beauty

Birkenstocks are back in fashion (again). Yes, really.

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By NICKY CHAMP

Every season fashion designers and tastemakers like to declare previously thought items of ugliness as IN purely to mess with our minds and see if we take the fashion bait.

This season, Birkenstocks, the sandals synonymous with German backpackers and orthopaedic comfort are en vogue for spring.

Miranda Kerr wore them exclusively in a shoot for the September issue of UK Vogue (and since Anna Wintour’s doco The September Issue we know that this is highly important) and plenty of models trod the David Jones Spring Summer runway in the 239-year-old German sandal.

But it’s Phoebe Philo, the designer of French fashion label Celine, who we can hold mostly responsible for the revival, thanks to the fur-trimmed versions “furkenstocks” she concocted for her S/S 13 collection.

Thankfully, rather than it’s embellished furrier cousin, it’s Birkenstock’s Arizona style (in both black and white), and the t-bar versions the Larisa and the Gizeh often worn by Ashley Olsen and Heidi Klum that have the most currency for spring.

“It’s like the most comfortable sandal in the world is having a stylish renaissance,” says US Vogue’s Katherine Bernard on our new found fascination with the contoured cork and rubber soled sandal.

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Leandra Medine of the Man Repeller blog has given Birkenstocks the thumbs up, and British fashion stylist Amy Morrison says, “There’s nothing better than a really pretty dress with an ugly shoe.”

So I’m pretty much convinced.

Not that I’ve ever needed much convincing to dive head first into an ugly shoe trend, standing at 175cm tall I’m all in favour of flat-footed fashion.

I already own a pair of silver Gizeh’s after wearing-out the khaki pair I took backpacking around Europe in 2004. Yes, I was Birk-wearing backpacker once, go on, laugh it up. It was a weird time in my life – I also owned a pair of black Camper clogs with an embroidered skipping rope design that travelled from one shoe to the other.

And now I’m considering dropping $100 on a pair of the black Arizona’s, at least I know I’ll get plenty of wear out of them that I can’t say about most of the ‘trend’ shoe purchases I’ve made. And this gallery of celebrities wearing Birkenstocks certainly isn’t helping things:

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Birkenstocks certainly aren’t the first pair of ugly shoes to ever grace our feet, last year thanks to Prada we were strapping on chunky 90s-style Spice Girl flatforms, and before that robotic Transformer-like 11-inch heels. Subverise hipsters have long been into clogs and Worishofer’s, and we’re so used to seeing them they’re now considered mainstream.

2006 saw the controversial Crocs rubber shoe hit the market and “spread like a virus, engulfing entire families at a time.” And who could forget 2004 when it was perfectly acceptable to wear Aussie Ugg boots on a red carpet. It’s actually hard to believe it the sheepskin affliction ever happened to Beyonce, but it did. See? celebrities they’re just like us.

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Take a look through the gallery for a brief history lesson on ugly shoes, and does anyone remember the menfolk wearing Masseur sandals in the mid-90s? What was that about? It’s like they were all armed for a camping emergency or impromptu hike in the middle of the city.

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As we reflect on our favourite fugly footwear, I rather like what the head of fashion at The Guardian, Imogen Fox says about wearing ugly shoes.

She reckons the appeal of unattractive shoes has nothing to do with comfort or practicality but rather a “confident style statement” that shows “you are beautiful enough to subvert the ugliness of your footwear.”

Amen sister.

Do you own Birkenstocks? Or do you subscribe (as one commentor on MR’s blog said) to the “Crocs before ‘Stocks” style mantra?

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