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Wanted: Birkenstocks

Accessories, Most Wanted, What's Trending  /   /  By Nina Louie

Suddenly, they’re everywhere. Over the past month, we’ve spotted Birkenstocks in so many stores—from upscale indie boutiques to mass-market malls—that we know this trend is gearing up to be huge. Before jumping the train ourselves, we went headlong into how people are wearing them now, which styles and colors they’re wearing exactly, what they’re thinking about the classics versus the new designer versions. Here’s what you need to know:

1. It started with the pool slide. In early 2013, Celine heralded the return of the Birkenstock with their super flat, wide, fur-lined slide sandals, paired with slouchy pants and luxuriously oversized sweaters and coats. A year later, upscale iterations on the flat slide are everywhere. Givenchy has a black floral number that looks just like a dressed-up Birk. And Jeffrey Campbell has a bunch of black, white, and studded Celine-lookalikes. These are subtler takes on the Birkenstock trend if you prefer that.

2. You can’t beat the Birkenstock. Unless you’re looking for a slimmer slide, Birkenstocks are so minimal and classic in their own right, so well-constructed and well-priced, that there’s little sense to investing in a no-name or name-brand duplicate. There’s way more integrity in wearing the real thing. Retailers seem to have caught on to this, too. A few are stocking Birks in limited edition colors (hello, Barneys, Net-a-Porter, J.Crew), but mostly the design tweaks are so minimal that the originals really do stand their ground as the best (and truly the chicest!) possible buy.

3. Choose the right sandal. Right now, the two most modern Birkenstock styles are the Arizona (which has two wide straps across the front) and the Gizeh (which is a thong style sandal). The Arizona is slightly more masculine, but it resonates with the editorial, intellectual, Celine slide in a way that the Gizeh doesn’t. The Gizeh has a more a feminine look. It’s a classic bohemian girl sandal—but it’s super chic with long minimalist layers (a la Ashley Olsen) or even skinny jeans for that edgier, urban, L.A. vibe.

4. Stick to the key colors. Don’t look beyond black, white, and metallics. People who know and love Birkenstocks swear by the oiled leather uppers over the synthetic, lower priced, Birko-Flor varieties. The oiled uppers are beautifully matte; there’s a super-dark black, a dusty tobacco, and an exceptional twilight blue for those who crave a rich, unexpected pop of color. For pure white and metallics like bronze and silver, you’ll have to buy Birko-Flors—but this resilient material has its devotees, too. As for the classic brown suede Birks: those have a pretty crunchy vibe not for novices. Unless you’ve been wearing Birks for years, skip the sandy shades for now.

Well, what do you think? Will you be back in Birkenstocks this season?

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