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Wall Street wore Birkenstocks as the sandal-maker debuted on the Stock Exchange

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

After nearly 250 years, Birkenstock has gone public, valued at about $8 billion. The company kicked up quite a stir on Wall Street, as NPR's Alina Selyukh reports.

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: Stock traders don't really get to do this, but this time...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRINITY CHAVEZ: Everyone here on the floor, myself included, is wearing Birkenstocks.

SELYUKH: That's Trinity Chavez, an anchor for the live feed from the New York Stock Exchange. Were there executives in suits wearing Birkenstocks? Yes, there were. Open toes? Yes, indeed. Berks over socks? Also present. As the CEO rang the opening bell...

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SELYUKH: ...His entourage waved shoes in the air. One man clapped his hands with one hand wearing a sandal.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SELYUKH: Birkenstock is nearly 250 years old, older even than the stock exchange. Run by a German family for seven generations, their innovation was the anatomically shaped insole made of cork and latex. It's not high fashion, but it persists from hippies to hipsters to even Barbie in this year's blockbuster.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BARBIE")

MARGOT ROBBIE: (As Barbie) The first one, the high heel.

KATE MCKINNON: (As Barbie) No. We'll do a redo.

SELYUKH: CEO Oliver Reichert told CNBC it's all about word of mouth.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OLIVER REICHERT: Just go into your private environment and ask, do you have a pair of Birkenstock? Yes. How many pairs? Ten pairs, 12 pairs, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I have two.

REICHERT: Yeah. You're rookie, you know?

SELYUKH: Unlike the CNBC reporter, an average American fan apparently owns 3.6 pairs of Birkenstocks. In its filing to go public, the company described itself as, quote, "the oldest startup on Earth, serving a primal need of all human beings." What does it sell? Not shoes, but, quote, "the experience of walking as intended by nature."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

REICHERT: Birkenstock is always the second-best option.

SELYUKH: Right after walking barefoot on soft ground. Reichert has run the company for a decade since the Birkenstock family stepped back, later selling the majority stake. Why is he taking the company public now? Maybe because the markets are ready or maybe, as he wrote to investors, quote, "everything has to change so that everything stays the way it is."

Alina Selyukh, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'M GONNA BE (500 MILES)")

THE PROCLAIMERS: (Singing) But I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk...

MARTÍNEZ: And despite the enthusiasm, Birkenstock shares finished their first day down more than 12%.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'M GONNA BE (500 MILES)")

THE PROCLAIMERS: (Singing) ...Who walks a thousand miles to fall down at your door. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Alina Selyukh is a business correspondent at NPR, where she follows the path of the retail and tech industries, tracking how America's biggest companies are influencing the way we spend our time, money, and energy.