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The Birkenstock’s as Clunky and Comfy as Ever

DEAR HOT SHOPPERS: They’re clunky. They look like caveman shoes. Some people say they’re downright ugly. And when I casually mentioned Birkenstocks at the end of a recent column (“Wondering why bulky Birkenstock sandals are suddenly selling as well as Chanel princess pumps?”), several of you wrote in, rightfully demanding an explanation.

Margot Fraser, who discovered Birkenstocks in Germany in 1967 and introduced them to the United States the next year, says it’s simple: “I think people are sick and tired of being uncomfortable. And now that Birkenstocks come in so many hot colors, especially for women, that’s an added incentive.”

Louise Lanning, who owns Birkenstock stores in West Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, Westwood and La Jolla, estimates that her sales have doubled in the last five years. For several reasons: “Mainstream society wasn’t ready for them because of their unconventional appearance. But now people are more individualistic and more into health and comfort. We’ve moved from an age of acquisition to an age of meaning in everything we do, in our lifestyles and in the products we purchase.

“Birkenstocks are made of a cork and rubber foot bed that supports the foot and gently molds to the foot. The uppers are made of leather, suede or ‘nubuck,’ a dull, buffed, matte leather.”

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Lanning suspects that the fact that heavier, strappy shoes reminiscent of the ‘70s are in fashion may also account for the Birkenstock revival.

And she points out that there are more styles available besides the $79.95 original (pictured is a newer model, the $84.95 Granada).

For a free color catalogue of Birkenstock styles or a list of stores, call (800) ITS-BIRK.

FINALLY, SOME RELIEF FROM “SHOP ‘TIL YOU DROP": I never have liked the slogan “Shop ‘til you drop.” It takes all the pleasure out of what can be a fun, joyful experience and treats it like a draining ordeal. To me, “Shop ‘til you drop” is the financial equivalent of “Eat ice cream ‘til you lapse into a sugar coma.” But now, gift shops at Los Angeles International Airport are selling T-shirts with an alternative slogan for the truly dedicated. The shirts bear the words “Veni. Vidi. Visa. I came. I saw. I shopped.” They’re by Peacock Papers, made of 100% cotton and sell for $15.99.

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FAREWELL TO DIAPER BAGS THAT LOOK LIKE REFUGEES FROM A PEE-WEE HERMAN FLICK: For moms who have found most diaper bags to be tacky, boring or stylistically appropriate only for trips to Disneyland, there’s a sophisticated substitute. Cherubini, an Englewood, N.J.-based firm, is making attractive floral-print diaper bags, trimmed with leather, lined with vinyl and loaded with compartments for bottles, lotions and wipes. They’re $78 to $85 and sold at these baby boutiques: Bellini (Brentwood and Costa Mesa), Bernan’s (Costa Mesa), This Little Piggy (Santa Barbara), Kid’s Collection (Tarzana) and The Expecting Company (Rancho Santa Fe).


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