The History of Birkenstock

A Timeline of the Birkenstock Era


1774:
In a small German village, Johann Adam Birkenstock is registered as “subject and shoemaker” in the church’s archives.

1897: Johann’s grandson, Konrad Birkenstock, develops a concept that would literally change the shape of footwear. Although the soles of our feet are curved, shoes had always been flat inside. Konrad theorized that if the shape of the shoes reflected the shape of the feet, greater comfort would be possible.

Konrad designed the first shoe with a contoured insole to be used by shoemakers in the production of custom footwear.

birkenstock family in germany

1902: Konrad Birkenstock develops the first flexible arch support, to be inserted in the factory-made shoes that have become widely distributed in Germany.
1925: Carl Birkenstock joins the company. Birkenstock arch supports are now being exported to Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Holland, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
1932:  Training seminars and lectures spread to most European countries. Leading medical specialists support the seminars and the company’s system.
1964: Carl Birkenstock’s son, Karl, takes his grandfather’s contoured arch support concept one step further; the Birkenstock sandal is born.

birkenstock sandal 1960's advertisement poster

1966: While on vacation in Germany, Margot Fraser seeks relief from painful shoes and foot fatigue from the hard pavement. At a spa, someone suggests that she try Birkenstocks.

Margot enjoyed immediate comfort with her first pair of Birkenstocks. Moreover, she finds that the chronic foot pain she had endured for years simply vanished within months after she returned home to California. Convinced of its health benefits, she begins importing Birkenstock footwear in America; Birkenstock USA is born.

1971: Margot expands her business to a small warehouse in San Rafael, California.
1973: The Arizona, a style that has become synonymous with the shoe brand, is introduced, exploding Birkenstock’s popularity during the 1970’s.

birkenstock arizona sandal vintage 1970's advertisement

1985: By the beginning of the 1980’s, Birkenstock is a household word throughout the country.
1996: Birkenstock USA celebrates its 30th anniversary. Birkenstock offers almost 300 style/color combinations, and the footwear is distributed to millions of people throughout the United States.

birkenstock footwear vintage 1990's advertisement

 

1997: Margot Fraser and Birkenstock USA receive several prestigious awards of recognition from the footwear industry.

Awards included the Ernst and Young 1997 Retail Entrepreneur of the Year, the Novato Chamber of Commerce 1997 Large Business of the Year, and induction into the Footwear News Hall of Fame. 

margot-fraser-founder-of-birkenstock-usa

2002: In October 2002, Birkenstock USA becomes 100 percent employee owned, after  Margot Fraser passes on the remaining shares of the business she founded more than 35 years earlier.
2002: Birkenstock celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Boston clog.
2003: Known as a comfort icon for the past three decades, the famous Arizona two-strap sandal celebrates its 30-year anniversary in 2003. It’s unique shape pioneered the idea of form following function. Today, the Arizona is a steadfast old friend and a hip, on-trend style for the fashionable set.

multiple celebrities embrace the arizona two-strap sandal style of the birkenstock brand

2006: The company celebrates its 40th Anniversary in the U.S.
2014: The Normcore fashion movement gains mainstream attention, boasting the Birkenstock as the “ugly pretty” shoe.
2015: Boots become the latest style addition to the must-have footwear brand, expanding their shoe revival trend.
birkenstock sarnia taupe boot

A Brief History of Birkenstock

 

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