They might not be everyone’s idea of cool shoes, and your grandad probably loved to wear his with socks, but there’s definitely something about Birkenstocks as they’ve managed to become a cult classic again.
CNBC Make It recently delved deeper into why these strange looking sandals have been a favourite for decades, and how the privately-owned company even managed to bring in $500 million in sales in the United States alone in 2019.
Birkenstocks were originally only sold in Germany where the Birkenstock family hails from. In 1966 an American-German woman named Margot Fraser convinced the family-owned company to grant her distribution rights.
They said yes and she introduced the sandals to her home state of California. It wasn’t the hit that Fraser or the Birkenstock family was hoping for. In fact, some shops even refused to sell them and only certain health stores were willing to stock them.
Fast forward to the 2000s, and suddenly everyone started choosing comfort over fashion. Birkenstocks became a bit of a hit and, eventually in the 2010s, the chunky sandals started to take over the catwalks.
It wasn’t long before models and celebs started wearing them and, in 2012, the German-based company decided to bring in business brains from outside the family to keep up with the international demand.
The brand became somewhat of a fashion icon and it was growing fast. The new leadership even had the guts to turn down a collaboration with Supreme, a famous fashion brand.
In fact, CEO Oliver Reichert’s opinion was that a collaboration with Supreme could be considered as "prostitution". Yikes, that’s a bit harsh.
Just after turning down the collaboration, they introduced a funkier and cheaper version of their famous sandal. OK, so it seems as if Reichert and his team’s vision was worth it.
Another good decision seems to be the sandal’s exclusivity. There are only 54 Birkenstock outlets in the world and, as always, once something is scarce, everyone wants it. When Birkenstock recently decided to withdraw from major retailers, including online giant Amazon, Google reported that Birkenstock became one of the most searched words online.
The fact that they’re unisex is also something that fits today’s market style and what consumers want.
Even though the brand took its time - well more like centuries, but who’s counting, right – to become profitable, it has definitely become a fashion statement with almost a cult following.
Watch the CNBC Make It video below for more on the summer’s must-have sandals. Trust us, you’ll be grateful you did.
Image credit: Hypebeast