Even Tokyo is home to Birkenstock fans, © SMACFilm, Arte

Birkenstock: A film about the cult brand

Gesundheitslatschen, an expression meaning »health slippers«, was the nickname for Birkenstock shoes in Germany for decades, and those who wore the distinctive sandals were unequivocally associated with the caring professions and with the peace and environmental movements. While the company that manufactures the shoes has been around since 1774, the Birkenstock sandal, with its characteristic footbed, first enjoyed widespread popularity in the United States in the 1960s thanks to the hippie movement. America, where to this day the sandal has come to represent unrestricted freedom for more than just feet, became the largest sales market for Birkenstock. But it would take several decades and the influence of music and show business personalities before »the Birkenstock« would achieve global cult status as a fashion accessory. This success has been aided by numerous collections from influential designers, including Rick Owens. A documentary entitled Birkenstock – die Freiheit trägt Sandale (Birkenstock – Freedom Wears Sandals), directed by Andreas Coerper and Susanne Müller, aired on the television network Arte on 26 July 2019. The documentary, which seeks to uncover the secret behind the sandal’s status as a symbol of demonstrative easygoingness, is available between now and 24 August 2019 in the Arte online media library.

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