By Claire Barber

If you had to identify Colorado College culture by a shoe, you wouldn’t be that hard pressed. Several styles vividly come to mind. 

It’s difficult to neglect the winter favorite, Blundstones, in all their glory. There is also the occasional Bean Boot stomping through the snow and Dr. Martens for the artsier folk. When the sun comes out, Chaco and Teva tans dispatch in full force.

But a liberal college campus would be severely lacking without the floppy leather brethren of them all, sitting on the cusp of outdoorsy crunch and prep — the Birkenstock. This iconic cork-bound German enigma will be my muse. 

For Birkenstock, the year was 1774. For me, the year was 2017. That’s when I bought my pair of Arizonas with poopy-green suede and malleable leather soles that gave my feet red sores for the first two weeks after purchase. 

I ditched every other sandal (except for, of course, my Chacos) and married myself to the cork. Still living in the Sunshine State at the time, I was a bizarre sight in South Florida. Birks were reserved for going to the movies and wearing with jeans on dates to look hipster and cute. I wore mine to the beach, through rainstorms and on muddy swamp hikes. I developed a Birkenstock tan on my feet and was proud. 

While my relationship has been one of positive, unconditional love in defiance of annoying Florida fashion norms, the Birkenstock aesthetic is nonetheless a varied experience for CC students. I initiated a casual conversation with my peers to dive into the topic. 

Jane ’22 owns three pairs: the original Arizonas in black leather, a pair with a toe loop and leather ankle strap, and another pair of plastic Arizonas in all white — her summer shoe. 

While Jane admits that her number of Birkenstocks is “ridiculous,” they’ve lasted a long time, and served her well. For Jane, they’re comfortable and have great arch support. The plastic ones are her go to in warm weather and are sturdy. After all, their build was bulky enough to brave a modest hike at Paradise Cove this past fall. 

Emily ’22 has a different perspective. For fashion, the buckles are straight up not attractive. She sees the shoes’ functionality, but, to her, their fashionableness is extremely limited. In other words, she respectfully doesn’t quite jive with the vibe. While Emily predominately views the Birkenstock in light of the “outdoorsy” aesthetic, she admits that they do perform in a preppy way (because of their cost). They suggest you have money to spend. After all, Birkenstock has a current partnership with Valentino Garavani. 

Brushing aside fashion and abundance completely, Ari ’22 only owns two pairs of shoes, one for summer and one for winter. Her Birkenstocks are her warm weather shoe. Their functionality is paramount. 

The mysterious German-made sandal appears to appeal to a wide variety of vibes, from high fashion, to crunchy crunch outdoorsy, to east-coast preppy, to those simply looking for a hardy, classic flop. 

Jane echoes this sentiment perfectly: “My middle school’s priest (Father David) wears Birks for almost every occasion except funerals.” 

In other words, a Birkenstock wearer is a varied breed. There’s a lot of us out there. Buckle up and lather up your straps: join us. 

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