This time last year, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a fashion girl in New York City that didn’t have a pair of Birkenstocks—or three—in daily rotation. From the day that Phoebe Philo sent fur-lined sandals inspired by the crunchy, cork-soled footwear down Céline’s Spring 2013 runway, they began a rapid transformation from dad shoe to fashion-blogger fave.
Today, though? I don’t know about you, but they’re feeling a little tired. Maybe it’s because I wore them practically every day last summer—what?! They’re comfortable!—but I’m not exactly itching to put them on in the morning anymore.
That doesn’t mean I’m ready to give up on sensible footwear, however, which is where rope sandals come in.
Beachy, inexpensive, and vaguely nautical looking, the sandals are made from rope that’s spun from carpet fiber and welded together into familiar styles such as slides, thongs, and ankle-wrap gladiators. The go-to brand in the States is Gurkee’s, which has been making the sandals since 1984 in West Virginia. Last season, the company teamed up with Totême, the burgeoning lifestyle brand helmed by former blogger Elin Kling, on an elevated, knotted pair that sold out on Net-A-Porter and only just got restocked on the brand’s website, following recent partnerships with Opening Ceremony and Urban Outfitters.
My bet? These babies are going to be everywhere. Starting at just $49 and topping out at $110 for the Totême pair, they’re in the same sweet spot as Birks and Stan Smiths, the other shoe that went from zero to ubiquitous in a few short years. They’re not “city shoes,” per se, but Glossier’s Emily Weiss commented on Instagram that she’s put soles on hers to wear them around New York (a smart move; I’ve just been walking around in them and hoping for the best).
Already, they’ve earned fashion industry fans—Weiss, blogger Camille Charrière, writer Sophie Fontanel, and at least three very stylish girls I spotted in Soho in the past couple of weeks—and “inspired” styles at fast fashion retailers like Mango and Topshop. Urban Outfitters carries a pair by another brand with authentic cred called Nomadic State of Mind, which has been producing the sandals with an artisan community in Nicaragua since 2002. And at the other end of the spectrum, Isabel Marant launched a line of knotted cord sandals for Spring 2016—retail price $400-plus (although by now you can find them on sale).
Best of all? They’re actually, seriously comfortable—like walking around on carpet all day—and even the slide versions stay firmly on your feet. Can I get a praise-hands emoji over here?
Click through the gallery to shop the sandals and see how some OG fans are wearing theirs.