to come down to circumstance. This isn’t to say that the Bostons should be worn just because they have yet to permeate mainstream culture the way the Arizona has, or that they’re without their merits. There’s a whole host of reasons as to why they’re worth wearing, namely the difference in aesthetic they allow for. If the Arizona Birkenstock is worn by an artist, the Boston is worn by the museum director curating the artist’s show.

While there are key elements that make a Birkenstock a Birk and are incorporated in each design, not every shoe lends itself to the same sartorial situations. The sandal Birkenstocks have their own time and place, and the Boston theirs. Where opened-toed Birkenstocks read as more casual, the Boston has the advantage of a more formal feel, all while retaining the same ease of wear. Even better, they’re a shoe not restricted to seasons. Pair them with socks or wear them without; wear them with full length pants or shorts — any styling works. And while your toes remain sheltered, your feet are far from encumbered. Much of the joy in wearing Birkenstocks comes from the ability to slip them on and off at a moments notice, and the Bostons still allow for that, just with slightly more coverage (save for your exposed heel but c’mon, live a little).

If you’re still not convinced let it be known that mere months ago Kanye West was outfitted in a Haider Ackermann suit accompanied by a pair of sandy suede Bostons. Even designer Rick Owens’ collaboration with the brand yielded a new pair of the style in glossy black leather. Clearly it’s becoming cool to be uncool.

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