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Ask Chris Black: What Birkenstocks Should I Get?

Photo: Yimmy Yayo

If you’re looking for the most powerful hair dryer or handiest chef’s knife, those things can be easy enough to find. Other objects of desire are a little more taste-based. What’s the next status water bottle or hand wash, for instance? Regular readers of the Strategist will know that we’ve previously turned to resident Cool Guy Chris Black (he’s a partner at brand consultancy Public Announcement) to help us answer both of those questions, and to get more of Chris’s advice, he’s now answering reader questions for us in a regular column. If you have a burning question about the next fanny pack or Noah rugby shirt, drop us an email with the subject line “Ask Chris” at

I’m thinking about a pair of Birkenstocks. My questions is: Bostons or Arizonas?

When I was 19 smoking Parliament Lights and living in a house with four dudes where we had shows in the kitchen, I worked at an Atlanta footwear institution called Abbadabba’s. We stocked a wide array of shoes I was (and still am) heavily into: Converse, Vans, Clarks, etc. … But, the big money maker was Birkenstocks, a shoe, that at the time, I equated with hot suburban Moms in late model SUVs and white guys in Umphrey’s McGee T-shirts. I was closed-minded until I got a free pair of taupe suede Bostons. It took some time to incorporate them into my look, but once I did, there was no looking back. They are comfortable and sort of ugly, in the best way possible. I have been wearing them ever since.

So, the short is answer is, you need … BOTH. The Birkenstock Boston in black natural leather is an ideal footwear choice. Wear them in transit to breeze through the TSA Security Checkpoint (you should have Pre-Check TBH), to drop off your son at Horace Mann for preschool, to Mile High Run Club before changing into your Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit, or while merely strolling to East Village Organic to grab some Mountain Valley because you are feeling parched. Their function and style are unmatched.

The Arizona is less appropriate for the city, but I use these as a flip-flop alternative. They provide more comfort than a classic espadrille or a pair of simple Havaianas. The EVA model [editor’s note: we’ve written about another EVA pair before] they introduced a few years ago is cheap and can handle water if the tide catches your toes on a sunset beach walk on Shelter Island.

If you are looking for a less popular Birkenstock model, may I suggest the Zurich? More coverage than the Arizona, but less than the Boston. More similar to a slide in design, a ‘stock for the real heads. This is an advanced move, approach with caution!

How should one consume music at home? With very cool high-end headphones like a maniac? With speakers? What do you use?

You might expect me to be a guy with a $5,000 vintage stereo, but, I actually don’t care about sound quality at all, and neither should you. Unless you are mastering Grammy-nominated albums, your ears cannot differentiate between a FLAC file and a compressed MP3.

What you should avoid is Beats, the Common Projects of headphones. They don’t sound right (unless you like too much bass) and just scream “look at me!” Understated and logoless is always better, even when it comes to audio consumption. Plus, Jimmy Iovine doesn’t need any more money.

In my humble abode, I use a simple Sonos system. The interface sort of sucks, but the speakers sound good, look cool, and are well priced.

The Beoplay A1 from Bang & Olufsen is beautiful and portable, but also sounds great.

If you want to use a well-designed pair of wireless headphones at home so your neighbors can’t hear you blasting The Boyboy West Coast, get the MW60 from Master & Dynamic. They look as chic as giant headphones can.

How can I get a good workout at home? What products do you recommend if I want to get a head start on my beach bod?

I forget that some people don’t want to spend an absolute fortune on the boutique fitness experience. LOL, weirdos. Luckily for you, getting in shape doesn’t have to include sexy lighting, custom Le Labo post-sweat face wash, or insufferable EDM played at ear piercing volumes. Let’s simplify it, let’s talk about CALISTHENICS baby. The most democratic exercise routine involves no equipment: push ups, squats, sit ups, planks, lunges. But once you master those moves, you will probably want to cop some fun accessories to make it harder.

You will definitely need some resistance bands. They will make any strength-building exercise a little more challenging, but can also help with flexibility.

Gliding discs for your core, thighs, and ass are a must. Low impact but very effective!

You have probably seen some jacked bro at the gym hot dogging with a core roller. It’s hard, but this six pack ain’t gonna happen on its own. Beach bod 2019, get ripped or cry trying!

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Ask Chris Black: What Birkenstocks Should I Get?