I rewatched Sex and the City recently, and when Carrie Bradshaw makes a joke about Birkenstocks being a lesbian shoe, I couldn’t help laughing at how old-fashioned she sounds. Of course the show has dated – it was released over 20 years ago and mainstream attitudes towards bisexuality, lesbianism and so much more have changed for the better since then. But little did Carrie know that those Birkenstocks she was maligning would end up being far more fashionable than the colourful heels she bases so much of her personality around. The world of women’s shoes has experienced a footwear revolution in the last few years – one that I think will have as much of an impact as the hemline rising of 1966. At the turn of the millennium, stilettos were bywords for sex and power; two decades on and there are more glossy Birkenstocks, battered Dr Martens and clompy Timberlands than heels of any height at fashion week. As a result, these three companies in particular have seen their stock soar. Once upon a time, all of them were famed for making the sort of practical shoes your geography teacher or teenage cousin might wear; now every fashionista worth her Net-a-Porter addiction likely has more than one iteration of each in her wardrobe. Birkenstocks in particular have gone from beast to beauty, single-handedly leading the ugly shoe trend and making heel-worshipping fashion editors immediate converts to the comfort of German sandal manufacturing. Hence nobody was surprised when last week it was announced that private equity giant L Catterton and family holding Financière Agache took a majority stake in the 250-year-old manufacturer – both investors, notably, are backed by LVMH boss Bernard Arnault. While Arnault is still only an indirect owner of the brand, he will be heavily involved in the future of Birkenstock, which should now follow a similar trajectory to other LVMH labels. The shoe brand has already worked hard to rise to the top of the fashion industry, hosting events during Paris Fashion Week, collaborating with designers like Rick Owens, and even convincing Manolo Blahnik, the king of spindly heels, to pose in its advertising. Blahnik, remember, is a man who said: “Shoes are the quickest way for women to achieve instant metamorphosis” – and I don’t think he was talking about comfy sandals. Five fun facts about Converse All-star sneakers With its LVMH connection, Birkenstock is now likely to be brought further into the fashion inner circle. The brand has already launched a number of savvy designer collaborations with the likes of Valentino and Proenza Schouler, but with a host of LVMH now labels available to them, this could soon be extended to Celine, Pucci or Givenchy. Earlier this year, a New York-based collective unveiled a project called “The Birkinstock” – a combination of your typical Birkenstock sandal but made out of a Hermès Birkin bag. Neither brand has endorsed the collaboration but it hasn’t stopped the shoes for retailing at a whopping US$76,000. Under Arnault’s wing could we see a similar mash-up available for public consumption? How about a Dior-Birkenstock saddle-shoe? Or a Fendi Birguette? The possibilities are endless. Birkenstock, however, is not the only hefty shoe brand to see its stock soar. Investment company Permira bought British shoe brand Dr Martens in 2014 for £300 million and revenues more than tripled by 2020. Earlier this year it was listed on the London Stock Exchange for 10 times the amount Permira initially paid. Search platform Lyst reported that searches for Dr Martens – which were invented in Germany in the 1940s but bought by a British shoe manufacturer a year later – were up 110 per cent in the final quarter of 2018 compared with the same period the previous year. Dr Martens have been popular since their debut, but what stands out about this current trend is that previously they were always hugely symbolic for a particular subculture: the skinheads in the ’70s, punks in the ’80s and grunge in the ’90s. Right now, it is mainstream fashion influencers, magazine editors and even the girl next door wearing them. Like Birkenstocks, Dr Martens have done well from fashion collaborations – in their case with designers like Marc Jacobs and Tolu Coker, but also cultural icons like American artists Jean Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Timberland meanwhile – which was founded in 1952 in the US and is now owned by apparel and footwear company VF – has collaborated with Comme des Garçons and Off-White among many others. Could Timberland be the next major trend coming our way? British Vogue has called them 2021’s new nostalgic fashion hit, and on Instagram, Danish influencer Pernille Teisbaek, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian have all been spotted in the boot. Kardashian’s stylist Veneda Carter even said: “They are my go-to shoes. I have so many pairs of regular Timbs, but I’m always trying to find the rare colourways from the early ’00s. The modern Timberland hiking boots are also among my favourites. I’ve bought matching pairs for myself and the baby.” So what is it about these clumpy designs? The trend for pairing pretty dresses and silk skirts with shoes none of us would have been caught dead socialising in a decade ago was partly born from rebellion – and partly from a post-MeToo desire to steer fashion away from anything overtly sexy. But now these shoes are too popular to be controversial, it is largely the comfort factor (hello thick socks, goodbye blisters and pinched toes) that keeps women buying them. That, and the fact that with shoes like these you can opt for shorter hemlines, lower necklines and brighter colours – and still never look overdressed. Even Carrie Bradshaw couldn’t disagree with that.