Photography provided by Margaret Cooper

It’s no secret that Birkenstocks have a cult following. Often referred to as “Jesus shoes,” the earthy, strappy sandals have experienced a renaissance in recent years after flying under the radar for most of my childhood and adolescence. The brand also sells boots, sneakers and lace-up shoes, but they’re not nearly as iconic as the two-strap sandals. And despite Cole Sprouse’s celebrated tweet, I’m proudly waving the Birkenstock flag.

In college, I was voted “Most Likely to be Sponsored by Birkenstock” by my sorority pledge class. My friends described my style as “comfy chic” as I found a way to shamelessly wear one of my many pairs with any outfit. I have summer and winter options, and yes, I do wear socks with my two-strap Arizonas and Grenadas if it’s a bit too chilly outside in the spring or fall. My collection spans six pairs and five styles: Boston, Grenada, Mayari, Yara and Arizonas in both black and brown (to have options, obviously). The newest addition to my collection? A pair of limited-edition Birkenstock x Il Dolce Far Neinte Arizona raffia sandals, making all my Birk dreams come true.

The Cooper Siblings: Tim, Margaret and Emily

Let me back up. My love affair with this simple sandal dates back to my early childhood years. My parents chose to dress my brother, sister and me in the classic Arizonas due to their comfort and durability. Not to mention that we would spend spring break every year in Siesta Key, Florida, where there’s a Birkenstock store (which are hard to come by, FYI), so we’d meander in and pick out our next pair.

Once I entered my preteen years, I decided that Birks were not cool and took a brief hiatus from the brand. That all changed when I turned 16 and developed Morton’s neuroma in my right foot, which requires that all my shoes have proper arch support. I stumbled back upon Birkenstocks, and they immediately relieved the pain I had been experiencing for months. Not only was I happy to not be experiencing daily discomfort, but I was more willing to go against the grain and be a self-proclaimed trendsetter.

Going into college, my collection grew from one pair to two to three and so on. In the summers, I developed tan lines on my feet from the two straps, which became a point of pride. It’s to the point now that I simply cannot justify buying other sandals because I have a Birk style that’s a more comfortable alternative.

When I studied abroad in London in the summer of 2016, I wore my brand-new black Arizonas everywhere: on the beach in Barcelona, on a mountain in Switzerland, across the bridges of Prague, on a bicycle in Amsterdam and everywhere in between. By the time the season was over, my no-longer-new Arizonas looked years old. When asked why I wore them everywhere, my answer was simple: They’re comfortable and versatile.

I will say this: Birkenstock wearers are loyal AF. Whenever I come across someone who has a pair, there’s an immediate bond as few people genuinely appreciate the comfort and style of Birks. I’d go as far to say that I’m an unofficial brand ambassador. Case in point: A month after my boyfriend and I started dating, he bought a pair of men’s Arizonas under the influence of myself, his mother and his grandmother. So Birkenstock HQ, if you’re reading this, please fulfill my dream and sponsor me. I vow to be loyal to a fault and be a staunch defender each and every time someone says Chacos are better.