Have we gone back in time? Crocs, yes Crocs, are back in style.
The foam clogs were first released in 2002 and after a brief surge in popularity, they were more often-than-not mercilessly mocked for their clunky, chunky, colorful style. For the most part, they've spent the last two decades relegated to doctor's offices and boats. But now they are exploding on social media, leaving us wondering: How did Crocs suddenly go from embarrassingly uncool to in vogue?
One of the first hints of Crocs making a major fashion impact was when designer Christopher Kane put them on the Spring/Summer 2017 runway, but they really became popular in the mainstream around the beginning of the pandemic, according to Zoë Hennessey, a Los Angeles-based fashion stylist.
"There's definitely a comfort factor," she says. "Just in general, if you look at fashion, it's constantly going a little bit more casual and a little bit more comfortable... Once the pandemic hit, I think we really just jumped into comfort zone."
Heidi Cooley, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Crocs, confirms that demand for the shoe has never been stronger.
She says Crocs is anticipating year-over-year revenue growth of 40%-50% for 2021. Last quarter, the brand hit record revenues of $460 million, a 64% increase compared to the same period last year.
What will post-pandemic fashion look like? Expect brighter colors and comfier shoes
Ana Correa, footwear and accessories editor at trend forecasting company WGSN, says Crocs' evolution to must-have status was confirmed in 2020 during the lockdown period.
Correa says the meteoric rise is part of an overarching trend of footwear that is meant to be worn at home and to run errands. (Slides, slippers and loafers are other examples.)
"Comfort has been key in bringing support to the drastic lifestyle changes that consumers experienced," she notes. "They want to wear something that feels good and can be worn with multiple looks."
Another factor is Gen Z taking interest in the brand.
"The youths have informed me Crocs are back in but only with socks, you are welcome for the intel," writes @KatyMiller100.
As @samcubarman explains it, the Crocs comeback perhaps illustrates Gen Z's approach to life: "They accept no status quo. They have no interest in compromise. They will rewrite everything."
Hennessey says it's common that younger people start off fashion trends. For example, straight leg jeans are now trendy thanks to Gen Z declaring Millennial-favorite skinny jeans are out of style.
While Hennessey sees Gen Z propelling the trend in a fashion-forward sense, she adds older generations may love the shoe for its functionality. The buyer-friendly price point (with a classic clog running about $50) also appeals to consumers.
The pre-pandemic rise of Crocs
Prior to 2020, Crocs was known for marketing special drops tied to collaborations with key artists and brands, including their collab with Post Malone in 2018. Correa says this helped spark attention from Gen Z consumers.
As recently as this week, Crocs made headlines for some of their latest collaborations, including a tie-dye shoe line with Diplo that dropped Tuesday (and sold out in hours) and a collaboration with Balenciaga for a stiletto-style clog.
Prior to that, big names like Justin Bieber, Luke Combs and even Kentucky Fried Chicken came out with custom Crocs.
Crocs have also made their way onto the red carpet. Questlove made a statement by sporting a golden pair to the Academy Awards in April. In July, Jena Malone sported a pair of red Crocs at the "Lorelei" film premiere after a stubbed toe prompted a shoe style swap.
"Celebrity influence is so huge," Hennessey notes, adding that the brand's creative marketing – including the the collab with KFC – is "kind of hilarious" but "genius."
In addition to collaborations and the comfort trend, Cooley believes another factor in the brand's growth is personalization through accessories and different shoe styles, which now go beyond clog silhouettes with sandals, boots, flats and more.
Crocs' Jibbitz charms, for example, enable wearers to change up the appearance of their shoes, Cooley explains.
Revenues for Jibbitz charms more than doubled during Q1 2021, she added.
Hennessey says she sees the the shoes sticking around for at least two more years before they're completely saturated.
"I think it's got some more longevity," she says. "If they keep doing cool collaborations and coming up with interesting concepts, it probably has even a longer staying power."
Correa believes the comfort shoe trend will continue to evolve as consumers look for multi-functional footwear.
"Comfort and practicality will be key across different footwear styles," she says. "In regards to the iconic silhouette of the Crocs, they have already won a place in the consumer's closet, whether they stay at home or not."
Tips on how to style Crocs
If you're looking to rock a pair of Crocs yourself, there are multiple ways to style them.
For a casual look, Hennessey suggests styling them with cropped jeans or shorts and a T-shirt.
And don't be afraid to pair your sandals with socks, either.
"I've seen them look really cute with socks," she says.
If you're looking for a more polished look, try pairing them with a sundress or a pair of shorts and tee tucked in with a belt.
"I've also seen them look super cute with baggy pants and a blazer," she says.
If you're looking to create longer and leaner lines, go for the platform style. The bulkiness creates contrast, making your legs look longer, she explains.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Crocs: Why the footwear is trending and how to style them