Crocs. Seldom can one word strike such division.
Across two mutually exclusive camps, Crocs are seen either as the definitive work shoe, beloved by chefs and hospital workers for their comfort and durability, or as fashion’s greatest anti-fashion item that pushes boundaries to new levels of extreme cool.
On the one hand, this humble slip-on is bought by the thousands who appreciate its lightweight construction and ergonomic cushioning, ideal for long hours working on their feet (there is even a model aimed at chef's called the Bistro Pro LiteRide).
Being plastic, they are easy to keep clean and, thanks to the extruded construction, are virtually indestructible. Tales abound of a single pair lasting a decade or longer. Not bad for a shoe that costs $60.
On the other hand, this ugly, duck-billed-looking shoe is worn by arch fashionista's for a dose of rebellious irony, and has managed to pull off some serious fashion collaborations.
Crocs in high fashion demand
Christopher Kane kickstarted it all in during his spring / summer 2017 presentation, when he sent models wearing marbled Crocs decorated with real stones down the runway. While it divided opinion, the shoes sold out.
For autumn / winter 2018, Crocs joined forces with Balenciaga, the modern creator of anti-fashion fashion, to create a platform version that retailed for $800. Its creative director, Demna Gvasalia (who also co-founded that other rule-smashing brand, Vetements) is highly regarded as a true trendsetter. He is so in sync with his audience, he gives them what they want before they have even thought of it.
Next came a kitten-heeled version the following season with Balenciaga, and then a stiletto version by the visual artist Gab Bois.
Canny collaborations and high price points
It may be a hard-working utility shoe, but the Crocs masterminds carefully choose who they work with. At the height of the pandemic, it teamed up with Justin Bieber's brand drew house, to launch a bright yellow, smiley face-decorated pair. In July 2020, the singer teased the collaboration on social media and Crocs' shares jumped 11 per cent, as reported by Business Insider.
In 2018, there was the collection made with New York streetwear name, Alfie, which incorporated a sock, creating possibly the world’s most comfortable shoe. Selling for $80 a pair, it was soon spotted on the likes of Pharrell and even Kanye West. The latter later launched his own foam slip-on shoe under his Yeezy label.
The Japanese artist Takashi Murakami also created a pair with Crocs in November 2019. It was splashed with his signature colour, and immediately sold out.
Then there was the launch with Los Angeles streetwear brand, Pleasures. Aimed at the rock/punk/skater crowd, it designed a pair in black, decorated with a white skeleton foot. It was released in October 2019 for $60 a pair, and they are now trading on resale sites for up to $450.
Even that bastion of refined gentility, Liberty London, tied up with Crocs in March 2020, creating flowery shoes, decorated with a handkerchief of real fabric, priced at $276 a pair.
In September 2020, Puerto Rican singer Bad Bunny released a pair of white Crocs with glow-in-the-dark Jibbitz (the name for the detachable decorations on Crocs), which, again, completely sold out.
Singer Post Malone has also done several designs with Crocs, the first of which sold out in under 10 minutes. Now they are found only on resale sites for $500-plus per pair.
And now we have news that rapper Drake has taken to social media to show off his new Crocs. Sitting on top of a $150 million fortune, Drake is clearly a canny operator, and chooses his moves careful. That we see him wearing Crocs can hardly be a coincidence.
The shoe of 2021?
As fashion pedigrees go, Crocs is almost faultless (this statement excludes the nightmare-inducing tie-up with KFC that, incredulously, sold out), and the company definitely knows its audience.
It is constantly bring new drops to market – almost one new design per month – following in the footsteps of Supreme, the streetwear brand that turned the traditional selling model upside down and recently sold for $1.2 billion.
As we all move to embrace the Gen-Z style of dressing – to mix whatever you want, however you want – those stuffy days of fashion 'rules' are over. Having all endured 2020, there is now a collective desire to express our authentic selves.
Seemingly in tune with this, with a targeted strategy and daring collaborations, Crocs has transformed itself from simple workwear into offering alternatives to those who want to stand out from the norm.
Think you will never wear them? Think again. While the fashion industry took a hit during 2020, Crocs saw its sales rise by 12 per cent, as more people work from home and crave comfort wear.
With its offering of constantly evolving, limited editions, Crocs may well be seen as ironic anti-fashion, but it is also set to become the shoe of 2021.
So, do yourself a favour and go and get yourself a pair, because, at the very least, your feet will be comfortable.