When fashion magazines released their lists of 2017 trends, they included one haute new look that—despite their garish colors and bulbous shape—no one saw coming. Along with statement earrings and khakis, style mavens told consumers to look out for the return of … Crocs—that’s right, those tawdry, synthetic shoe products that you thought only your mother and Mario Batali wore.
Crocs, which disappeared from popular discourse around 2008, resurfaced on a London runway last year, when Christopher Kane paired delicate, romantic dresses with the rubber clogs at his Spring ‘17 show. Though Kane largely obscured the shoes with raw gemstones, the move still shocked critics and generated a lot of conversation.
When the New Year rolled around, magazines took Crocs up as the next big thing in the “ugly shoe trend.” In the past few years, Tevas, Uggs and Birkenstocks have been elevated from “Don’t” lists to become stylish, but in a slummy way. You can find updated versions of these shoes at all the major department stores, including a somewhat frightening Teva-Ugg hybrid.
To be fair, ugly shoes being suddenly in vogue is a good thing for women who want to be simultaneously healthy and unembarrassed. Wearing shoes with high heels or pointy toes leads to foot problems that range from sprained ankles to bunions. Many of the aspects of a typical “ugly shoe”—rounded toes, flat soles and natural materials—are also qualities that make shoes more comfortable.
Yet, none of the ugly shoes up to this point have come with quite as much ill-repute as the Croc. Which raises the question of whether the fashion crowd just views Crocs as a funny perversity. Irony has been strong with trendsetters lately, who’ve embraced everything from branded ‘90s athletic apparel, to knockoff handbags, to mom jeans. It’s possible that they just couldn’t resist the appeal of Crocs as the ultimate shabby-chic incongruity.
To wit: Even the companies that have endorsed Crocs seem simultaneously disgusted by them. Fashion forecasting company Edited includes Crocs as a key trend, but describes them as footwear “worn by toddlers, the elderly, and your strange reclusive colleague.” And Vogue UK describes the shoe with an implicit sneer: “It looks like a pastry and comes in colours so gauche they resemble the flag of a newly developed country.”
Fashion industry motivations aside, the real danger here is for the innocent, somewhat style-savvy consumer looking for an actual comfort shoe. Birkenstocks are now trendy, but they’re also a genuinely good product. While they may not have the aesthetic appeal of a Christian Louboutin pump, they are a premium shoe made with high quality leathers and a foot bed designed to distribute weight evenly across the foot.
Crocs, on the other hand, are ugly without most of the ugly shoe ergonomic benefits. Some have even alleged that they’re dangerous. The company faced a series of lawsuits from 2008-2012 after several separate incidents of Croc-wearing children getting their feet stuck in escalators. The company denied that these incidents were due to a flaw in their product, but it did see fit to start an Escalator Safety Awareness Initiative. This included important tips such as, “Stand facing forward in the center of the step.”
In Crocs’ defense, they were originally designed as boat shoes and are made entirely of a proprietary foam resin. If you wear a deck shoe outside of its natural environment, you run the risk that it may not be equipped for the challenges of all terrains. The Croc also lacks other characteristics of a shoe designed for all-day wear. It doesn’t secure the wearer’s heel or support the foot’s shank. Podiatrists have suggested that the shoes are best suited for short walks around the pool.
And yet, they are on the catwalk! Fashion chasers should feel free to adopt the fad and slip their feet into these hole-ridden lumps of insulation; but in this foot-lover’s opinion, right-thinking people should protect their puppies and allow this particular trend to remain an inside joke to the street style set.