For Dr. Dave Lemonick, who regularly has blood, human feces and other bodily fluids hurtling out of patients and toward him, Crocs are an "essential" part of his work uniform. And, as it turns out, the 58-year-old emergency physician is not alone. Crocs, headquartered in Niwot, Colorado, happens to have a huge fan base in the medical community. So much so that a section of its website is devoted entirely to health-care professionals.
Indeed, making comments and tweeting pictures of doctors in Crocs has become its own meme on Twitter.
But medical students and doctors, who helped propel Crocs to record first-quarter sales of $311.7 million on Wednesday, aren't wearing the colorful clogs to make a fashion statement or simply because they are comfortable to stand in for hours. Mainly, they are wearing them because the proprietary Croslite material used to make Crocs is resistant to stains from blood and other bodily fluids that regularly spill out from patients and onto them.
"A trauma patient came in from a motor vehicle crash and required a chest tube — a clear plastic tube between the ribs to drain the blood and the air from around the wound — and in putting it in, the chest tube drained directly into my Croc and filled it with blood," said Dr. Lemonick, who works at Armstrong County Memorial Hospital in Kittanning, Pennsylvania. "So I just went to the men's room and washed it out and dried it with paper towels, and it was good to go."
Calls and emails to Crocs for comment about the percentage of sales to the medical community were not immediately returned, though it would be "highly reasonable" to estimate the amount to be a few million a year or more, according to Steve Marotta, an analyst at CL King & Associates in Albany, New York.
Crocs by no means has a monopoly on the medical community. A small, private, employee-owned company named Dansko generates about $140 million annually, a large portion of which comes from the medical community.
Crocs, by comparison, posted $1.1 billion in sales in 2012, more than American Apparel and a few hundred million less than Lululemon. Since 2002, Crocs says, it has sold more than 200 million pairs of shoes, or enough for about 60% of the U.S. population. While Crocs are a common sight on children, about 75% of the company's sales are to adults. Famed chef Mario Batali is widely known to be a big fan, with his own collection of Crocs for sale on the company's website. The Bistro Mario Batali Edition shoes, which bear Batali's signature, protect against kitchen spills and are easily washable with soap and water.
Despite the shoes' popularity among doctors, nurses, and dentists, Crocs is actually trying to reduce its reliance on its classic clog, which accounted for only about half of its $312 million in first quarter sales.
"They're introducing new products at higher price points than the classic clog, and, really, what that does is it expands their customer base," said Marotta, who has a buy rating on Crocs shares.
But for doctors like Lemonick, who has one pair of navy-blue clogs for home and another for work, nothing can replace the classic Crocs clog.
"The great danger is someday I'll accidentally switch them, which, hygienically speaking, that would be a big no," he said.