Sunday, June 5, 2011

Are Birkenstocks Preppy? A Poll.

Are Birkenstocks preppy?  This question is asked a lot from people in a variety of regions and countries.

It is tricky. One can say:
  • In some regions, a lot of preppy people wear Birkenstocks.  Virtually everyone, it seems,  who would fit this description in Maine, for example, has at least one pair.
  • They are compatible with preppy items like Patagonia Stand Up Shorts, and a Ralph Lauren Polo  (shown below). But compatibility alone is not enough.

    Wearing a Pair Today While Shearing  
    There are styles and colors that are, relatively speaking, preppier than others.

    Having said all of that (insert obligatory Bobos in Paradise* reference here), the jury may still be out. How do you vote?

    *From Amazon:  "Bobos" - the bourgeois bohemians - are an unlikely blend of mainstream culture and 1960s-era counterculture that, according to David Brooks, represents both America's present and future.

    Final Results:

    64 comments:

    Town and Country Mom said...

    Birkenstocks are not considered preppy in the South, at least not in the Carolinas. Preps may wear them from time to time, but not with other prep standards.

    Anonymous said...

    I agree with Town and Country Mom, although I voted yes just because I could see them being preppy in the NE. But in the South, Chacos would take the place of Birkenstocks.

    Jed Wall said...

    I agree somewhat with T&C Mom. None of my likeminded friends here in GA wear them, yet when I go to Maine many preps are wearing them and I always regret not packing mine for the trip.

    Anonymous said...

    I vote yes because they are well made and "sturdy". I like them and have a few pairs. I live in southern, coastal, Virginia. My husband and I got to coastal Maine every summer. He is from Maine. He wears his Birkenstocks on occasion, too! I don't immediately think classic "preppy" when I think of Birkenstocks. A lot of people consider them, "granola, nuts and grains, hippie" shoes.

    John said...

    I vote No. I'd classify them as hippy-dippy.

    Tammy B said...

    They are definitely not preppy in Alabama. They remind me of the Earth shoes that my roommate from Hell wore freshman year of college. The junior high in me has still not recovered.

    suburban prep said...

    I voted not preppy.
    I must admit though due to a health issue, I do wear them every now and again.
    I live in the Midwest and I have seen others wearing them but I don't think they are considered preppy in the least.

    Audrey said...

    I believe they are in keeping with classic American (albeit adopted) style and reflect some preppy sensibilities and values about goods, but I just can't say about the individual item embodying preppiness. Somewhat similar to your stance on blue jeans, I suppose. Here in Seattle they are only worn in a hippy way as mentioned above or just very casually.

    Elizabeth H. said...

    We live in Texas and love Birkenstocks. I think that most Southerners see them as hippy shoes because the crossover between hippy and preppy is not seen in the South like it is in the NE.

    ...just another preppy shopaholic said...

    I bought my 1st pair back in 1989, own two pairs of Arizona's in navy blue and green. They are not as popular today as they were back in the 90's.

    Do I consider them preppy? Nope!Preppy or not, they are SO comfortable!

    I lived in my Birkenstocks during my college years! I still have them, but only bring them out when I am on vacation in Vermont and/or up north at the cottage.

    Pete said...

    No - perish the thought.

    ms. mindless said...

    They are utilitarian, comfortable, of superior quality and long lasting, so while some may not consider them "preppy", I think they fit your aesthetic perfectly.

    BuckHead Trad said...

    No, Birkenstock's are not preppy. Normally worn by Volvo drivers with a free Tibet bumper sticker. None of the above is prep in the South.

    Kionon said...

    I went to UT, and so even in Austin, not so much.

    Have never owned a pair od birkenstocks. Never wanted to. In fact, unless I am at the beach or the pool, I don't even wear sandals.

    I vote no.

    Anonymous said...

    Some people still look preppy wearing Birkenstocks ( like you!) but most of the time, they do nothing but drag down one's appearance. Crunchy and preppy are like oil and water to me. I vote NO.

    Eric said...

    I was actually just contemplating this on Friday as my boss, a normally very preppy/stylish lady, was wearing a pair... What other well made, sturdy sandals could a guy or gal wear?

    Anonymous said...

    Coming from a Connecticut teen, I think Birkinstocks are preppy! In the winter, I wear the "Boston" clogs all the time. They go well with just about any outfit I wear to school, albeit they are on the casual side. I've never worn the sandals.

    heavy tweed jacket said...

    Preppy subculture, maybe. Sort of the way many preps had long hair, wore work boots and made their own granola in the 70s. But worthy of inclusion the Preppy Canon? No, I just can't see it.

    M said...

    I can see how they could be construed as preppy in the context you describe, but I have never perceived them as such. In the Midwest, I believe folks originally deemed them a hippie accoutrement though they now seem to skew more towards aging baby boomers with podiatry issues.

    I confess I once thought them a hideous shoe abomination until I developed in mid-life the very orthopedic problems for which they are the perfect antidote. My personal foot concerns nothwithstanding (pun intended) and despite the fact they actually rendered me ambulatory at one point, I am casting a "no" vote here.

    Anonymous said...

    No! No! No!

    Jack said...

    What I think about when someone says 'Birkenstocks': granola, Phish concerts, not showering.

    Gwennie said...

    Being one of the few Preppies in the Madison Area, I say no! And anyone wearing Birkenstocks around here would be horrified to be thought of as a Preppy!

    Anonymous said...

    I remember the time, decades ago, when Birkenstocks were the province of the counter-cultural. Today, however, informed people who care about how their feet look and feel in the long run wear Birkenstocks (or a similar brand) at least some of the time. That is why I see so many at such Preppy locations as Marblehead, Nantucket, and the Vineyard.

    Anonymous said...

    Yes! Yes! Yes!

    Anonymous said...

    Birks are comfortable but not preppy. I don't know anything about shearing but am surprised you'd wear them while doing so; I'd assume your feet and Birks would get fairly dirty and hairy - or wooly?

    Farrell and Lauren said...

    Not in the south. I would consider them more "New England-y." I have a pair that are silver and single strap that I wear all the time in NY/CT/MA, but I would never wear them in Virginia unless running out for gas or milk.

    This goes along with a point I have been considering for a while, which is the different ways people would define prep, WASP, and New England Yankee style. I think that might vary quite a bit by region.

    Michael said...

    Here at a New England boarding school I don't see Birkenstocks too often. Lots of Rainbow or Eliza B. flip-flops, Jack Rogers or Stephen Bonnano sandals,even L.L. Bean shearling slippers (our students' way of pushing back against the dress code)--but Birkenstocks tend to be confined to the studio art teachers or our crunchy retro-hippy types.

    Anonymous said...

    I wouldn't care about farm dirt on my feet but sometimes getting ground-in dirt off Birk's soles can be challenging!

    Anonymous said...

    I'm 27 and went to private school in Manhattan. I've also spent a fair amount of time in Connecticut and Maine. I would say that Birks do have some preppy elements, in the way that in the Northeast preppy and hippie/crunchy sometimes combine. So you see those guys with khaki shorts, ralph lauren oxfords (with tattered sleeves sometimes) and birkenstocks.

    Sartre said...

    I have never considered them preppy as a rule, but I have seen exceptions, specifically among a certain subspecies of crunchy granola preppy (Vermont-NH-Maine, Woodberry Forest types or whatever the girls' equivalent might be).

    Rake said...

    Goodness no, Birkenstocks aren't preppy, although I saw them frequently during my days at a NE Prep school, a NESCAC college, and while summering on an Island off of MDI.

    The term that we always used for Birks was "crunchy", although this dates my prep school days to the early-mid 90s, and terminology may have changed...

    Jennifer said...

    Growing up in coastal Virginia, I didn't see many "preps" wearing them. They were generally limited to a less polished crowd. I can see how they may lend themselves to a preppy crowd, though. As I understand it, they are comfortable, very well made, and some may say classic.

    Anonymous said...

    To open your blog to day and find this as the discussion... I was just contemplating a pair of Birks. I have a very cute pair of Jack Rogers, but those are just not good for walking to and from my daughter's school (about 1.5 - 2 miles?) And I hate to wear my tennis shoes when it is very warm. I would consider Birks to be a 'regional' preppy item. It depends on what part of the country you are in. And as one person pointed out, in some parts there is a bit of a hippy/ preppy crossover. I guess you maybe you could consider BIrks "go to hell shoes"?

    Anonymous said...

    Birkenstocks in isolation are not, to me, preppy -- and I'm in Connecticut. I associate them with mall-preps and hippies, with whom they were popular with when I was in high school in the early 00's. But I'd also say that there are lots of item in many preppy wardrobes that aren't themselves prep - for example, the much reviled jeans, hoodies, etc. These items often make the wardrobe individual, and avoid a Stepford-prep look. Furthermore, there is a wide spectrum of preppyness: from Manhattan's impeccable, polished perfection to Connecticut's trying desperately for effortless to Massachusetts' threadbare, cracked-shoe glamour to Maine's salt of the earth, unpretentious, hardened aesthetic. Birkenstocks don't fit all iterations, but might be appropriate for some.

    JudyW said...

    I live in California and the are not associated with being preppy - just the opposite.

    Rebecca said...

    Love my Birkenstocks....but would not be preppy if worn with socks! Horror of horrors!

    Anonymous said...

    Normally, not considered preppy here in the SW (Texas), but those pink ones you displayed are close! Love your blog!!!

    Anonymous said...

    Birkenstocks aren't preppy. So my vote is no.

    Some preps do wear them on some occasions, but the matters of when & where and which kind of Birkenstocks are both quite 'tricky' to use your word. They aren't accepted as mainstream prep as yet, at least in mid-Atlantic states with a strong Lacrosse presence.

    Also, if one is going to wear any sandals, one ought to be mindful of how one's foot appears. Too many folks, especially men, wear sandals yet desperately need a simple pedicure and foot washing.

    --TJ

    ThePreppyTimes said...

    Not at all!

    njglenn said...

    I think they are niche sub set of the Northeast Prep.

    Anonymous said...

    I would vote yes. Here in the midwest, we preppier types love them, partially due to our German heritage. We also like that they are endlessly recorkable and resoleable, which make them fantastic for long term wear. Oh, and did I mention comfort?

    Susan R said...

    Wow...I never thought of Birks as being preppy myself.
    Here's my opinion, or 2 cents worth. While I was in college, UC Davis, Birks were considered a more "earthy, hippie, naturalist" type of shoe. My opinion of Birks, however, has changed. While I may not consider them preppy myself, I certainly do not view them the way I did when I was in college. They make your feet feel great, some of them can be stylish and fun and they can be used for all kinds of different activities.
    If I had to give them an actual vote, I would say no, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't wear them.

    Anonymous said...

    Not preppy in any way. Worn by Berkeley Hippies and the Granola Crunchers. Guys with personal hygiene issues who have "Question Authority" and "Visualize World Peace" stickers on the back of their old Volvos. Yuck.

    Where a Granola Cruncher would wear Birkenstocks a prep would wear boat shoes.

    Anonymous said...

    I think it's an East Coast preppy thing...my friend's husband who grew up in Swampscott Mass/ St Pauls/Princeton still wears his and he is 50- something.

    Anonymous said...

    It depends on what you wear them with. With a gypsy skirt and a toe ring, no. With an oxford cloth shirt and khaki shorts, sure.

    Running shoes and hiking boots aren't particularly preppy either, but sometimes you have to run or hike somewhere. Birkenstocks are comfortable for long walks on hot days. The Birko-Flor or patent or sparkly styles are a big noooo though. Leather or suede, please.

    Jerry Grasso said...

    Muffy: depends on your definition of prep. Has the company been around forever? Yes. Do they last long, wear well, and develop character over that span of time? Indeed they do. Do you find that the people that wear them to have a level of panache? I typically have. Those are a few of my prep rules. Generally, yes, I find them preppy...but they should be part of the summer mix of shoes, as are pennies without socks, or beat up LL Bean bluchers.

    C said...

    My Birkenstocks cracked last summer (after 12 years), so I started keeping my eye out for something to fill their niche in my summer wardrobe -- hoping to find something just as sturdy & comfortable, but more suited to my walking commute in D.C.
    After a year, I have finally decided to give up on making my feet look Professional, and to just get a new pair of Birks. Preppy or not, they are arguably unique and irreplaceable.

    In addition, I like to think that every stiff-collared lawyer and lobbyist will be stealing wistful glances at my unfettered feet!

    Anonymous said...

    In California, we wear them with our khaki shorts and oxford shirts, and a Patagonia fleece when the temperature drops.

    Anonymous said...

    Coastal Carolina says yes! The preppy crowd is becoming baby boomers,and many have health issues, (feet, back, or knees). I see a lot of birkis around the coastal area here. They come in preppy colors and styles ,(Seersucker prints) etc. When worn with casual preppy sportswear, the comfort factor makes them ok for me!

    Birddog said...

    Birks, never. Chacos, always.

    Barbara said...

    I'm from the Houston area and the prep style here is what I'd consider the "cute girl/guy" genera so most Birks wouldn't fit here however I've seen lots of photographs of the late Katherine Hepburn and she worn them constantly with great panache. My personal vote would be yes on the right person.

    Hilton said...

    I own a pair of sandals and clogs, but would not consider them preppy. I also own several pairs of Chacos, but would most certainly not consider them preppy.

    mary anne said...

    Grew up in the SF Bay Area, so Birks are more hippy/urban to me rather than preppy. I voted no, but really, Preppy is more about dressing appropriately than just a specific item. That said, this is a fun exercise!

    Kate said...

    hmmm...I don't think they're necessarily "preppy," but their classic style and function, is, as you said, compatible. However, they can go with a variety of other styles and aren't exclusive to the preppy scene.

    j. antoine said...

    Jerry Grasso said it well. I vote yes!

    Amanda said...

    I think we are sort of missing the point of what it means for something to be preppy. Preps take classics and make them our own; it's not the other way around. Other groups wear khaki, flannel, button-down cotton shirts, etc. What make it all distinctively preppy are materials, cut, quality, and most importantly, the way in which the overall aesthetic is pieced together. These shoes were not made with hippies in mind. Is there room in a preppy ensemble for well-made, practical, and comfortable shoes made by a German footwear company founded in the 18th century? The answer, at least here in the Northeast, is yes! They get my vote.

    Jerrod said...

    I agree with you Amanda. Many items that we consider the standard of "preppy" such ocbd's, penny loafers, and other items are all commonly worn in a context that makes them absolutely not preppy. I vote yes that Birks are preppy as they can be worked into an outfit that most people would consider preppy. Also, the authenticity of the brand and its reputation easily lend itself to the prep aesthetic.They are also as previously mentioned common in many genres of prep which should be sufficient evidence in itself.

    Anonymous said...

    I vote yes for the same reasons that Amanda and Jerrod point out. Well said!

    michigan said...

    Hello Muffy, I think this is more a question of what "preppy" really means these days. Many agreed that the book True Prep was not "preppy" in the classic sense because it lacked a certain yankee frugality. Birkenstocks, while not being stylish in the fashion sense, are very much like LL Bean duck boot or a Volvo wagon. They are simple and functional. They are well made and no nonsense. So if to some folks "preppy"means fancy and dressed-up, then they vote no. But if, as I believe, preppy style evolves to include new, time tested, items that one wears as long a possible, then vote yes. Remember, they use to duck tape their penny loafers. Yankee frugality, is the mother root of preppy life.

    Cheri DeMarginey said...

    Dear Mrs. Aldrich, My husband and I have stumbled across your interesting post concerning Birkenstocks. We are natives of the Garden District of New Orleans and feel some styles of Birkenstock shoes are top drawer. Boston clogs in the winter with rag wool socks (available at L.L. Bean), and some sandal styles are excellent. They have the qualities we seek in all of our purchasing choices: craftsmanship, comfort and they are repairable.

    raizans said...

    I'd say Birkenstocks are preppish, but not preppy. :)

    The People's Business said...

    Hippy - not preppy.

    Sam said...

    I live in California. Californians are an eclectic people, who's cross referencing styles and fashions lend to a perceived "look". Preppy is thought of as a conservative style derivative of East Cost fashion sensibilities as the standard. A purist, would say, "no way", if its not a Sperry boat shoe, it's not "preppy". Iconic here being the paradigm. Preppy[ness] is then defined by the iconography of a set of standardized fashion choices. That being said, Birkenstock sandals/clogs in a "purist" mind does not fit the iconography of a what a preppy[s] wordrobe should include. However, Californians don't always follow prescribed set of fashion rules as compared to others. Here, you can dress in a nice sparkling white oxford shirt, khaki shorts and clean Birkenstock Arizona sandals and feel preppy. Would these fashion choices be considered "preppy"? In California yes, in Virginia ( I don't know) probably no? Is the Birkenstock sandal considered hippy in California? It depends what you wear with it, how you accessorize. We don't live here, in California, with such restrictions. Black and white formulations in terms of, iconography of style. I own four pairs of Birkenstocks, they help my feet breath and I can be on my feet much longer than with a pair of Sperry's. So, in terms of utility i.e., comfort and durability, they (Birkenstocks) are unbeatable.

    Anonymous said...

    I go to the University of Tennessee, and in our fraternity and sorority culture they once would have been deemed as the exact opposite of preppy. However, there has been a resurgence of the Arizona style Birkenstocks in Fraternity men and Sorority women. So, asked one year ago my answer would have been HELL TO THE NO! Now I would say definitely! They are well made, practical, and have a somewhat hefty price tag; all of these things make them stand out as an ultimate prep item.