The Summer of the Birkinstock
As I’m sat in the underground in Berlin, the hot air swirling around, the doors opening at stops where people alight, occasionally giving us a breather and some less-hot air to endure, I see a row of Birkinstocks.
In Friedrichshain, fashion—or lack of it—is never an issue. Most days, I try to pair the most ridiculous items together to see if anyone is bothered by it (they’re really not). Meanwhile in Mitte, wearing ripped jeans is going to get you stared at—especially by middle-aged German women. The stare is also common in Germany, where people unashamedly stare at you. After 4 years of living in Berlin, I’ve had to get used to it and just learn to rock any form of clothing I want. Unashamedly.
This is the beauty of Berlin.
Most expats, locals and those who have moved in from other German cities have Boxhagenerkiez, Simon-Dach-Strasse and Warschauer Strasse as their stomping ground in their cork-soled sandals.
The 4-layered shoe first came about in 1894 but its history goes back as far as 1774. The original core-soled shoe was made with health in mind. It helped many people due to its orthopaedic support in the arches and its curved design which adapted to the wearer’s feet.
Birkinstock sandals have had waves of popularity amongst different generations and liberal groups. The reason for its rise in popularity in 2019 and before, is due to the flip-flop being seen as more of a beach item, meant solely for holidays. Galileo, a TV show which runs on Pro 7, tend to show programmes testing different products, including demonstrating how flip-flops can damage your spine and make you walk whilst gripping your toes.
Germans, being sensible, well-read, informed, have therefore opted to trudge around town in shoes which can deal with cobblestones, pre-1920 loose pavement blocks, and hop over dollops of ice cream in Birkinstocks instead.
I own a pair which I got in TK Maxx in 2010 and I still can’t work out if they’re nice or not. I think I only wore them around the house a few times or to walk the dog, only regrettably to come back with blisters.
This year’s favourite for many practical German men is The Sensible Sandal. It’s almost a shoe, but has holes in. As it’s almost a shoe, one really must wear socks. One shouldn’t risk Squeaky Sandal , or worse, Escaping Toe.
I personally think that if you’re fully serious about your life you will wear trainers or sneakers in Berlin.
Stick to black casual styles you can pair with smarter clothing and protest against Men In Sandals 2019.
If you’re serious about joining me—feel free to follow my stories peppered with British humour— find me on Instagram and I promise to give you weekly Berlin Stories.
For now I’ll stick to AirMax and wait for the weeks when we can wear Doc Marten’s again.