LIFESTYLE FEATURES

Crocs: How fashion’s most divisive shoe became a major trend

The Marmite of the shoe world has gained new-found favour in lockdown, writes Hayley Spencer, and even the fashion crowd have fallen for the comfort shoe

Thursday 29 April 2021 12:39
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The pandemic has turned everyday style on its head. As the UK hunkered down at home and left only for daily exercise and food shops during lockdown, sales of tracksuits rocketed, while handbags and formal clothes waned at the back of wardrobes. Practical items took precedence over pretty and even the much maligned Croc seems to have had a renaissance.

Last December, the fashion website Who What Wear declared 2021 as “the year of the Croc”. So far, they’ve been right. According to The Sole Supplier, demand for Crocs is currently up 210 per cent on average, with the spike largely thanks to recent high-profile collaborations between the brand and mega stars like Post Malone, Justin Bieber and Bad Bunny. Crocs also seem to be going viral on TikTok, with stars like Olivia Neill garnering more than 115,000 likes for her recent video featuring the shoes.

Earlier this week, Crocs reported that its revenues had surged by 64 per cent in the first quarter, reaching a record-breaking $460m (£331m). The news came shortly after Crocs had been seen walking down fashion’s most venerated spot: the Oscars red carpet. The musician Questlove wore a bright gold pair to the event.

So Crocs are officially back, it seems. But the trend has actually been slowly creeping up the trend ladder since the start of lockdown. Between April and May last year - around the time that most of people settled into the idea of swapping pubs for planting vegetables and baking banana bread - sales of Crocs rose by a third on the global fashion search platform, Lyst.

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The shopping platform went as far as calling Crocs “the ‘It’ shoe of the season, making them a universal hit during lockdown. But if TikTok has anything to say about it, it looks like the hype will be may be making its way beyond the garden gate as lockdown eases, and into the new normal of socialising.

But it looks like the hype is here to stay as we move into summer. The most popular styles according to Lyst are the classic, floral and leopard print Crocs, all of which are go-to summer looks. But with trend-defining Generation Z, it's loud tie-dye iterations which are most popular.

Infleuncer Zaina Miuccia, who appeared in a video for The Weeknd’s latest video “In Your Eyes”, posts close-ups of hers to Instagram. While the brand’s own account is awash with pictures of twenty-somethings mismatching their looks to the same style.

Several well-timed lockdown collections can only have bolstered the trend for a summer of Crocs. The brand recently released a collaboration with Liberty, featuring the signature floral prints loved by the Duchess of Cambridge, and later another collection with actress Ruby Rose, which quickly sold out.

The ascent of Crocs in the fashion world started a few years ago. For 2017, Christopher Kane made souped up versions in a marble print with oversized crystal Jibbitz. Later he also made fur-lined versions.

“I’ve always been a fan of the iconic Crocs Clog. I like that they are perceived by some to be quite ‘ugly’ and not at all feminine or designed to flatter,” Kane said of the shoes.

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Then for spring 2018, Balenciaga followed suit with 10-inch platform versions of the clogs, selling at a staggering £650 — which is almost 20 times the RRP of the basic version of the clog. Despite the hefty price and meme-worthy height, they were a hit seen on the feet of many fashion week attendees that season and the next.

Perhaps another set of influencers who have had a part to play in popularising the ugly shoe in the last year are NHS frontline staff. Lauded in the media, with numerous shots of them in uniform filling our news feed throughout 2020, it can only be great press for the Crocs which appear on almost all of their feet. It’s definitely testament to their comfort given all the overtime that is worked by medical professionals.

Of course, it’s their orthopedic properties, and the fact they can be slipped on, which ensures they’re a hit with their core audience. But insoles which massage the feet and the fact they are fastening-free are definitely something which suits the malaise we’ve all felt in lockdown.

Helen, a 32-year-old fashion stylist from London, admits to becoming a Crocs convert recently, and buying a pair for her children, too.

“My boyfriend has had a pair since we met six years ago, but I found the shape hideous. Though when I caved and tried one on, I couldn’t help but love the comfort, and actually realised I liked the way their shapelessness jarred with my outfit.”

It’s no real surprise that in a time of uncertainty, we’ve turned to shoes which give us the support and comfort we crave. While they’ll never win on form, perhaps as Kane points out, the fact that they’re not designed to flatter has an endearing appeal.

Even if it takes Gen Z or fashion influencer levels of confidence to style them with finesse, it’s clear the ugly shoe has converted many of its critics to wear them beyond lockdown.

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