This summer, seemingly every woman (and some men) are wearing Birkenstock sandals.
These are not the hippie shoes of yore. I’ve spotted versions with patterned and metallic straps, colored soles and surprisingly flattering silhouettes. Love them or hate them, it’s refreshing to see throngs of people sporting shoes that are ergonomically sound. (As opposed to what my mom would call “Frankenstein shoes.”)
So I decided to take it one step further and don real, honest-to-goodness, not quite trendy, brown Birkenstock mules. (Was there ever a less attractive word for shoes?) They are, as the French would say, the epitome of jolie laide.
“You’re going to wear those??” gasped the boyfriend, the very first time they made an appearance. He didn’t come out and voice his disgust, but he didn’t need to. His tone said it all.
Looking downward, I had to admit, it looked like a platypus had wedged its feet into Peter Pan’s shoes.
Aesthetic judgments aside, there were some immediate technical challenges as well. Birks have a tendency to run large and require some breaking in. I almost tripped up the stairs a few times before mastering the lift-and-shuffle.
At first, the mules emerged only at night, to walk the dog or run to the corner to buy paper towels. Each time, I’d be met with weird glances or the boyfriend saying “Okaaaaaayyyy…” But I persevered. Surely, there was wisdom to be found here. Or at the very least, my feet would be comfortable.
At dinner one night (yes, I wore them out to a legitimate NYC dinner), I found I was able to casually slip them on and off under the table, like secret slippers. It was kind of like forgoing shoes, which was incredibly liberating.
The mules and I are casually dating, but I think it’s getting more serious. We spend a few nights a week in each other’s company, and I enjoy their company more and more. I can almost say I love them — I just wish they got along better with my dresses.
Last weekend, while donning one such dress, I couldn’t decide which shoes to wear.
“Wear the brown ones,” said the boyfriend, pointing at the mules with a certainty usually reserved for deciding which action movie to watch.
“I thought you didn’t like them.” The understatement of the year.
He looked thoughtful for a moment.
“No, they’ve grown on me,” he concluded. “Sometimes they look weird. But sometimes they don’t.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.