The art and sole of the world's snappiest shoeJuly 29, 2023
Everything you need to know about Crocs: They have revolutionised the market for cheap, comfy footwear… and have even made it into Buckingham Palace
- UK writer Maddy Fletcher reflects on the success of cult classic shoes – Crocs
- READ MORE: Victoria Beckham ditches her signature stilettos to wear $450 yellow Crocs boots
When most people meet a member of the royal family they would, you’d think, wear sensible shoes.
Not Mr Motivator. Last month, the 70-year-old fitness guru met Queen Camilla at a charity event in London. She had chunky cream heels on; he was wearing canary-yellow Crocs.
This was not the first time someone had elected to wear the round-toed sandals to meet a royal.
When artist David Hockney, 86, visited Buckingham Palace last November, he wore a checked suit, knitted tie and the same lemony-coloured Crocs. (Only, unlike Mr Motivator’s, Hockney’s looked a little scuffed around the edges.)
‘Your yellow galoshes,’ said King Charles, himself wearing a pair of polished black brogues. ‘Beautifully chosen!’
More than 100 million pairs are sold every year; that’s almost 200 every minute. Their popularity isn’t just based on being a handy functional slip-on – they’re a style statement, beloved of the A-list and the front row alike. So how did they do it?
What is it about these shoes? They’re bogglingly ugly – the sort of things you wear to take out the bins or, at a push, to march hastily to the shops on a morning when you’ve run out of milk.
And still they’re everywhere. More than 100 million pairs are sold every year; that’s almost 200 every minute.
Their popularity isn’t just based on being a handy functional slip-on – they’re a style statement, beloved of the A-list and the front row alike. So how did they do it?
THE SECRET WEAPON
The company was started by three friends from Colorado – Scott Seamans, Lyndon ‘Duke’ Hanson and George Boedecker. The trio were on a Caribbean sailing holiday in the early 2000s when they discovered a boating shoe made out of a foamy material called Croslite.
They had never seen footwear like it: lightweight, shock-absorbent, easy to clean, comfy, durable, slip-resistant and buoyant. So they bought the rights to Croslite technology and started making Crocs.
In 2002 the friends sold 200 pairs – then marketed as sailing shoes – for $30 (around £23) each at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show in Florida. (They called them Crocs, if you wondered, because like the scaly creature the shoes work just as well in water as they do on land.)
THE HIGHS AND LOWS
Supremely comfortable, Crocs sold especially well among people who worked on their feet: nurses, doctors, chefs, cleaners.
The company plodded along happily for a while, then during the financial crisis of 2007 almost went bankrupt. By 2017, the three founders had left and former banker Andrew Rees took over as CEO. Crocs started doing bougie designer collaborations (more on that later) and Covid helped sales too (apparently, in a lockdown everyone wants to wear comfy shoes).
Today Crocs has 340 shops, sells in 90 countries and employs 6,680 people. This year’s revenues are projected to be upwards of £3 billion. The shoes are still cheap, though: a classic clog costs £35.
Last month, 70-year-old fitness guru Mr Motivator met Queen Camilla at a charity event in London. She had chunky cream heels on; he was wearing canary-yellow Crocs
THE FOAMY FABRIC
Croslite is a proprietary resin derived from a polymer called ethylene-vinyl acetate. For non-boffins, that means it’s a synthetic substance that feels like a sturdy foam. It’s light, too; the heaviest Croc weighs just 450 grams.
Croslite is also malleable: if you plop your Crocs in boiling water you can stretch them out. It all sounds marvellous but – the snag – Croslite isn’t biodegradable or recyclable. Plus, in 2018, Crocs shifted manufacture of its shoes overseas from the US, to countries including China and Vietnam.
Still, according to a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the making of an average pair of synthetic trainers generates 13.6kg of carbon dioxide emissions. Crocs? Only 2.56kg.
THE DIY CHARMS
In 2005, Sheri Schmelzer, a 40-year-old mother from Colorado, made charms out of clay and plugged them into the holes of her children’s Crocs.
A year later, the brand bought Schmelzer’s idea for more than £7 million. The charms – or Jibbitz, as they’re now called – are essential paraphernalia for any serious wearer. There are daisy-shaped examples (£4.99), a King Charles Coronation set (£6.80 for five) – and even a sapphire and diamond engagement ring version for £1,790.
THE STAR COLLABS
Christopher Kane came first. In 2017, the then 34-year-old Scottish designer created a pair of marbled Crocs replete with gemstone Jibbitz.
They cost nearly £300. An article on lifestyle website Refinery29 wondered if it was an ‘elaborate prank’. Either way, Balenciaga followed suit in 2018 with a pair of five-inch platform Crocs for £685. They sold out almost immediately.
THE FAMOUS FANS
The list is endless, but in short: Michelle Obama wore a purple pair to walk her dog; Helen Mirren wore a Union Jack-patterned pair on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show; and Kendall Jenner wore a camouflage pair to go shopping.
Justin Bieber likes Crocs so much he created an exclusive collection with the brand in 2021, which not everyone was convinced by. When Bieber sent a pair to Victoria Beckham as a present, she said that she’d ‘rather die’ than wear them. Oh well, you can’t please everyone.
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