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The BIRKENSTOCK journey through time

01

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.

This innovation determined the fate of the company and contributed significantly to the popularity of our shoes. The footbed is based on the cast of a healthy foot in the sand, ensuring that feet feel as comfortable as possible for hours on end. We still develop shoes that promote health and well-being – aided in this task by our wealth of experience.

1774 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.”

1896 The footbed takes its first steps

Some 120 years later, master shoemaker Konrad Birkenstock opens two shoe shops in Frankfurt and starts making and selling flexible footbed insoles.

1925 Increasing demand

Thanks to the increasing success of his insoles, Konrad Birkenstock starts looking for a larger production facility in 1925. He buys a factory in Friedberg, Hesse, with extensive grounds. As his customer base is expanding all the time, the insoles are produced day and night. The legendary “blue footbed” is already among the products manufactured.

1932 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.”

1948 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.

1963 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 unmistakable classic model lays the foundation for today’s comfort footwear market.

1991 New additions to the family

The Birkenstock 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.

2007 Combined strength

The owners of Birkenstock Orthopädie GmbH & Co. KG take over their long-standing distribution partner Birkenstock Distribution USA, Inc. (BDUSA). The company is headquartered at the existing site of BDUSA in Novato, California.

2009 Görlitz grows

A new, larger footbed production facility is commissioned in spring 2009 in Görlitz.

2013 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 transition 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 Bensberg and Oliver Reichert are in charge of the activities of the BIRKENSTOCK Group.

2017 NATURAL COSMETICS & SLEEP SYSTEMS

BIRKENSTOCK expands its product range with the natural cosmetics line BIRKENSTOCK Natural Skin Care and the BIRKENSTOCK BED COLLECTION. In addition to healthy walking, standing and running, healthy skin and a healthy sleep also have a considerable impact on our well-being.

2018 BIRKENSTOCK opens its first own store in the USA

The company’s first own store in the United States opens its doors. The new store is located at 120 Spring Street in the historical district of SoHo in Lower Manhattan. Birkenstocks have been sold in the USA for more than 50 years now. But with a dedicated store, the long-standing German brand has given itself a new home in the heart of New York, while also laying the foundations for BIRKENSTOCK’s continued growth in the U.S. market.

2019 Studio for creativity and innovation in Paris

The new showroom Birkenstock 1774 showcases the brand with a focus on quality and functionality. The representative showroom named after the brand’s year of foundation was designed to showcase special projects of the brand and the new 1774 collection which will be presented for the first time during the 2020 Frieze in Los Angeles

 

2020 BIRKENSTOCK - A GLOBAL PHENOMENON

BIRKENSTOCK is named "Brand of the Year" by the renowned US shoe magazine "Footwear News", the British Vogue awards the title "Sandal of the Year" to the iconic BIRKENSTOCK sandals and, according to the Lyst Index,  the classic Arizona is the "world’s hottest women’s shoe".

2021 Partnership with L Catterton.

In May 2021, L Catterton, the largest global private equity firm focused on consumer goods, acquired a majority stake in the global lifestyle brand BIRKENSTOCK. This partnership with L Catterton and its affiliated companies, among them Financière Agache, the holding company of Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, is the next logical step for BIRKENSTOCK in order to continue its strong growth in future markets such as China and India and to strengthen its leading market position in Europe and America with investments in the German sites and the expansion of production, logistics and distribution capacities. With the successful completion of the transaction, Markus Bensberg steps back from his executive position and the operative business. Oliver Reichert is now the sole CEO of the BIRKENSTOCK Group.