Before moving to the city that salsa commercials of my youth used to make fun of, I was just a Texas boy who spent his life in tennies, flip flops, and occasionally—because mom wasn’t about to let me go into church looking like a heathen—dress shoes. I reluctantly abandoned the flip flops soon after taking my first walk on the filthy streets of Brooklyn and transitioned to shoes that covered my entire foot, looked sort of OK with everything (i.e. black sneakers, brown oxfords, and brown boots), and fit the insoles my doctor said would prevent knee pain.
But three months ago, after roughly seven years in the city and several months of deliberation, I decided to add a new pair of shoes to my small collection. I strolled into the Macy’s on 34th street—the one where miracles are known to occur—took approximately 11 escalators up to the mens shoe department, and asked a kind salesperson, “Where are your Birkenstocks?” He smiled at my directness and led me to a wall filled with them. Having decided on the exact pair I wanted before arriving, I grabbed the Arizonas with black straps and that classic cork footbed and requested a size 13. He did some tapping and flicking on a little machine, and had me sit down and wait beside several other men—all of whom were considering adopting some Birks of their own. Instead of feeling embarrassed for willingly joining the cult of a particular trend—one to which I was arriving somewhat late in the cycle—I felt like I had found a new family. I loved those men. They were my brothers.
The kind salesman delivered my new Birkenstocks, so I thanked him and slipped them on. After taking a single lap—some might have called it a prance—around the men who were busy consulting with their girlfriends and concerned minds about whether or not to buy the German imports, I threw them back in the box and had the salesman ring them up. “Is this your first pair?” he asked.
“You’ll love them.”
“Do you have a pair?”
“Yes, they’re amazing.”
“I think they’ll be great for the summer!”
“Do you want to sign up for a Macy’s card?”
I did not want to sign up for a Macy’s card! I just wanted go home and put on my shoes! So I did! Once home, I yanked them out of their box with the crazed intensity of a kid ripping open a Nintendo 64 on Christmas Day 1996 and put them on. And, dear reader, I have worn them every single day since. Save for a few hours spent at some hot summer weddings, I have kept these questionably stylish foot clouds on my feet since April.
Though the shoes have gone in and out of style since 1964, I don’t imagine I’ll fall out of love with them anytime soon. They support my feet without bulky insoles, have only gotten more comfortable with time, and look just fine (to me, at least) with most of my admittedly boring clothes. The element of trendiness is just an added bonus, at least for the time being. In a year’s time, after Bella Hadid snapchats a video of herself tossing a pair of Birkenstocks into a Hawaiian volcano with the caption “BYE BYE BIRKIES HATE U MEAN IT MUAH,” I will look down at my own feet, swaddled in leather and cork, and smile. No one can shame me out of this particular podiatric comfort. Not even a Hadid.