From collaborations with Justin Bieber to Bad Bunny and Post Malone, the frequently mocked Crocs may finally be cool.
“I wear Crocs all the time, so designing my own pair came naturally,” Bieber told WWD about his much-hyped collaboration with the brand, which was released on Tuesday. “With these Crocs, I just focused on making something cool that I wanted to wear.”
Searches for Crocs increased by 32% month on month, according to the fashion search engine Lyst, which called them the “It shoe” of the season.
It’s a mighty turnaround for the rubber shoe, which first made an appearance in 2002. Created from a special resin, which made them lightweight and odour resistant, they were initially marketed at sailors and water sport enthusiasts. But they soon became a firm favourite among those doing jobs which involved long periods of standing, such as hospital and restaurant workers looking for comfort and support.
But for their pure functionality and utilitarian design, the shoe had its detractors. There was a Facebook page, “I don’t care how comfortable Crocs are, you look like a dumbass”, which had 1.2 million fans. And in 2010 they were 22nd in Time magazine’s list of the 50 worst inventions.
“‘Basic’ would be the best term,” Jeff Carvalho, the executive editor of streetwear website High Snobiety, says, explaining the perception of the shoe a decade ago. “Within the world of ‘cool’, it was a normal shoe, maybe one worn by people perceived as not being concerned with fashion.”
After veering close to bankruptcy in 2009 – the firm lost £167m ($185m) in 2008 – the brand’s comeback strategy was strikingly original. Crocs launched high-fashion collaborations with Balenciaga and Christopher Kane, fashion houses that were enticed by the “Marmite” quality of the shoes. “You love us or hate us – and that’s OK because that means you’re paying attention to us,” says Michelle Poole, the president of Crocs. High fashion took notice in other ways, with Gucci and Kanye West’s Yeezy producing shoes that were clearly in debt to the Croc.
But the Crocs resurgence this year is also thanks to the pandemic. “The brand is riding a high moment right now where comfy is the new norm,” says Carvalho.
NHS workers pictured wearing the shoe also helped shift perception. “When the pandemic hit, we saw healthcare workers and hospitals reach out to request our shoes as they sought comfort, ease on their feet as well of peace of mind,” says Poole.