Photo via Birkenstock.

Extra, Extra: Birkenstock and Supreme Are Beefing Again

Shoe wars! Shoe wars! Shoe wars!

by Emma Specter
Jun 5 2019, 4:48pm

Photo via Birkenstock.

The lead-up to summer is a time of scam, we know this, but it's also a time of general mayhem; a time when the content runs amok, when the winds blow hot with resentment, when the scrunchies are big and the heretofore repressed feelings are bigger. Into this simmering Crock-Pot of beef, add one dash of Birkenstock and one dash of Supreme.

The hypebeast mega-brand and the old-school granola standby might seem like an unlikely pair, and, in fact, they are; last summer, news broke that Birkenstock's CEO Oliver Reichert had turned down a collab with Supreme, telling the Cut's Cathy Horyn, "There’s no benefit for us except prostitution, because this is just prostitution.” [Ed.: Hmm.]

Now, Birkenstock and Supreme are at odds once again, with Birkenstock’s chief sales officer Klaus Baumann throwing down some fighting words: "It was never about function for them, just logos." Baumann also took on Supreme's hyper-popularity, saying, “If I put a bouncer outside our doors on Saturday and regulate letting people in, I too could have a queue outside.” Body-slam!

To the cynically minded fashion observer, it's hard not to note that Birkenstock is probably scoring more clout points from engineering a feud with Supreme than it ever could have garnered from merely releasing a Supreme sandal; after a brief Birkenstock renaissance, we're currently in a Tevas-forward moment, which means Birks need to reclaim their footwear focus in some way or other, and what's better for thrusting a 245-year-old brand back into the spotlight than a little controversy?

As a comfortable-footwear devotee who owns more than three pairs of Danskos (yes, including the white ones that make me look like a deranged Danish nurse), you'd think my loyalties would automatically lie with Birkenstock, but tbh, I'm going to have to go with Supreme on this one. As Vox pointed out in 2017, the process of breaking in Birkenstocks is staggeringly painful, whereas Supreme sneakers embrace the foot like a loved one's hug.

While Supreme leans into its obnoxious, hypebeast brand with aplomb, Birkenstock feels shrouded in the same faint whiff of moral superiority that I associate with spelt oats and "intentional communities"; maybe this is a character flaw on my part, but I'd rather do Red Bull-and-vodka shots with Supreme's idiot 19-year-old bro fans than, like, attend a kombucha tasting with Birkenstock devotees. Rage on, shoe wars, rage on!