How much would you pay for Steve Jobs' birkenstocks?

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How much would you pay for Steve Jobs' birkenstocks?
People at an event sponsored by Birkenstock, which will celebrate its 250th anniversary in 2024, at Cipriani Wall Street in Manhattan, Nov. 28, 2022. The party included displays of the brand’s footwear, including sandals once owned Steve Jobs, worn in the 1970s and 1980s as he developed Apple Computers in his family garage, that recently sold at auction for $218,750. (Calla Kessler/The New York Times)

by John Ortved

NEW YORK, NY.- How much would you pay for Steve Jobs’ old Birkenstocks?

“I’d pay to look at them,” Whoopi Goldberg said last week at a party for Birkenstock at Cipriani Wall Street.

“About 75 cents,” she added.

Jobs’ well-worn, tan suede Arizona sandals, which the Apple Inc. co-founder famously wore in the 1970s and 1980s as he developed Apple Computers in his family garage in Los Altos, California, were sold for $218,750 to an undisclosed buyer at auction last month, according to the Associated Press.

The shoes were now on display in a transparent plastic box for a crowd that included an international mix of fashion editors and Goldberg at one of the first major events the company has thrown in the United States. The brand will turn 250 years old in 2024, and the party was a lead-up to the anniversary. Birkenstock executives would not comment or answer questions about how the shoes ended up at the event.

The grand room, with its over-50-foot vaulted ceilings, was staged as a giant lush jungle, interspersed with ferns, mosses, banana leaves and hedges. In the middle of the room, a clearing was made for a vast exhibition space, where the brand displayed its treasures, as if at a museum. At the rear, surreal projections of raw materials scaled the walls, while beneath them a Santa’s workshop of edgy elves — rows of tattoo artists at workbenches — inscribed fitted sneakers with guests’ personalized details. An entire side room was dedicated to foot massages.

Among the exhibited shoes were several of Birkenstock’s most famous fashion collaborations: Marc Jacobs’ unauthorized riff from his 1993 Perry Ellis grunge collection, Rick Owens’ strappy sneaker boots, elegant Jil Sander clogs, bejeweled Manolo Blahniks and handmade Dior mules.

It was next to these that Jobs’ everyday Arizonas were displayed.

Despite the new value of the sandals, the fashion crowd was not particularly interested in owning them.

“I have so many,” said Goldberg, wearing a pair of black rubber Super Birki clogs. “I don’t need his.”

“They wouldn’t have any value to me,” said Joerg Koch, editor-in-chief and chief executive of 032c, the German fashion publication. “I’m not a collector. I collect books.”

James Harris, co-host of the menswear podcast “Throwing Fits,” said he would pay “negative money because those are cooked beyond recognition.”

But Mordechai Rubinstein, a fashion consultant who operates the Instagram account Mister Mort, saw the metaphysical value.

“You could say, ‘I’m wearing Steve Jobs’ soul. You want to touch Steve Jobs’ soul? That’s the closest you’re going to get to it. Slide right in.’”

Still, Rubinstein added: “I wouldn’t buy them.”

About an hour into the party, the room was humming. Next to the memorabilia, there was a neatly made Birkenstock bed, which the company has manufactured since 2017. A trio of young women jumped in and took selfies.

By the bar, singer Chanese Elifé performed a rendition of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” on a small circular stage, rising above a circle of greenery. Servers wore tan jackets, khakis and Birkenstock Arizona sandals or Boston Clogs, the brand’s most iconic styles. The vibe was orderly but relaxed. There were small passed plates of roast salmon, steak or chicken with rice.

Capucine Lavaune, an aspiring influencer on TikTok, said she would pay $10 for Jobs’ Birkenstocks “because influencing doesn’t make that much money.”

Jian DeLeon, men’s fashion and editorial director at Nordstrom, leaned against a display of memorabilia with Noah Thomas, associate fashion director of men’s and children’s at Macy’s. Together they run the Instagram account Mule Boyz, which celebrates backless shoes.

“It’s an Arizona, not a Boston, so it’s not really in my wheelhouse,” DeLeon said. “I would prefer a turtleneck.”

As the evening came to a close, Oliver Reichert, Birkenstock’s CEO, wearing well-worn suede Arizonas, was entertaining his young children near the Birkenstock bed.

Reichert, who would not comment on who owns the shoes, said he would pay “the middle of doughnut,” or in other words, nothing.

“I have shoe size 47, so they’re too small for me.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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