Woolly mammoths in Birkenstocks

Knowing that the woolly mammoth is my primary totem animal, Anneli Meyer Korn has pointed me to this little slice of the University District in Seattle:

(#1) The Woolly Mammoth shoe store, 4303 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105: “Comfortable, high quality, good-looking shoes and excellent customer service”

And from Wikipedia, on the excellent qualities of Mammuthus primigenius, the original woolly mammoth:

The woolly mammoth coexisted with early humans, who used its bones and tusks for making art, tools, and dwellings, and hunted the species for food.

M. primigenius provided humans with comfort, offering up its huge bones  to form into shelter, and beauty, in ivory carvings. Plus useful tools and life-sustaining meat. The Woolly Mammoth store’s shoes provide comfort and good looks, but can they be used as needles or stave off hunger? I thought not.

Still, those are damn fine shoes. Especially the Birkenstocks:

(#2) The store’s interior, Birkenstocks on your right

About the store, from its website:

The Woolly Mammoth was established in Seattle’s University District in 1970 by Pat Andre as a custom leather shop. Since then, the store has evolved into Seattle’s premium comfort shoe store. … The Woolly Mammoth is a well-known Seattle icon, providing top of the line footwear and accessories for men and women, suitable for the Northwest lifestyle.

(#3) The store’s logo

I’ll get back to the Birkis in a moment. Now comes the

totem-animal interlude. My first totem animal was the anteater, from Johnny Hart’s B.C. comic; my college nickname was Zot. Z for Zwicky, Z for zot, as in ant-slurping. Not a big thing, and fairly short-lived, but I do think anteaters are cool, and, yes, I secretly enjoyed the raunchy fellatial undertones. (Later, Zot provided the basis for a pseudonym on the net: zotling, the Zot of linguistics. Or a young male Zot, take your pick.)

After the anteater came the penguin, which eventually got to be a big thing, but it started pretty much by accident.

Then came a Sam Gross New Yorker cartoon — one shepherd to another, observing a M. primigenius grazing with their sheep: “As long as it’s woolly, I don’t ask questions” — that spoke to me deeply about being accepted. This was my true totem animal. (There is a Page on this blog cataloguing my mammoth postings.)

But the Birkis ‘Birkenstock sandals’. From Wikipedia:

Birkenstock Group … is a German shoe manufacturer known for its production of Birkenstocks, a German brand of sandals and other shoes notable for their contoured cork footbeds (soles) made with layers of suede and jute, which conform somewhat to the shape of their wearers’ feet.

Founded in 1774 by Johann Adam Birkenstock and headquartered in Neustadt (Wied), Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, the company’s original purpose was to create shoes that support and contour the foot, compared to the flat soles of many shoes during that time. In 1896 the Fussbett (footbed) was created and by 1925 Birkenstocks were sold all over Europe.

In 1966, Margot Fraser first brought Birkenstocks to America. In the US, they were sold in health stores, thus becoming associated with hippies in the 1970s.

Then, thanks to their comfort and durability, and their not catering to the male gaze, they became a lesbian stereotype in the 1970s through the 1990s.

And now they’re back. From the Pride website, “14 Reasons Every Lesbian Should Own A Pair Of Birkenstocks”, by Briana Gonzalez on 8/13/15:

(#4) Traditional and fashionable Birkis (from the Pride site)

They do say that everything in fashion comes back around (like high waists, straight leg pants, platform shoes, etc.) but pretty much no one could have predicted that Birkenstocks were going to make a comeback. And say what you will about these iconic dyke shoes, but they are amazing, and we’re SO happy they’re back. Every lesbian needs a pair.


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