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When Birkenstocks come up in casual conversation one is sure to hear remarks about hippies, granola, the environment, and what ugly shoes many still think they are. However the history of Birkenstocks in the US has come a long way in the past 30 years. From its start as the home business of Margot Fraser these shoes have moved from being sold in health food stores, to the prominent spaces in occupies today in establishments like Nordstrom and L.L. Bean.

Birkenstock achieved acceptance, popularity, and great financial profit in the mainstream US market, but how far has it strayed from its roots of a small family business, based on creating an orthopedic shoe, crafted by skilled laborers? If we followed a pair of Birkenstocks back to the place of their origin would the proud parents still be German? Or would the different components that make up one of today's most popular sandals come from varied sources? In chasing Birkenstocks back to their source I have found some of these answers, but still have many questions. I have traced the product back to its original source as far as possible; most of the information beyond their manufacture in Germany seems to be restricted trade knowledge and unavailable to the public. This has prompted me to look more at the history of Birkenstock as a small family business, and its current US marketing strategies. A short recap of history is the best way to start the Birkenstock chase, beginning with Johann Adam Birkenstock in 1774.

The First BIRKENSTOCK: A family affair

Johann Birkenstock, resident of a small German village, was registered in the church archives as a "subject and shoemaker" in 1774. By 1897 his grandson Konrad Birkenstock designed the first shoe for use b...

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