Crocs aren’t ‘back’, they’re timeless. Josie Adams writes in defence of the injection-moulded clog that just won’t quit.
When my flatmate mentioned she was going to fashion store North Beach, I asked if she could pick me up some Jibbitz™. “What the fuck is a Jibbitz™?” was her response, and then everyone laid into me about how I shouldn’t be the kind of person who uses the word “Jibbitz™” casually, and I was changing, and did I know that Crocs are bad for the planet?
Jibbitz™ are small decorations you shove in the holes of your Crocs to jazz them up. Flowers, letters, smaller Crocs, etc. With Jibbitz™ I can walk into a room and let everyone know I’m a S K U X without saying a word. And yes, I do know Crocs, which are made from a proprietary synthetic fibre called Croslite, are bad for the planet. But mine will be passed down to the next generation, wiped clean as a whistle and ready to be worn in the dust bowl of Auckland future.
Nearly 20 years ago, the founders of Crocs came together. Lyndon ‘Duke’ Hanson was living on a mate’s couch after his wife had left him and taken the kids. He’d lost his house, his mother had died, and 9/11 took his job. Two of his friends thought it’d be nice to take him on a boat trip. One, an inventor, has designed these uber-utile injection-moulded boat clogs. With nothing else in the world to cling to, Duke threw all his weight behind Crocs.
They started out as a product marketed to fellow boaties, but soon word spread to doctors, waiters, and people who hang out in rock pools. Anyone who was on their feet all day wanted a pair. This was the first wave. By 2005, kids were in on the game, Jibbitz™ were all the rage, and celebs were starting to rock the Croc.
By 2009, the wave had crashed. On top of the global financial crisis, the company had over-expanded and changed hands. One founder had resigned after being arrested for threatening to slit his brother-in-law’s throat, and the other two asked their friend from college, Ron, to be CEO because they weren’t big into that.
While in the material world Crocs were undergoing cuts and losses, in the world of ideas they had become god-like. Their second wave, a metaphysical one, had begun.
The second wave of Crocs was in pop culture: we couldn’t shut up about them. Their unfathomable ugliness had burned them into our brain tissue forever. Never forgotten means never gone.
Time magazine listed them as one of the world’s worst inventions. George W. Bush wore them fresh out of office, to bipartisan disgust. All this because they’re a bit ugly. You know what’s ugly? Intolerance, classism, and the privilege of knowing you’ll never work a long day on your feet in an amphibious environment.
The hatred was seething. It was universal. It was great for business.
In only a year, the company was back on the up. In 2012 the company peaked with a revenue of $1.1 billion, and with top-of-his-career Shia Labeouf wearing the shoes. Since then, the share price has wobbled but never dropped too far; and the fans have grown up.
Those children who wore Crocs as babies have blossomed into VSCO girls and TikTok boys. And, like Gen Y still longs for jellies, the zoomers are reviving the Crocs of their childhoods. It’s not just the tacky nouveau riche clamouring for the world’s ugliest shoe: in 2015, Prince George wore them on a day out at the polo club.
On top of catching the eye of fashion brands like Balenciaga, they’ve got the nod from powerful industries like healthcare and hospitality, being approved for use by medical staff around the world and creating a specially-designed line for chefs.
Crocs is currently sitting on a share price of $42, its highest since 2008. A lot of that is due to the decision to sell off its factories – production is now entirely outsourced – and instead invest in rad young spokespeople like the face-tatted soft boy rapper Post Malone and the bootleg-derived streetwear brand Chinatown Market.
At the end of the day, though, it’s not about the money; it’s about the technology. The Crocs footfeel is unparalleled. No matter how sweaty you get, you don’t slip. I will wear my Crocs sans socks for an entire day, pull out my damp feet, and marvel at the puddle left behind– because I didn’t feel it. Not for one second. If I wore Crocs from now until eternity, I’d never know my feet had sweat glands.
When we eventually need stillsuits to survive the scorched deserts of Canterbury, Crocs should make them. The product collects fluid better than any rain bucket, but keeps skin cool through it all. It’s lightweight for long treks between springs, but hard enough to protect against fleeting acid rain showers.
The Crocs corporation and its product will stand the tests of time and Armageddon better than any other. This shoe might be ugly, but it cannot be stopped. Like the automobile or the squatty potty, its functional excellence will inevitably come to define human achievement. In Jibbitz™ we trust.