The Battle of the Birkenstock

Mike Rogge says the comfy (and now vogue) shoe with a proud history is long done with its hippy, drippy stereotype. Peter Kray’s response? They stink.

Two-strappin’ Style

The word hippy originates from hip, a word associated with Jack Kerouac’s beatnik writer gang of the 1950s and later to an anti-war, pro-peace counter culture that took residence in ‘60s San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. What I’m getting at is Peter Kray loves a good war-torn Asian country and dreams of starting a forest fire using the original scroll of On The Road. Me? I love Birkenstocks. And Smokey The Bear.

Make no mistake, friends, festival-going, patchouli-smelling posers adopted the Birks (and outdoor culture to a larger extent) and this is where the proud shoe’s bad rep originates. That aside, in 2014 the flagship Arizona remains damn comfortable and a fine piece of German footwear. The Birkenstock family has been engineering their custom-foot-bedded pairs of heaven for over 230 years. I’ll take that kind of dedication to craft and skill over cheap rubber rainbow bullshit any day.

Like the brand itself, a great pair of Birks is built to last. I’ve owned three pairs of Arizonas in my life. The first two suffered untimely deaths in a tragic beer-drinking, river-floating accident (no one was hurt) and via the jaws of a curious black lab puppy named Shea. Pour a 40-ounce out for my old friends. They are missed, but not forgotten.

Vogue and J-Crew made waves this spring by throwing their models in Birks for fashion shoots. They claim the “ugly Birk is back.” Silly Zoolander hipsters, the Birk never left. It’s been around since 1774, two years before the Declaration of Independence. That thick-framed-glasses, tight-jean wearing, Instagram-photo filtering Thomas Jefferson was such a liberal hippy loser. Oh wait. America. That’s right.

Kray, let’s be real. You’re not out there doing manual labor jobs either—but we can all enjoy the image of you angrily running a website while wearing cowboy boots.

I’m loyal. When I find something I like, I like it, regardless of what butterfly trends gear review kittens like Kray chase into the sunshine fields of Right Now. Sure, it’s a “hippy” thing, but is that so bad? If tie-dye, free-loving good times isn’t your thing, too bad. To borrow from another counter culture musical genre associated with the word hip, stay two-strapped, homies.

–Mike Rogge wrote this from Bernie’s Coffee Shop in San Francisco while listening to the Grateful Dead and proudly wearing youthful, five-year-old Arizona Birkenstocks. He wishes he could have seen Jerry at a show, but, unlike Peter Kray, he’s young, so he settles for bands like Further and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead.

Free-toed Freeloaders

Ok, Rogge. Let’s get to business.

Oh, wait. You’re wearing Birkenstocks. Which says to me that like every other freeloading, toe-flashing, flower-sniffing granola gangster out panhandling on the Pearl Street Mall, you’ve got no intention of doing any real work.
In fact any time I see someone wearing those little soft-shell sandals I can immediately be assured that this is an individual who can’t and won’t be: playing pick-up basketball, riding a horse, driving a tractor, mountain climbing, digging irrigation ditches, fixing a roof, mountain biking, landscaping, tree-cutting, fence-fixing, etc.
I can, on the other toe, be reasonably assured that said birkie duuude, is especially proficient at writing poems, waxing nostalgic over custom footbeds, boring baristas and getting his ass kicked.

And Mike, the fact that your favorite elf hoof is named the “Arizona” strikes me as especially ironic. Because that’s the state where those particular shoes would probably help you get your ass kicked the most.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve nothing against comfort. Or for that matter, Kerouac. (Just so you know, old Sal Paradise found a lot more pleasure and freedom in Denver than he ever did on Frisco’s tilted streets). It’s just when it comes to footwear, I like to lace up or slide on something with a little more possibility and purpose.

If I were wearing Birkenstocks right now I probably wouldn’t even be writing this copy. I’d be back in bed. I certainly never wore Birkenstocks at any of those actual live Grateful Dead shows I saw, especially when I was dancing my feet off in running shoes for three straight days at Red Rocks. Nor did I wear them when I lived in the exact same house where the original Smokey Bear (there’s no ‘The,’ he knows he’s a bear), first lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

He was a just a cub then, who had been rescued from a fire in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico. By a soldier. Wearing boots.

–Peter Kray hereby openly challenges Mike Rogge to a shit-kicking contest, provided Rogge wears his beloved Birkenstocks.

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