It all started with shoemaker Johann Adam Birkenstock’s commitment to his craft. The year was 1774. This commitment to craftsmanship was passed down from generation to generation, including Johann Adam’s great-great-grandson Konrad Birkenstock. In 1896, Konrad had a visionary idea: make and sell flexible footbed inserts. From there, it wasn’t long before he invented the footbed.
The birth of a legend
The history of traditional German footwear brand Birkenstock, can be traced back to the 18th century. Going all the way back to 1774, the church archive of the town of Langen-Bergheim in Hesse lists Johann Adam Birkenstock as a “cobbler and subject."
THE FOOTBED TAKES ITS FIRST STEPS
120 years later, master shoemaker Konrad Birkenstock opens two shoe shops in Frankfurt and starts making and selling flexible footbed insoles.
Thanks to the increasing success of his insoles, Konrad Birkenstock buys a larger production facility in 1925. The factory is based in Friedberg, Hesse, with extensive grounds. The insoles were produced day and night to meet increasing demands.
THEORY AND PRACTICE
Carl Birkenstock launches the BIRKENSTOCK training courses - which would later become famous - in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In the decades that follow, over 5,000 professionals take part in his week- long podiatry and specialist footwear courses. Leading physicians endorse the seminars and the “Carl Birkenstock system.”
THE CARL BIRKENSTOCK SYSTEM
A textbook entitled Podiatry - The Carl Birkenstock System is published with a print run of 14,000 copies and is the best selling podiatry textbook of the day. Over 112 pages and with 55 illustrations, Carl Birkenstock expounds his theories about the “natural gait” - The footprint system - and healthy footwear.
AN ICON IS BORN
This is the year that gives rise to a revolutionary idea. Taking the flexible Birkenstock footbed with a cork and latex core, Karl Birkenstock develops his own sandal and launches the Madrid - the first ever flexible sandal with a deep and flexible footbed - in 1963. Originally launched as a “gymnastics sandal” and more or less unchanged to this day, this classic model lays the foundation for today’s comfort footwear market.
ENVIRONMENTALLY - FRIENDLY ADHESIVES
Environmentally friendly adhesives are used in the production for the first time - making BIRKENSTOCK one of the first shoes manufacturers in the world to use water soluble and solvent-free adhesives almost exclusively in its production processes.
SUSTAINABLE ENERGY POLICY
Birkenstock addresses the question of energy efficiency at an early stage. It has continuously reduced energy requirements through the internal development of special equipment and constant improvements in production processes - with reductions of more than 90% to date.
NEW ADDITIONS TO THE FAMILY
The Birkenstocks family grows. A variety of licensed trademarks, such as Papillio and Betula, are established over the following years, so that the company can offer complementary and additional product groups.
The owners of Birkenstock Orthodäpie GmbH & Co. KG take over their long-standing distribution partner Birkenstock Distribution USA, Inc. (BDUSA). The company is head quartered at the existing site of BDUSA in Novato, California.
A new, larger footbed production facility is commissioned in spring 2009 in Görlitz.
THE FORMATION OF THE BIRKENSTOCK GROUP
This is the year that heralds one of the most significant turning points in the company’s history. Birkenstock becomes a corporation. The traditional company successfully makes the transitions from a loose network of 38 separate companies to a group with three business units (production, distribution, services). The group is led by an executive team, which for the first time is not composed of family members - an unprecedented event in the company’s almost 240-year history. Markus Bensburg and Oliver Reichert are in charge of the activities of the BIRKENSTOCK Group.
"BRAND OF THE YEAR"
Birkenstock is recognised as the "Brand of the Year" by the renowned magazines and media outlets world wide. US shoe magazine "Footwear News" names it "Brand of the Year", while British Vogue awards the title "Sandal of the Year". Lyst index recognises Arizona sandals as "the world's hottest women's shoe".