When it comes to fashion, Steve Jobs, the late founder of Apple, is best known for his laid-back uniform of a black turtleneck, jeans and dad sneakers. But the tech giant also had something in common with today’s supermodels and TikTok influencers: a love of Birkenstocks.
On Sunday, an undisclosed buyer purchased the well-worn pair of brown suede, two-strap sandals that Jobs wore in the ’70s and ’80s for over $218,000 – the highest price ever paid for a pair of sandals at auction, according to the auction house Julien’s.
“Steve Jobs wore these sandals during many pivotal moments in Apple’s history,” the auction house said in the online listing. “In 1976, he hatched the beginnings of Apple computer in a Los Altos garage with Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak while occasionally wearing these sandals.”
While the shoes sold for $218,750, they were initially valued at about $60,000 – still a hefty amount considering that a new pair of the same model sells for $125 (Jobs’s foot imprint not included).
The small fortune paid for the vintage orthopedic footwear comes at a time when Birkenstocks, a beloved “ugly shoe” and the “inventor of the footbed,” have – yet again – become one of the most-wanted shoe trends, selling like hot cakes while fans, ranging from “it” girls to cool grandpas, desperately wait to snag a pair.
Birkenstock began in Germany in 1774, and the company sold insoles before shoes. When the brand was introduced in the United States in 1966, it became a favorite among the “tree-hugging, Volvo-driving, granola-eating stereotype,” Adweek reported.
Jobs’s Arizona-style sandals date back to the Apple founder’s days as an “eco, alternative and New Age supporter,” according to Julien’s. Having dropped out of Reed College in Portland in 1972, he moved onto an apple orchard turned hippie commune and looked for enlightenment during a trip to India. In 1976, Jobs, along with Wozniak and Ronald Wayne, created a computer company that would eventually revolutionize the tech world.
During this decade of his life, Jobs had a penchant for wearing Birks. He reportedly wore his tan Birkenstock sandals constantly – even during winter, his first girlfriend and mother of his child, Chrisann Brennan, told Vogue Germany in 2018.
“The sandals were part of his simple side. They were his uniform. The great thing about a uniform is that you don’t have to worry about what to wear in the morning,” Brennan told the magazine. “That’s why Birkenstock sandals were so important to him.”
Jobs also hated clutter, Mark Sheff, who was an estate manager for Jobs’s house in Albany, California, told Insider. It was during one of Jobs’s closet-clearing episodes that Sheff collected the pair of Birkenstocks that were, decades later, auctioned off after 19 bids.
“We kept some, shared some with the landscapers and friends and brought some to Goodwill. The collection we ended up with is quite random,” Sheff told Insider of the stuff Jobs threw away, adding that his then-boss “kept very few things.”
Since Jobs died of pancreatic cancer in 2011, his worn-out sandals have been featured in an array of exhibits, from Milan to New York City to Birkenstock’s headquarters in Germany.
And now they’re off to the home of some lucky buyer, who will also receive a nonfungible token, or NFT, featuring a “360° digital representation” of the sandals and Jean Pigozzi’s book “The 213 Most Important Men in My Life” – which has a shot of Jobs wearing the Birks.
Yet, while Jobs’s turtleneck uniform became fodder for Halloween costumes – and might’ve been disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes’s fashion inspiration – he wasn’t behind Birkenstocks’ rise to cult status.
That accomplishment, according to Adweek, belongs to ’90s supermodel Kate Moss, who was photographed as a teenager leaning against a cracked wall, holding a cigarette and wearing the Jobs-favored Arizona Birks.
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