The Birkenstock Cheat Sheet for Men

IMAGE Birkenstock/ Unsplash

When the only away-from-home activity you have is a once-a-week trip to find food, your perspective shifts. The things that matter lose meaning, while others acquire a new shine. Through the lens of the strange year, you realize that, yes, shoes with laces are the last things you need, and, hey, those Jesus sandals that mold to the mutant shape of your feet are looking good right now.

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For a long time, Birkenstocks evoked the crunchy life of going on a spirit quest in the forest, eating only fruits that fall on the ground (because plucking them from the tree is murder!), and later emerging dressed in nothing but leaves and the near-indestructible footwear. 

The sandals with the brown-colored footbed looked funny and weird so only the funny and weird wore them—recluses, uncles, foreigners, nerds. But then it’s secret sauce won over a new breed of funny and weird people, including college slackers, creative types, fashion folks, anti-fashion fashion folks, and #influencers. In the ultimate glow-up story, what was once a never-wear item is now worthy to be posted on Instagram, the true test of acceptance.


Birkenstock Footbed: It feels good.

It was the footbed converted many. Here’s the story: Master cobbler Konrad Birkenstock invented flexible footbed insoles “based on the cast of a healthy foot in the sand” in 1896. From there, a history of making the feet feel good continued with the development of the contoured arch support in 1902, the rise of the blue footbed in 1925, the release of Podiatry - The Carl Birkenstock System book in 1947, and the birth of the Birkenstock Madrid in 1964, the classic sandal with, of course, that flexible cushion. 

Birkenstock describes the footbed as “anatomically shaped inner soles with special support elements.” And if you look closer, you get what the shoemaker means: The sides of the sandal wiggle and undulate, while the center features ridges, dips, and craters. All that meticulous shaping cradles the feet as you walk… to the fridge. 

Its materials also make the feet happy. Think of the footbed as a (brown) layer cake: The cork and latex core relieves pressure, two jute layers provide more stabilization, and the soft suede lining feels buttery against your crusty skin. As well, because these are natural materials, they create “a pleasant foot climate.” That’s weird poetry right there.

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Birkenstock for Men: Classics are your friends.

Okay, okay: Birkenstocks are now cool, feels good, and the natural choice for the limited movement of the perpetual lockdown, but what should you choose? 

With its rise in popularity among the fashion set, the German company has released several special editions with high-profile designers like Valentino, Rick Owens, and Proenza Schouler. Think of these as luxed-up versions Birkenstocks or, if they were made by Owens, the dark prince of fashion, gothic sandals.

The shoemaker has also been experimenting with new expressions, including thick-soled Birks, big-buckled Birks, and actual shoes. Err… we’re not here for the shoes, especially shoes with laces, even if they have the mythical footbed. What we want is the ease of slipping on a sandal and also the option of taking it off immediately.

Anyway, we can make another story about collaborations and experiments, but for now, please turn your attention to Birkenstock’s most wanted styles. If you are a sandal novice, these classics are the safest bets.


1| Birkenstock Arizona: The One With the Double Strap

Photo by Birkenstock.

This is what you picture in your head when you think of Birkenstock. If you’re uncomfortable with showing your feet, two thick straps provide lots of cover. Your hobbit pods will be safe.

2| Birkenstock Gizeh: The One That Is a Slipper

Photo by Birkenstock.

It comes in a familiar style, but unlike the plastic flip-flops you already have, the Gizeh offers the comfort of the Birkenstock footbed. It also looks so much better. 

More Weird Sandals: I Really Want To Wear Crocs and Birks. Is That Okay?

3| Birkenstock Madrid: The One With the Single Strap

Photo by Birkenstock.

Actually, this solo strap number was the first style Birkenstock created. Two things: This is the cleanest style (pick white) and also the easiest to put on.

4| Birkenstock Mayari: The One With the Toe Thing


Photo by Birkenstock.

We call this the Toe Hugger because of the crisscrossing toe loop, which also provides an elegant flourish. If your feet are fancy, they will like these.

5| Birkenstock Boston: The One That Is a Clog

Photo by Birkenstock.

The hardest style to pull off is also the shoe of the moment, the shoe for staying at home. It might be because of the cocoon-like feel of stuffing your feet into a cozy dome. Choose the suede. 

Birkenstocks with socks: Is that cool?

If you asked this question a couple of years ago, the answer would be a big fat no. Wearing socks with sandals was social suicide as the combo conjured images of dads and nerds. Now, in the Age of Anything Goes, looking like a man with a lot of responsibilities or a nerd who wants a lot of responsibilities is fashionable. Go ahead and wear tube socks with your Birkenstocks. Choose white for full combo powers and black if you want to look like gramps.

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Clifford Olanday
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