History of Birkenstock

Germany’s Birkenstock’s unique footwear manufacturing techniques and theories boast more than 200 years of family enterprise history. Born in Langenberg, German, 248 years ago, Johan Adam Birkenstock is Karl Birkenstock’s great-great-grandfather. Karl Birkenstock is not only the company’s current leader but also the innovator who introduced Birkenstocks to the world.

  • 1774 Johann Adam Birkenstock registered in the church archives as “vassal and shoemaker.“
  • 1896 Konrad Birkenstock, master shoemaker, has two shoe specialty stores in Frankfurt and is starting to produce customized footbed insoles for other shoe companies.
  • 1899 Over 15 years Konrad Birkenstock gives seminars and lectures to the other masters and guilds to explain his ideas for a (graphic) custom shoe and to get license contracts for the production of his footbed shoes. He starts traveling throughout all of Germany and Austria.
  • 1913 Carl Birkenstock, the oldest son, enters the family business.
  • 1914 During the first World War, Konrad Birkenstock Sen. is hired by the hospital Frankfurt-Friedrichsheim's rehabilitation ward to manufacture custom orthopaedic footwear for wounded soldiers.
    Professor Dr. Med. Ludhoff, hospital director, approves and sponsors these shoes made by Konrad Birkenstock.
  • 1925 Konrad Birkenstock jr. enters the company and purchases a larger factory in Friedberg/Hessen.
    The large customer base makes it necessary to work around the clock.
    The product: The Blue Footbed®. It is successfully sold in Austria, France, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Luxembourg, Belgium, Norway, The Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.
  • 1932 Start of the famous Birkenstock classes. More than 5,000 specialists are trained during the weeklong seminars in the following years. Leading doctors support and recommend the BIRKENSTOCK® system.
  • 1935 The term “footbed” was registered in European countries.
  • 1946 After WWII, Birkenstock moved to the bank of the Rheine River in Bad Honnef.
  • 1947 The book Podiatric System BIRKENSTOCK® is published. With 112 pages, 55 pictures, 14,000 copies, it becomes the most widely read and published textbook on podiatry in its time.
  • 1954 Karl Birkenstock joins the family business.
  • 1964 Carl Birkenstock's son, Karl, takes his grandfather's contoured arch support concept one step further adding a leather top and sole creating the first pair of Birkenstock sandals and expanding the family enterprise. To date Birkenstock is still growing and expanding.
  • 1966 The self-coloring footprint paper has been successfully developed and patented in many countries making it profitable to sell Birkenstocks via mail order.
    Margot Frasers introduces Birkenstocks to the American market. Birkenstocks are highly valued by nature and health enthusiasts up to now. Upon entering the American market, Birkenstock becomes a global brand.
  • 1969 Birko-Cork, a malleable thermal cork, is developed.
  • 1972 The “Book about Foot Health“ goes to print. First edition sells 30,000 copies.
  • 1973 The first electro-mechanical molding machine is developed. This machine uses a single adjustable mold to produce all sizes and widths in the right proportions. This innovation puts BIRKENSTOCK® far ahead in the world market.
  • 1974 Leather cutting production begins in St. Katharinen.
  • 1979 St. Katharinen receives additional modern cutting machines, equipped with 100-ton punch capacities.
  • 1980 The previous electro-mechanical molding machine is replaced with a new computer controlled system. This system produces four sizes simultaneously.
  • 1982 After three years of developing the thong sandal, it is introduced in five styles.
  • 1983 The Birkenstock Fußfibel (foot primer) is published, first edition sells 360,000 copies.
  • 1984 Alex Birkenstock, second son of Karl Birkenstock, joins the company. Six additional patents for thong are registered for BIRKENSTOCK®.
    The patent for “Fußbett“ (footbed) is extended for another 10 years.
    Specialty stores order approximately 14 million consumer brochures.
  • 1985 A new material, Birko-Cell, is introduced to the orthopedic market.
    The first major Junior Meet in Bad Honnef is held.
  • 1986 Second Junior Meet with over 200 retailers participating.
    The new Birko Sport insole is offered to stores.
  • 1987 The BIRKENSTOCK® branch in St. Katharinen is equipped with additional leather cutting machines.
    For the first time ever BIRKENSTOCK® sells large sizes up to size 50 in two widths.
  • 1988 Christian Birkenstock, the third son of Karl Birkenstock, joins the family business.
    Environmentally-friendly glue is introduced in production.
    The Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl visits the company.
    The first Birkenstock agent brings Birkenstocks to Taiwan.
  • 1989 BIRKENSTOCK® takes over ALSA to ensure the supply of malleable sole and footbed production and PU products. The company grows from 700 to 1200 employees.
    A new four-story building for the production of insoles is built in Asbach.
  • 1990 Stephan Birkenstock, the eldest son of Karl Birkenstock, enters the family business.
    Expansion and modernization of footbed production.
    Power consumption is reduced by over 90%.Heat recovery units are installed in the ventilation system, and plants for electricity generation are built.
    After the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Birkenstock was among the first batch of companies to enter East Germany. Birkenstock set up three factories in East Germany of which two are 100mX200m and employ 450 employees.
    Alex Birkenstock founds the Tatami brand.
  • 1991 The fashionably colorful Papillio® brand is launched.

    Rita Süssmuth, President of the German Parliament, visits Birkenstock factories.
  • 1992 Birkenstock launches hand-made leather shoes under the Footprint® brand.
  • 1993 Alex Birkenstock founds the Birki® brand.

    Construction of a 60mx240m distribution center in Vettelschoß has started.
  • 1994 Christian Birkenstock founds the Betula® brand.

    Another warehouse is built in Asbach.
    Birki's® uses a new system which incorporates the upper material into the PU-foam footbed to produce sandals without the use of glues.
  • 1996 New high-rise rack warehouse begins operation in Asbach.
    Groundbreaking ceremony for a new shipping facility in Vettelschoß takes place in July.
  • 1997 In the spring, the first orders are shipped from the new Vettelschoß facility where leading edge technologies in logistics are applied.
  • 1998年 The BIRKENSTOCK® administration and sales offices move from Bad Honnef to Vettelschoß.In spring the Retailer Meetings hosted by BIRKENSTOCK® are resumed.
    Betula purchases Castle “Burg Ockenfels” and transforms it into a customer service center.
    In October, the new, fully automatic box storage unit with a capacity of 10,000 cartons is put into operation enabling the shipping and receiving of 80,000 pairs of shoes per day.
  • 1999 The second logistics shipping facility in Vettelschoss is beginning to take shape with the removal of trees on the site.
    The company BIRKENSTOCK® creates its first Homepage.
    The second international retailer meeting with more than 200 participants takes places at the customer service center in Vettelschoss.
    The company Footprints® extends its brands with a trekking collection as well as a ladies' and men's dress shoe line.
    Birki's is able to produce the world's first super lightweight EVA clog.
    BIRKENSTOCK® and its agents celebrate the company’s 225th anniversary.
  • 2000 The brand Tatami®, founded in 1990 by Alex Birkenstock celebrates its 10th anniversary.
    The brand Footprints® now offers an elegant men's dress shoe collection catering to formal occasions.
    The brand Birki's® introduces an EVA sandal collection manufactured without any glue whatsoever.
  • 2001 The new automatic ordering system comes online offering the possibility for shipping 6000 individual pairs within 24 hours.
  • 2002 BIRKENSTOCK® celebrates the 25th anniversary of the model “Boston”.
  • 2003 BIRKENSTOCK® celebrates the 30th anniversary of its highest-selling sandals the “Arizona”.
  • 2004 In England, Birkenstock receives the Drapers Award as “Best Shoe of the Year” in acknowledgement of Birkenstock products' timeless design making them suitable for every age group, any occasion and all types of people.
  • 2005 A new logistics warehouse is set up next to the Birkenstock company headquarters in Vettelschoß.
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