Rise of the Birks

Gabi Capestany, Editor in Chief

Socks and sandals: anywhere else in the world, the phrase is muttered in hushed tones while judging the subject taking part in this odd fad. Yahoo named socks and sandals their number one “trend that needs to end in 2015.” However, the Pacific Northwest seems to be the only region where socks and sandal wearers almost dominate the footwear spectrum.

Overwhelmingly, Washingtonians tend to favor the Birkenstock. Created in 1964, these shoes were an iconic style throughout the mid to late 20th century, and recently experienced a resurgence in popular style. “I do wear socks and sandals. I have a pair of Birks” stylish Sophomore Maddy Ford states proudly. Ford is one of five OHS students on the Nordstrom BP Fashion Board, and is a fashion enthusiast. She adds, “I don’t wear them a lot, but when I do I like to wear thick socks with them because that’s the most comfy and it keeps my feet the warmest.”

Other sock and sandal pairings include Tevas and socks, and sport slides (Nike, Adidas, etc.) with socks—very popular after an athlete partakes in a sporting event. At Olympia High School, there’s a pretty big mix of Tevas, Birkenstocks, and slides. Ford states, “I think almost everyone owns at least one pair of Birkenstocks. If you’re a true Olympian you own some. But I would have to say that a Nike slide is a close runner up because of all the athletes at OHS. I would argue that a Nike slide is almost more comfortable that a Birkenstock.”

Comfort or not, the Birkenstock is not widely loved, even in the country of their origin: Germany. German exchange student Senior Pascal Walter doesn’t think socks and sandals are a good combination, saying “they aren’t meant for it. Sandals are for the summer.” Even a displaced Seattlite, Loyola Marymount University Freshman Lucas Capestany, says the style is pretty unique to the PNW. “I’d say that in LA the only right way to wear socks and sandals is if you are a heroine addict who stole his pair from the friendly neighborhood sociopath; in Seattle the ‘right’ way would be to wear them any day it’s overcast (which happens quite a lot.)” On a lighter note, he adds, “This look is unique to just the people in the PNW. I think so because people in the PNW like to look strange to the rest of the world 50% of the time. I have no shame being from Seattle. In fact, when I go back home I may sport the look myself.” It’s nice knowing a former Seattlite respects the look.

Is the only reason why we Olympians crave this crazy look because of the dreary weather? Ford thinks so, stating, “I think that the socks and sandals look is definitely a PNW and Olympia fad. I have seen Birkenstocks on famous people, just not complimented with socks. I honestly just think it’s because people here wish it was summer and want to wear sandals, but because of the weather, they are forced to do so with socks.” Cynically, Capestany says, “I think the look works if you live in the PNW, just not anywhere else.”

As with every fad or fashion, there are right and wrong ways to sport the look. Fashionista Ford recommends, “the right way to wear socks and sandals depends on personal style. The most common ways, and ways I like to wear them the most, are either with cute printed socks and jeans or ankle socks over tights with a cute skirt of dress.” On the other hand, Walter’s only advice on whether or not to wear socks and sandals is “just don’t.”

If a Washingtonian is a non-believer of this widespread fad, they may need to wake up and face the facts: socks and sandals is here to stay, at least in the Pacific Northwest. So, like in that famed Pemco Insurance commercial, Washingtonians will always salute the all-too-familiar ‘socks and sandals guy’, mainly because the majority of PNW-ers side with his comfortable and practical fashion statement.