Of all the unconventional shoes that have gained traction in the fashion scene as of late — from Danskos to the chunky sneakers a la Yeezy and Balenciaga — Crocs are arguably the least expected. Somehow, though, and against my better judgement, the porous rubber clogs have slowly worked their way into my closet.
This isn't my first encounter with "ugly" shoes though. When I was nine years old, I had a pair of black and white platform Sketchers that made my feet look too big for my scrawny legs. They were trendy, but maybe too trendy, in fact, for my friend’s mother to realize how cool I looked. She compared them to clown shoes and I was left shaking my head, wishing that more people understood Fashun with a capital F.
My relationship with “ugly” shoes was perhaps born there, though it sat dormant for years, tempered by adolescent insecurity and a burning desire to fit in. It reared its head again as an adult, when I ordered some chunky, styrofoam sandals from eBay. Responses to the shoes were usually extreme, either admiration or laughter. I loved the polarization.
To this day I gravitate toward shoes with velcro, thick soles, tabis, and anything that could be mistaken for nursing shoes. But for whatever reason I just couldn’t get on board with Crocs. Maybe it was their association with "bros" from my high school, when football players paired them with tube socks, attempting to reinforce their masculinity by shunning anything fashion related.
My resolve to hate them began to waiver, however, when Christopher Kane introduced the Croc to the runway. He’s since had numerous iterations, including a marbled finish version, fur-lined, and his latest tiger-striped, bedazzled collection (added to my shopping cart). And while I don’t particularly love Balenciaga’s rendition, as it quite literally rejects the classic Croc’s grounded quality, it has surely cemented the shoe’s status as a fashion player.
And so in 2017, I caved. I tepidly waded in with a classic black pair, but didn’t stop there. Naturally I needed a bright green, faux-fur lined version for the colder months. I had anticipated wearing them to the occasional casual lunch, or errand-running, but I was curious to see how they might function elsewhere.
Could I incorporate them into my standard rotation? I decided to challenge myself to wear them for one week straight.
The first day sporting the rubber kicks was a Sunday, and because I woke without a hangover, I decided to venture outside — to Prospect Park more specifically.
I took a long walk, on which I discovered that Crocs paired with thick socks feel like a dream. They’re so lightweight that they trump even the comfiest of tennis shoes. They don’t provide a ton of support, so my feet and legs were tired after about seven miles, but I’d be willing to bet on the same outcome no matter which of my shoes I had worn.
On the second day of Croc week I went to a movie and then out for a drink in Williamsburg. I wore these long black pants again, which almost blend into the shoe, making them even less of a statement. I thought my friend might remark on my unconventional footwear but she barely noticed. In fact, it didn’t seem like anyone took note, even when I sprawled out on the patio bench, elevating my feet for all the world to see. Guess the Monday night crowd has more important things to focus on.
Today was the first bitterly cold day in New York and I regretted not wearing my fur-lined alternative. But bright green plus faux fur plus overalls plus shearling does not a winning combo make. So I walked around Crown Heights with socks serving as my only shield against the wind. A sliver of ankle would expose itself as I walked and I resigned myself to the fact that my boyfriend was right: Crocs are not a winter shoe.
Furthermore, I didn’t have too much time to contemplate my outfit on this particular morning, and when I looked in the mirror later I wasn’t swooning. Shoes have the ability to transform an outfit, to elevate jeans and dress down frills. Without that component, my usual rotation of looks seemed one-noted.
Today I decided to fight the banal and dress up the Crocs with a blazer. Inspecting myself in the mirror I had doubts, but later warmed to the unlikely combination. In real life I would probably pair this look with some simple, black Adidas, so I was certainly pushing my limits by incorporating a bright green, fur-trimmed Croc on top of a rainbow sweater. Not to mention my addition of sparkly socks. If nothing else, over the course of the week, I learned how to get more creative with details, and also: sometimes more is more.
By day five I was growing tired. I yearned for a classic jean and heeled bootie look, and when I paired some vintage 501s with either pair of Crocs, the results left me underwhelmed. Nothing was working to elevate the fit, but I was running late so I threw on some oversized, silver hoops and called it a day.
Upon exiting my building I held the door for an elderly woman using a walker. She too was sporting Crocs. I suddenly felt like I had two ugly, giant blocks on my feet. In Soho, I’m pretty sure I saw a woman in Gucci loafers give my feet and me a dirty look. “You wouldn’t understand,” I found myself chanting, mantra-like, in my head all day.
I woke up on Friday with a newfound confidence, thankfully so, because I had to wear my Crocs to the club that night. It wasn’t a real "club," but rather a birthday party with some DJs and a fog machine. I decided that no matter what I wore, if I wore it with confidence, I could look stylish (how "after school special" do I sound?). And so I put on some pinstriped pants, a cropped sweater, and my bright greenies, which incidentally added the perfect pop of color.
Someone at the bar told me they liked my shoes and no one else seemed to care. I knew that this particular crowd would yield more Croc supporters than most, but still I savored the welcome compliment.
It’s finally over. It’s Saturday, I’m hungover, and I think the Crocs seamlessly integrate into my ensemble, which was built around these bright red, elastic waist pants and not said Crocs.
After a week of wearing the ugly duckling trend, I’ve been able to define how Crocs categorically fit into my wardrobe. I love them for a casual look, with trousers and a sweater. Like all great outfits, proportion and color are the most crucial factors. I love them less with jeans or non-pants. That said, I could see them pairing better with a dress or skirt in the absence of tights, which unfortunately is not a possibility in New York in winter.
I’m still an avid fan of the Croc and it clearly has staying power, though I will likely take a short Croc cleanse effective immediately. There is no world in which I would describe these shoes as “pretty” or “delicate”, but I was also reminded about the subjectivity of the term “ugly”. While I exuded neither of the former descriptors, I still think I managed to look (kind of?) cool most days this week. Whether I was the only one who thought that, I guess we’ll never know.