Shed your prejudice and free the Croc

Chloe Dootson-Graube investigates the outdated stigma surrounding fashion’s worst nightmare

Among stylish circles, there is nothing more detested than the Croc. It has been a personal puzzle to me throughout my long and time-worn years, and today I set out to solve that puzzle. What better place to do it, than in the hallowed pages of the Cherwell Fashion section? With this mystery in hand, I approached my editor. “Ellie,” I said. “I’ve had a fantastic idea. I want to write about Crocs. I want to save them. I want to give Crocs back their good name.” To which she replied, “Haha ok,” because this was a conversation we were having over Facebook, and “Haha ok” is the best way of humouring a mad person, who wants to do a dead serious exposé on shoes made out of plastic. So onwards we go.

2007 was a good year for Crocs. They were selling 50 million pairs a year, and had grossed a whopping $850 dollars in proceeds. ‘Crocs’ was the name on everybody’s lips: it was their veritable halcyon days. 2017, however, less so. To mention the word ‘Crocs’ in polite conversation will inevitably draw pained expressions, faux retching, flat out distaste or even some combination of all three. When Christopher Kane sent girls down the runway in embellished marbled Crocs for his SS17 collection, it was met mostly with derision, and begrudging attempts by publications such as Vogue and ManRepeller to put them to the test.

Photography & editing by Zoe Harris-Wallis

This coaxes the question: what happened? From whence did this vitriol come? Some would argue that the hatred for Crocs is more than just skin deep. Just as ‘dutty’ hoops and tracksuits were once hated for their association with the working class (until very recently they were the hallmark of the quintessentially ‘chavvy’ wardrobe, and therefore the subject of related ridicule), could the hatred for Crocs be politically motivated? It seems unlikely. Crocs, as I can now attest, are somewhat pricey and moreover, if genuine, something of a luxury item. To six-year-old me a pair of genuine Crocs generated the same level of awe that a pineapple did for inhabitants of sixteenth century England—they were rare, exotic, and pretty damn snazzy, to use the vernacular of the times.

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Is it because they are uncomfortable? Or because they have adverse health effects? Having worn them for a week I can strongly confirm that the porous Croslite (C) soles are most definitely a treat for your podiatric regions. Moreover, any news of related orthopaedic disaster (such as the revelation that they may cause long term foot damage) arose only last year, far after the apex of Crocs’ demise. Is it possible, then, that Crocs are hated purely because they are ugly? In a climate where pool sliders and Birkenstocks (other shoes also once maligned for their apparent hideousness) have made riotous comebacks, such thinking seems bizarre. ‘It’s got to be because they’re fundamentally a bourgeois, centre-right shoe,’ said a friend, without any clarification. “Right,” I swiftly replied. Because I had no idea on what grounds he could possibly be basing this accused political agency, and I did not want to hear the name of Crocs besmirched so.

The political leanings of Crocs aside, I decided the only way to answer the question of their demise was to attain empirical data first-hand, by dedicating my own feet to a week of Crocs. Many people had lots of highly questionable things to say: ‘What are those?’, ‘I refuse to be associated with you until you take those off’, and ‘why have you done this?’ all featured. Some were more complimentary. ‘How high fashion’ said the people who are not sufficiently close enough to be comfortable savaging me. They drew the admiration of an acquaintance at college who is colloquially known as ‘Nike Jesus’. Many a man told me that they ‘rate that so highly,’ which was rather satisfying, but did lead me to question whether it was the Crocs that they admired or the fact that I was wearing an entirely sheer shirt. I was tagged in seven different memes about Crocs. A visiting friend of a friend dubbed me ‘the Croc lady,’ and thus my name was symbollically changed in the group chat.

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But do Crocs have sartorial merit aside from working as an offbeat conversation piece? They certainly have practical merit. “One time, my dog Kevin was choking in the garden,” one friend reported. “Had I taken the time to put on real shoes, instead of Crocs, he may not be with us today.” But as a fashion item? I would argue that in today’s world, where they are met with such unashamed levels of venomous contempt, they are the ultimate statement. They promptly do-away with any debates regarding comfort versus fashion: they are both bold, a bright statement and a great footwear choice to cozy tootsies on bitter cold days.

The fact that they are so ‘unfashionable’ in fact automatically renders them high fashion. In today’s environment, I believe that Crocs are the single best investment, and the single most fashionable thing you can wear. Free the croc!