Once named among Time magazine’s 50 worst inventions, Crocs have long been one of those love-them-or-hate -them accessories. But now the plastic clogs are being heralded as the shoes of the summer and are in such high demand that they are giving trainers a run for their money in the secondhand market.
Last week, rapper Nicki Minaj posted a picture of herself on Instagram wearing a pair of hot pink bedazzled Crocs, customised with Jibbitz (bespoke charms made by Crocs) including Chanel’s double-C logo. The post caused the Crocs website to crash and saw a 4,900% spike in a search for pink Crocs (according to the Sole Supplier), while Google search terms “Nicki Crocs” and “Chanel Croc Charms” also peaked.
While Crocs have become increasingly fashionable in recent times, few were expecting them to dominate the shoe resale market, where trainers traditionally rule. Crocs have seen a 70% spike in average resale prices this year, according to online streetwear marketplace StockX’s report Pandemic-Era Trends: The Next Chapter. There’s also been a 215% increase for searches on the resale site Depop.
“We have seen an increase in the demand for Crocs based on recent trends and collabs,” says Jesse Einhorn, senior economist at StockX. “Couple this with Gen Z embracing the comfort and unconventional style of the shoe over the last 12 months.”
Viviana Attard, global curation lead at Depop, adds: “We have seen Gen Z in particular embrace Crocs, with a number of influencers wearing and promoting them, along with a viral trend on TikTok.”
Einhorn says: “The demand has definitely equated to that of sneakers.” Crocs are selling like the most in-demand sneakers do, he says. “Right now, Crocs are reselling on StockX for more than 100% above retail, on average. By contrast, the average Jordan [Nike Air Jordan] resells for around 50% above retail. The fact that Crocs are subject to the same – or even greater – levels of hype illustrates a high degree of similarity with sneakers.”
First made for sports enthusiasts and sailors in 2002, Crocs were near bankruptcy in 2009 before leaning into their divisiveness. “You love us or hate us. That’s OK, because that means you’re paying attention to us,” said Michelle Poole, the president of Crocs.
Crocs are that rarity: a pandemic-proof fashion item. Before 2020, the company had already positioned themselves as canny pop culture collaborators. In 2018, they worked with rapper Post Malone on a taxi yellow shoe with Malone’s trademark barbed wire and customised Jibbitz on them. It was pop culture but also felt authentically personal: which appealed to their core audience of Gen Z-ers and set the tone for the future. This “caused overall Crocs demand to increase tenfold on StockX,” says Einhorn. “That month, for the first time, a pair of Crocs was featured on our bestseller list. 2020 was the year that really catapulted Crocs to the centre of the footwear world.
“Homebound buyers slipped on Crocs for the first time. From NHS and restaurant workers to retired people in their allotments and toddlers playing in the garden, their versatility is key.” Meanwhile the Jibbitz element fed into the year of self-crafting.
Last month, Crocs reported a 64% rise in the first quarter sales for 2021. Pre-tax profits were $122.5m for this period, compared with the $18.7m figure from last year. Chief executive Andrew Rees told the BBC that Crocs were “stronger than ever”, and he expected profits to increase by 50%.
But they are still divisive. Last month, after being given a lilac pair by Justin Bieber, Victoria Beckham said she would “rather die” than wear them, perhaps unintentionally reflecting the millennial/Gen Z fashion generation gap. Actress Maya Rudolph recalled the role of the shoes in the 2006 film Idiocracy. “The movie is about how dumb everyone is getting in the future so everyone in the future is wearing this shoe that makes you look like Barney Rubble,” she told Jimmy Kimmel ,“and I was like, ‘this is a dumb shoe’. Now I have many pairs.”
But the biggest pop culture win for Crocs in 2021 was being the first ugly shoe on the Oscars red carpet, as worn by Questlove, in gold. “(It was) an extraordinary moment,” says Questlove’s stylist Rebecca Pietri. “The Oscars outfit was to acknowledge the sources of African identity, reclaim and present them at the forefront in a thoughtful and meaningful way. The golden Croc was a nod to the wealth of creativity that springs from the African American community.” Pietri calls them “a fantastic social and creative canvas”.
Indeed, from a design point of view, the shoe’s flat, wide frontal part is perfect for collaborators to work on (these have included the likes of Bad Bunny, KFC, the Grateful Dead and Balenciaga), paralleling the look of sneakers like Nike’s Air Force 1.
Beyond the pandemic, however, can Crocs continue their upward trajectory? “The real engine of Crocs’ growth wasn’t their functionality but their collaboration strategy,” says Pietri. “If this continues, they may be here for some time.”