The Year Crocs Became Cool

The Year Crocs Became Cool

The time has finally come for us to acknowledge that Crocs are cool now. After years of being derided and shunned by society, the humble little foam clog has in the span of a year become a hot commodity, dropping one A-list collab after the next, frequently selling out within seconds and popping up on the resale market at a premium markup.

On top of that, many celebs came out as Crocs fans this year, from BLACKPINK's Jisoo to Lebron James. Even Succession actor Nicholas Braun rocked a customized pair with a tux at this year's socially distanced Emmys. Major players in the world of high fashion have also started to take note, with everyone from Kanye West's Yeezy to Givenchy rolling out their own interpretation of the ugly chic clog.

This year alone Crocs has dropped collaborations with Bad Bunny, Justin Bieber, Post Malone, G Flip, Luke Combs, KFC, Peeps, Chinatown Market, Carrots, Nicole McLaughlin, Ruby Rose and more, all of which promptly sold out. In October, Crocs confirmed that they had made $117.2m in retail this year — a fact that becomes all the more impressive when you consider how, according a recent Complex feature, they were the only top footwear brand to see a rise in sales during the first month of lockdown.

We can trace the shift in public perception back to 2017 when Balenciaga's then newly appointed creative director, Demna Gvasalia, sent a pair of bright pink Crocs with 4-inch platforms and custom charms — or Jibbitz — down the runway at Paris Fashion Week. The stunt wasn't really out of character for Gvasalia, who would spark the chunky dad sneaker trend that dominated the latter half of the past decade with Balenciaga's wildly popular Triple S, and previously as the head of Vetements blurred the line between high and low fashion on the regular.

Regardless, Balenciaga's pair of platform Crocs raised more than a few critics' eyebrows and became instant meme fodder for a public that up until that point had been used to seeing the foam clogs on the feet of line cooks and your style adverse uncle.

The previous year, Scottish designer Christopher Kane had already unveiled his official collaboration with Crocs, a grey marble patterned pair with sparkly mineral stone Jibbitz adorning the top. Around the same time, streetwear brand Alife also put out a pair featuring 3D-printed New York City landmarks.

Crocs x Post Malone

Things really started to ramp up when Crocs teamed with Post Malone in 2018. It was a perfect storm for Crocs; not only was the singer/rapper having a breakout year musically, but Post Malone felt like a perfect fit for the brand. Naturally, the collab sold out instantly and became one of the year's most coveted shoes, reselling for hundreds on the secondary market. Crocs and Post Malone followed it up with another drop barely a month later to similar success, and in 2020 the pair returned just before the holidays for an unprecedented fifth collab, which sold out and kept their flawless win streak alive.

Crocs diversified its collaboration portfolio even more this year, extending not only to music superstars like Bad Bunny and Justin Bieber, but to big name food brands like KFC and Peeps, as well as partnering with Footlocker's streetwear incubator, Project Greenhouse, for a trio of more fashion-facing collabs with Carrots, Daily Paper and Nicole McLaughlin.

"What makes our collaboration strategy so successful and effective is that it's rooted in authenticity," Crocs' Director of Product Line Management Molly Wilhelm says. "We focus on partnering with a wide range of collaborators — from luxury fashion and country musicians to streetwear mavericks and cultural icons — who have a genuine relationship with Crocs and share our values. It's important that they have a desire to work with us just as much as we want to collaborate alongside them."

This scattershot approach Crocs has taken to their collaborations has allowed them to work their way into multiple markets at the same time. From novelty collectors to the quirky streetwear set, Crocs intentionally doesn't play favorites when it comes to their fans, creating a democratized space where all are encouraged to express their individual creativity and "Come As You Are," according the brand's new slogan.

At first, most of these collabs typically retail for scarcely more than 10 or 20 dollars more than the list price of a standard pair of Classic Clogs ($44.99 USD), making them one of the more affordable entry points into the footwear market — that is, if you're dedicated enough to snag them up before they inevitably sell out.

Crocs x Bad Bunny

But aside from making headlines, Crocs collaborations have done wonders for rehabilitating the foam clog's reputation. "We've seen how collaborations allow us to connect with consumers who may not have previously thought of Crocs, let alone considered wearing Crocs," Wilhelm says. "Once they consider Crocs as a brand, they become more open to our footwear. Beyond sales, our collaborations are about driving awareness for our brand and giving customers a new way to try our shoes."

Crocs has also carried this ethos into its standard line this year, introducing styles that take design cues from past collaborations like the platform Bae, outdoorsy All-Terrain and Venture Pack, as well as putting forth new concepts like the puffer-inspired Neo Puff, and rolling out a slew of new graphic patterns and on-trend colors. Wilhelm explains that the Classic Clog still remains at the core of Crocs' DNA. "It is the ultimate canvas for creativity, and as a result we have rolled out more silhouettes and trend-focused updates that resonate with consumers around the world," she says.

If there was ever a time to get into wearing Crocs, 2020 was the perfect year for it. Most of us spent our days shuffling from one room to the other, occasionally leaving the relative safety of our vigorously disinfected homes to go to the grocery store, grab your Amazon package off the front steps or walk blocks to find a mailbox where you could send off your mail-in ballot. Entire industries shifted to work-from-home models out of necessity and a majority of our daily social interaction quickly became mediated by Zoom. We stopped dressing to impress from the waist down (if not entirely, if we're being honest) and shifted our priorities from form to function.

Known for being extremely comfy, fairly inexpensive and easy to clean, the humble Croc became a natural fit. You could use it as a house shoe and make a quick run to the bodega without feeling at least slightly more dignified than walking out in a pair of slippers like you know you wanted to do. There is also a lack of pretentiousness to the Croc that resonates more with our time than a pair of Air Jordans could ever hope to achieve. It's a shoe that does more than bare minimum and by design invites people to customize, personalize and fully make them their own. Crocs are a shoe of the people.

Looking ahead to 2021, Wilhelm says that 2020 was undoubtedly a big year for Crocs, but their success is anything but a fluke. "Crocs will continue to collaborate with other personalities and brands that make sense for both parties, emphasizing personalization in all that we do," she says. "Beyond product, the brand will prioritize delivering comfort when and where it's needed most through philanthropic endeavors. This was a historic year for the brand, but there are exciting things on the horizon in 2021."

Photos courtesy of Crocs

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