I’m old enough to remember the pre-Crocs era — we used to make fun of kids who wore all-rubber shoes, when the more fashionable alternatives were Jordans or Vans. Rubber shoes were for nerds, we told ourselves, before spilling ketchup on a brand new pair of white Converse and lamenting their ruin.
But in 2002, an American company based in Niwot, Colorado, gave the world foam clogs, and what began as a piece of footwear with an anti-slip heel and aerating holes that appealed to those who worked in kitchens, hospitals and other professions where comfort was of foremost importance, quickly became something everyone wanted. In 2006, per SocialFactor.com, “fourth-quarter revenues increased 236 percent to $112.9 million versus $33.6 million the previous year.”
Then came the downturn. After it was announced that the loose-fitting heel strap may cause foot issues but the designs stayed the same, most people came to their senses and realized they were wearing something hideous. In 2008, the company nearly went bankrupt, and by 2018, it announced it would close all of its manufacturing facilities, as well as 160 of its retail stores.
Its resurrection, however, has been swift. With help from collaborations with Justin Bieber, Bad Bunny and Post Malone, in 2020, Crocs were back, announcing a fourth-quarter revenue spike from $407 million to $410 million, with another expected bump of 25 percent in 2021. (Last year, our own Magdalene Taylor astutely attributed this comeback to the rise of the himbo.) It’s also created some new competition.
Last week, Alyx Studio announced their contribution to the foam shoe market — they’re currently taking pre-orders for their 1017 ALYX 9SM Mono Slip. This comes nearly a year after Kanye West announced the release of his contribution with the Yeezy Foam Runner. Hiking shoe company Merrell also offers a take on the foamy shoe with their Hydro Moc. So too does Hunter, Birkenstock and even Adidas.
As Andrew Rees, the CEO of Crocs, told Investor’s Business Daily in 2014, “I saw a brand that could be substantially bigger and more profitable, and increasingly more relevant to the millennials.” He achieved that in large part by collaborating with known fashion eccentric (and the aforementioned) Post Malone.
From there, it was only a matter of time before fans of Spotify’s most played artist of 2019 wanted to do as Post did. Next came Kanye, Bad Bunny and Bieber. And, well, if you know anything about the sneaker world, it’s never been about how a shoe looks, but who’s wearing it. That’s why, for the moment at least, everyone and their mother — and their nurse and their hairdresser and their waiter — is now wearing Crocs.