7 Tastemakers Style Birkenstocks

You can’t really dodge the fact that ugly shoes are having a major moment in the sartorial spotlight. And, while we can get down with slinky stilettos, our blister-less feet are currently thanking us for the resurgence of comfy-cool soles. You can count Birkenstocks among the recent comeback kicks that have fashion lovers all around scooping these bad boys up like candy (foot candy, that is) and trekking in style and support.
So, we tapped seven local tastemakers to see how they dress the classic Birkenstocks sandals with a modern spin. From a sporty, casual denim number to night-out-esque ensemble, we’re here to prove that Birkenstocks are back in action and there’s nothing hippe-dippie about ‘em. These shoes are made for walking — and wowing.
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1 of 19
Name: Ashley Hildreth
Gig: Co-owner at KronnerBurger

What made you welcome the Birkenstocks trend back?
"Anything I see on the Céline runway, I am willing to rock at least once."

What are some key styling tips for Birkenstocks?
"Go for clean lines, minimal patterns, and color. Think Yohji Yamamoto and Japanese Vogue."

What’s your favorite style of Birkenstocks?
"The classic two-buckle slip-on in black or white."

2 of 19
Tell us more about the look you styled here.
"I am wearing my white Marni shortalls with a Drifter T- shirt, my boyfriend's Issey Miyake watch, white nail polish, red Shawn Burke Ltd. clutch, and black Birks."

The Bay Area and Birkenstocks have become somewhat synonymous over time — why do you think that is?
"I think it's because, for better or worse, Bay Area fashion is driven mainly by comfort and Birks are nothing if not comfortable."

Why do you think Birkenstocks can sometimes get a bad rap?
"They can be 'pugly,' which means pretty-ugly."

3 of 19
What are some major no-no's when styling them?
"No tie-dye, no Shibori prints, and most importantly, no patchouli."

What do you love about them making such a strong resurgence?
"It gives hope to my dream of, once again, being able to rock a half-sized Jansport backpack, overflowing with beanie babies."

4 of 19
Name: Alison Altomari
Gig: Marketing director for the California Olive Oil Council

What made you welcome the Birkenstocks trend back?
"Birkenstocks reinvented themselves. They used to be a hippie-dippie, two-buckle sandals or clogs. The company played with the format and there are new styles, materials, and colors that make them interesting again."

What are some key styling tips for Birkenstocks?
"Get a pedicure or add half-socks from RTH — made especially to wear with Birkenstocks."

Tell us more about the look you styled here.
"I paired the green one-strap sandals with skinny off-white Levi's, a fitted Kapital T-shirt, a textured vintage leather jacket, and a huge cozy Kapital scarf to break up the black and white."
5 of 19


The Bay Area and Birkenstocks have become somewhat synonymous over time — why do you think that is?
"I think it's because this city embraces flat footwear to get up and down these hills."

Why do you think Birkenstocks can sometimes get a bad rap?
"It’s the cultural connotation. For example, you can go to Japan and see people making Uggs and Crocs look great by the way they are styled. It all depends on the context."

What’s your favorite style of Birkenstocks?
"I love these one-strap sandals. They're really simple and feminine."
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6 of 19
What are some major no-no's when styling them?
"No ankle bracelets."

What do you love about them making such a strong resurgence?
"I like seeing the surprising ways that people are styling them! They are no longer a shoe just for hippies and hikers."
7 of 19
Name: Rebecca Brown
Gig: Editor at Polyvore

What made you welcome the Birkenstocks trend back?
"I actually picked up these white Gizeh sandals in 2009 when I was in Europe, but admittedly brought them out of the closet after Céline’s spring '13 show. Guess I'm a follower."

What are some key styling tips for Birkenstocks?
"Contrast! I like to embrace the chunkiness of this shoe and pair them with modern pieces, like tailored pants or feminine dresses."
8 of 19
Tell us more about the look you styled here.
"Between my roomy polka-dot trousers, funky Leo tank, and thrifted vest, there's a lot happening, so the sandals are key in centering my vibe and making the outfit look more casual."

What’s your favorite style of Birkenstocks?
"I have to go with the original Arizonas. There are certainly more fashionable styles available, but I’m partial to the unisex double strap."

The Bay Area and Birkenstocks have become somewhat synonymous over time — why do you think that is?
"We’ll never escape the hippie culture, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for some reason people still associate the Bay with hemp necklaces and tie-dye T-shirts. In fact, when I decided to move here, my friends just assumed that I’d swap my moto boots for Birkenstocks and start pickling vegetables. Little did they know I already owned a pair."
9 of 19
Why do you think Birkenstocks can sometimes get a bad rap?
"It’s a comfort shoe with an ergonomically minded footbed — the antithesis of sexy. There are literally 100 other sandal styles that are more feminine, but that’s what makes them rad in my book."

What do you love about them making such a strong resurgence?
"They remind me of my youth. In the ‘90s, I was obsessed with my triple-strap Floridas, and that style was really hard to find at the time. I wore them with slouch socks, which just makes me cringe. So, for purely nostalgic reasons, I’m happy to see them again. However, I’m afraid that by the end of the year Birkenstocks are going to get knocked off, blinged out, and bedazzled to the point of no return."
10 of 19
Name: Natalie Goel
Gig: Blogger at Like Fresh Laundry

What made you welcome the Birkenstocks trend back?
"They’re undeniably comfy. Can’t hate on that. Plus, the Olsens rock 'em. As soon as that happens, you know it’s a 'thing.'"

What are some key styling tips for Birkenstocks?
"The key is to keep it modern and simple, so they don’t look too 'granola.' Pair them with maxis, boyfriend jeans, trouser pants, it all works."
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11 of 19
Tell us more about the look you styled here.
"I kept the outfit clean and contemporary with leather, a graphic print dress, and a pop of color, to offset the earthy vibe of the sandals."

What’s your favorite style of Birkenstocks?
"I prefer solid colors in either the thong sandal or the two-strap variety. No Birki clogs or prints for this girl."

The Bay Area and Birkenstocks have become somewhat synonymous over time — why do you think that is?
"They’re known for molding to your feet and all that good stuff. So, naturally they’re popular among outdoorsy and crunchy-types, and that has classic Bay Area written all over it!"

12 of 19
Why do you think Birkenstocks can sometimes get a bad rap?
"Well, I think people generally think of them as orthopedic shoes. In fact, Birks may be the only shoe in existence right now at the intersection of style and orthotics."

What are some major no-no's when styling them?
"Sporting socks. Instant hippie-dippie."

What do you love about them making such a strong resurgence?
"Fashion is finally embracing shoes that are kind to the feet. Not sure how long it will last, but I’ll take it."
13 of 19
Name: Erin Hiemstra
Gig: Blogger at Apartment 34

What’s your favorite style of Birkenstocks?
"I'm a big fan of the new black and white patent versions of Birks. The glossy sheen elevates the style a bit. I also love the T-strap or over-the-toe versions that I find more flattering — especially since I wear a size 10 shoe!"

What made you welcome the Birkenstocks trend back?
"While I was a reluctant adopter of the Birkenstocks trend, as a longtime high-heel devotee, they've proven much less functional since moving to S.F. two years ago, and learning to navigate those crazy inclines. My flats collection has grown steadily, but it was Michele Janezic of Mill Mercantile who persuaded me to give Birkenstocks a try. Now that they come in metallics and patent leather I can disassociate them from my 5th grade hippie teacher who wore them with tie-dye and socks."

What are some key styling tips for Birkenstocks?
"Birkenstocks will always lend a casual air to any look, so I reserve them for lazy weekend days and errand running. I love keeping the rest of my looks crisp, modern, and chic to balance out any remaining hippie-ness of the Birk."
14 of 19
Tell us more about the look you styled here.
"I've become a big fan of forgoing my skinnies in favor of boyfriend jeans, so for this look I paired my fave Acne pair with a crisp white button down. I love the tuxedo shirt's split hem made from Asos. I tied in my black Birks with my black leather baseball hat. It would be the perfect look to spend a Saturday afternoon strolling my fave furniture shops."

The Bay Area and Birkenstocks have become somewhat synonymous over time — why do you think that is?
"They are one of the hippie generation's calling card and are also an immediate signal of a casual, laid-back attitude, but Birks don't have to be a fashion afterthought — they can now make a look!"

Why do you think Birkenstocks can sometimes get a bad rap?
"Let's just say I still know many people in the Pacific Northwest who rock their Birks with socks, 'nuff said."

15 of 19
What are some major no-no's when styling them?
"It's easy to appear a little too casual or a little too sloppy in Birks, so I advise keeping the rest of your look pretty classic. Birks are also all about simple, comfortable dressing so they don't really call for a lot of layers or accessorizing."

What do you love about them making such a strong resurgence?
"I think it's hilarious what will suddenly come back in vogue. I always wonder if it isn't a conspiracy by the Olsen twins to suddenly decide, 'Let's see if we can get the world to wear Birks again — wouldn't that be funny?' And, so they walk out in them one Sunday and poof, here we are talking about how to style 'em!"
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16 of 19
Name: Lauren Berdell Podoll
Gig: Designer and co-owner of The Podolls

What made you welcome the Birkenstocks trend back?
"I have to admit I didn't jump back in immediately. They still remind me of time spent in a yurt during yoga-teacher training years ago when I wore them daily. But, it's hard to ignore the comfort factor. Since I'm a busy working mom, I enjoy being able to slip on shoes easily and run out the door — bonus if they happen to be comfortable enough to chase after a toddler and cool enough to meet a colleague for lunch."

What are some key styling tips for Birkenstocks?
"I gravitate towards the patent-leather ones or oiled-leather finishes — they just seem a little more special and I like the contrast of polish versus earthiness. I prefer them with a dress, slim pants, or something unexpected, like a streamlined suiting look. And, pay attention to grooming — a fresh pedicure is a must."

Tell us more about the look you styled here.
I'm wearing The Podolls classic winged blouse in blue hand-woven Khadi cotton, a velvet black cotton cami, and our Dhoti pants in black silk crepe. I decided to embrace the 'pretty-ugly' nature of Birks and paired them with high-waisted harem pants and a tied shirt — three styles that make some people shudder — but here they feel harmonious and balanced. The heft of the cork footbed can balance out clothes with volume and the black patent leather helps them relate to an urban environment."

What’s your favorite style of Birkenstocks?
"I favor the two-strap styles because they're iconic and I have an aversion to straps between my toes. Otherwise, I may choose the Gizeh since they always look cute on girls wearing them in bright colors."
17 of 19
The Bay Area and Birkenstocks have become somewhat synonymous over time — why do you think that is?
"It's no secret that hippie fashion is still alive and well here. Seems like many Bay Area die-hard fans just haven't let them go since the '70s. I suppose it can be hard to shake a habit that marries form and function. Plus, the U.S. Birkenstock headquarters was up in Novato for many years."

Why do you think Birks can get a bad rap?
"They're fundamentally bulky, supportive, and functional shoes. Fashion doesn't often favor such attributes unless it's being ironic."

What are some major no-no's when styling them?
"Be careful about pulling out an old dusty pair of tan suede ones. You run the risk of looking stuck in a different decade instead of making them modern."

What do you love about them making such a strong resurgence?
"I love the widespread interest in supporting iconic, authentic brands. There's a pleasure in going back to basics and honoring the past. I also embrace the notion of wearing comfortable clothing and shoes."

18 of 19
Name: Emma Robertson
Gig: Graphic Designer

What made you welcome the Birkenstocks trend back?
"I'm always open to a great looking shoe that is fun and easy to wear. Birkenstocks are a simple design that are built for comfort and made from quality materials — can't get much better than that."

What are some key styling tips for Birkenstocks?
"I'd pair them with something casual, yet feminine! Also, make sure to balance out their chunkiness to keep the look from getting too bulky."

Tell us more about the look you styled here.
"I have been wanting to put together an all-white look for a while. White after Labor Day, I know, but this drop-waist dress is a bit too nice for me to wear as an everyday piece, but when paired with a slouchy lightweight sweater, and some Birks, it works! I love how the sweater hits rights where the ruffles begin. It's a comfortable look that left me feeling feminine and playful."

What’s your favorite style of Birkenstocks?
"I really love the Arizona sandals and the Dundee shoe. They would fit right into my wardrobe!"
19 of 19
The Bay Area and Birkenstocks have become somewhat synonymous over time — why do you think that is ?
"In my opinion, the shoes and the Bay Area go hand in hand because we're in such close proximity to really great natural beauty. At any moment, you can be at the ocean or hiking a beautiful trail. Even within the more residential areas, it's so easy to walk or ride your bike everywhere and embrace being active and outside. Birkenstocks can and do support that type of lifestyle."

Why do you think Birkenstocks can sometimes get a bad rap?
"Because of their comfortable soles and heavy materials, they tend to lean more towards the big and chunky side. For a while there, people were rocking Birkenstocks like they were an everyday-every-outfit kind of shoe. We probably got tired of seeing them worn so much and so wrong!"

What are some major no-no's when styling them?
"Try not to pair them with a look that is too casual. Finding a balance of comfort and ease with a hint of personal flare and femme can be tough but necessary!"

What do you love about them making such a strong resurgence?
"It's fun to see a brand that was big when I was younger come back and be received by an older, more stylish audience. It's a whole new ballgame. I am excited to see how people take this more casual brand of shoe and incorporate it into their wardrobes."
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