Birkenstock is a brand name of sandals and other shoes; they became popular in the United States in the 1990s. The term “Birkenstock (-wearing) liberal” became popular in 2003, when Vermont Governor Howard Dean was running in the Democratic party presidential primaries, but the term had been in use much before that.
“Crunchy—adj. a granola-eating, rock-climbing, Birkenstock-wearing liberal” was cited in a 1994 newspaper article about slang. “Birkenstock liberals” was cited in print in 1997.
Birkenstock Orthopädie GmbH & Co. KG is a shoe manufacturer headquartered in Vettelschoß, Germany. The company sells Birkenstock, a German brand of sandals and other shoes notable for their contoured cork and rubber footbeds, which conform somewhat to the shape of their wearers’ feet. Representative products include the two-strap sandal, the Arizona, and the Boston clog.
In the United States, Birkenstock first became popular among young men and later on among flower children, a group traditionally associated with American liberalism; in the early 1990s “Birk” enjoyed a surge of popularity among high-school and college-aged Generation Xers comparable to the 2000s popularity of flip-flops. During the 2004 U.S. presidential primary, some conservatives derided Howard Dean’s supporters as “Birkenstock liberals”.
28 April 1994, Aberdeen (SD) American News, “Kids and Slang” by Dennis Romero (Knight-Ridder Newspapers), magazine, pg. 9, col. 2:
Hip-hop speak: crunchy—adj. a granola-eating, rock-climbing, Birkenstock-wearing liberal.
Village Life Company
Citizens Cross Racial Divide
April 14, 1997
By William Bole
American News Service
Many of the recruits in this movement—which has spread to all parts of the country—do not fit the popular activist stereotypes. “We don’t attract the Birkenstock liberals,” said Mariba Karamoko, organizer of Shelby County Interfaith, an alliance of 48 Memphis congregations, half of them black, half of them white.
Google Groups: or.politics
Neal and Waco (was GOP’s small tent)
One of the most vibrant neighborhoods I can think of in the whole Metro area is the revitalized Hawthorne district (’course, that’s populated mostly by new age Birkenstock wearing liberals, but that’s for another post).
Google News Archive
12 August 2001, The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA), “Making his point, whatever it takes” by Chauncey Mabe (Knight Ridder Newspapers), pg. F7, col. 2:
From the Birkenstock liberals, co-opted by prosperity, he gets nothing but lip service.
The American Prospect
The Shaming Sham
CARL HOROWITZ NOVEMBER 16, 2001
Author P.J. O’Rourke, with his periodic (and not quite entirely facetious) Enemies Lists, may seek to stigmatize those dreaded Birkenstock-wearing liberals who eat low-calorie yogurt and listen to National Public Radio.
Google Groups: alt.politics.democrats.d
The roots of a traitor
Described by one former neighbor as “Birkenstock liberals,” the Lindhs enrolled their son in an “alternative” high school in California.
New York (NY) Times
The Nation: Footwear Politics; Just Who, Really, Is a Birkenstock Voter?
By GINIA BELLAFANTE
Published: October 5, 2003
AT some point on the campaign route to Iowa and New Hampshire, the name Howard Dean yoked itself to a shoe—specifically, to a unisex sandal already married in the public consciousness to diversions like mud baths. Birkenstock first surfaced as a political adjective this summer when reporters, surveying the crowds at Dean rallies, began to refer to Dr. Dean’s constituents by their presumed footwear preference: the ‘’Birkenstock liberals.’’
But no one has given the term greater traction than Dr. Dean himself, who now sardonically invokes it as a pre-emptive thrust countering criticism of policies with which the opposition is likely to have too much fun.
Google News Archive
6 March 2005, Tuscaloosa (AL) News, “Congressman apologized for ‘borrowing’ speech from auditor” (AP),
CARSON CITY, NEV.—Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., apologized Thursday for what he termed the inadvertent recycling of an Alabama Republican’s liberal-bashing speech she gave in 2003—without giving her any credit for the remarks.
“I say we tell those liberal, tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing. hippie, tie-dyed liberals to go make their movies and their music and whine somewhere else,” he said.
Sandals worn by liberals, women in Vermont, and for some unknown reason, evangelical youth pastors trying to appeal to young adherents of Christianity.
by Gary Vitalis February 22, 2007
The Observer (UK)
Birkenstocks step back into the fashion limelight
The ‘ugly’ German orthopaedic sandals are flying out the stores after a renaissance on high-fashion catwalks
The Observer, Saturday 14 June 2014
First there were “nan shoes”, “chunky sandals” and “pool sliders”. But this summer’s trend for ugly shoes has spawned a footwear movement all of its own, as the Birkenstock sandal steps up again. Despite being 50 years old, vegan-friendly and politically charged – American conservatives coined the pejorative term “Birkenstock liberals” in 2004 – the German orthopaedic sandal is proving to have more fashion staying power than Kate Moss.
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • Sunday, June 15, 2014 • Permalink