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The $30 Birkenstocks That Are Actually Cool

Are they in fact pool shoes? Maybe. Do they earn me compliments everywhere I go? Yes.

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A model wearing black Birkenstock sandals, gray pants, and a gray tee shirt
Birkenstock Madrid Essentials in Black ($30)

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I’ve been in a love/hate relationship with Birkenstocks since childhood.

In the ’80s, my dad’s hippie friends all wore the classic two-strap Arizona in brown suede, accessorized with gnarly toenails or thick wool socks. Ew. In the early ’90s, I had a pair in forest green that I thought were the shit. But when they came back around again a few years ago — in white, everyone had to have Arizonas in matte white leather — I couldn't get on board. They were hideous, they cost $175, and also, I discovered when I finally caved and tried on a pair, they weren’t even comfortable! It was like I was walking around with wads of cardboard wedged beneath my poor fallen arches.

Then I spotted the Birkenstock Madrid Essentials in black rubber for 30 bucks.

The single strap and monochrome sole make them far more elegant than traditional Birks, OR SO I TELL MYSELF, and man, are those suckers comfortable. They’re lightweight, they never chafe, and they’ve got just the right amount of arch support.

Are they in fact pool shoes? Maybe. Do they earn me compliments everywhere I go from women of all ages? Yes. Yes they do.

I pack them on every trip, stuff them in my bag as backup any time I venture out in heels, wear them to the office and to yoga, and even once with oversized canvas overalls to a job interview on the Paramount lot. (Sadly, I didn't get the job, but my killer ensemble was not to blame.) With a matching black pedicure, my rubber Birks make me feel put together and ready for anything.

My one complaint: They never get smelly, but if my feet sweat, they do emit the occasional, quite realistic, farting noise.