Last weekend, I traveled to Los Angeles for a work trip, my first trip since the pandemic started. I don’t like LA. I don’t like the temperature (bog air) or the culture (hope you like feeling carsick on a highway!), and I don’t particularly like the scene (a stranger said hello to me on the street, which made me want to go into witness protection). LA reminds me that I am a loser, which is fine — it’s a role I’ve played well for my entire life. So maybe you can imagine the utter alarm I experienced when, upon leaving a pretty nice restaurant, I watched as a very young, beautiful, and fashionable LA person walked in...wearing Crocs.
I’m a rule follower. Rule followers don’t like rules — we just obey them because we know the alternative is anarchy. And I always thought the rules were, “Crocs are bad.” I had been following this rule for a very long time, and suddenly there I was watching someone pair a ruched minidress with yellow Crocs.
First, they made all of our jeans skinny, and I said nothing. I stuffed my legs in these little casings and tried to say nice things about my body when it was shaped like an ice cream cone. Next, it was kitten heels, a stupid shoe that combines the unwalkability of a heel with the cowardice of not making it very tall. But now, they want me to get on board with Crocs? Crocs??? I sat at home and waited for the clubs to open so that I could get a velvet rope pregnant the fucking SECOND they play “WAP” and you’re going to tell me now is the time for Crocs?????
What are Crocs? Well, some might say they’re the Guy Fieri of shoes, but that would be an insult to Guy Fieris everywhere. (Mario Batali was actually the celebrity chef who shilled for them and hoo boy, didn’t that story end well.) Crocs launched in 2002, invented by three sail enthusiasts as a boat shoe that was slip-resistant, buoyant, and inspired by the far less hideous clog. Eventually, kids started wearing the shoes because of their bright colors, comfortable fit, and because children are stupid. For most of the company’s life, Crocs have been the populist choice — the classic shoe costs just around $45, which is pretty good for a shoe that if you tried to burn would claw out of the ashes, reform itself, and then return to your apartment the next day.
Crocs were once the shoe for normies, but now everybody is in a Croc. Questlove wore gold Crocs to the Oscars. Priyanka Chopra is in sparkly Crocs. Justin Bieber’s Crocs have already sold out. Nicki Minaj sports pink Crocs for some forthcoming release, which we can all hope is a new record but is in all likelihood a new perfume. There are specialty Crocs, too: Drew Barrymore Crocs, Cars Crocs, Luke Combs Crocs (my colleague, Elamin, a fellow loser but for other reasons, assures me that “Luke Combs” is something to someone somewhere), and even Peeps Crocs, which yes, are topped with three large fake marshmallow Peeps. Someone bought this. For their body.
I know my fashion sense, past and present, is very bad. In the pandemic, it got worse. I depression-purchased three very cheap, faux silk robes in jewel tone colors, which I still wear around the house comme un flâneur while my video is off during work Zooms. Half my wardrobe is now tie-dye, a pattern I once hated since it was far too reflective of my parents’ good-time decade. I bought all these new belts for pants I don’t even own. I bought a back brace that’s supposed to help correct your posture as you hunch over your laptop on the West Elm couch you bought, thinking it would be the locale for many a hot makeout sesh but has instead become the place to sit when you’re on hold with Optimum trying to fix your Wi-Fi because the Summer House reunion is on.
My clothes prepandemic weren’t much better. My friends once joked that I always look like I’m late for a PTA meeting and I have no retort: My whole closet is still pencil skirts, ironed blouses, more blazers than I know what to do with (letting me reach the nadir of my puberty during 30 Rock was unfair), and a plethora of wrinkled tote bags. I’m boring and old, and my clothes largely reflect that. But you know what depths I never descended to? I never wore a fucking foam shoe shaped like a hockey mask.
Is my hatred for the Croc and Croc-wearer judgmental? Yes. Do I care? I do not. I understand that the pandemic has been hard on everyone. I also understand that it’s not very nice to make fun of other people for something as simple as their sartorial choices. That said, I do not give a shit. Crocs are the last vestige of something I can hate for no real reason whatsoever; this is my safe space, and a bunch of celebrities are trying to take it away from me.
Have you ever seen a shoe that just...looks racist? That’s how Crocs look. If the shoes could speak, I feel like they would say something really upsetting about redlining.
If you are a Croc-wearer, please explain yourself to me. What’s the appeal? Did you see a plastic pail on the beach a few years ago and think, Yes, that, but for my feetsies. Did you once put one of those foam packing nests you got off a fresh pear at the grocery store on your foot and decide, This is how I want other people to look at me? Did you need to run out of the house right quick and think, I want a shoe that kind of protects the front of my foot but not the back, and also that looks like a duck’s bill?
This is barely a matter of personal choice. The Croc is so profoundly hideous that wearing it is either one of two things: a mandatory shoe choice because you work in a job or live a life that requires standing for 8 to 12 hours a day, or you are a beautiful person who just wants to prove that you can look hot in anything. Don’t you think I know? Don’t you think I am aware? It’s one thing for Nicki Minaj to wear a Croc — Chanel accoutrements or not, she is objectively hotter than me and can therefore wear just about whatever she wants and still look great. But me? I wear a Croc and I go from New York 6 to a Calgary 2, and while I don’t expect you all to understand the math on that, please know it is a precipitous drop. Wearing them casually — fashionably — feels like a slap in the face. To be so wealthy as to wear an ugly shoe designed to be hideous but comfortable? How dare you. Get out of my house.
My refusal to wear a shoe that looks like a child’s helmet tells me that I’m still alive, I’m still trying, I’m still vying for a better life.
I don’t really care who wears Crocs, but I do care why. The Croc is supposed to be a clothing item that indicates that you do not give a shit. I admire that in a sartorial choice, especially when all our other don’t-give-a-fuck fabrics have been co-opted by hot rich people. Kim Kardashian makes loungewear now, trendy teens are running around in matching sweatsuits, and last week, one of my hottest friends asked if she should wear jogging pants on a date. She looked incredible, and I have big plans to clog her toilet later as retaliation. These are clothes intended for the rest of us; making them cool just highlights the disparity.
If all the hot people take our don’t-give-a-fuck clothes, then what do we have left? How can we tell the world we don’t care, that we have marginally given up, even if just for that day or for that hour? And if the hot and famous start co-opting the wretched Croc, how do I know that I am still human? My refusal to wear a shoe that looks like a child’s helmet tells me that I’m still alive, I’m still trying, I’m still vying for a better life. To be rich and to wear a Croc is to tell the rest of us plebs to merely eat cake.
But hey, maybe I’m wrong. My self-respect is limited to Crocs and nothing else, since I’m writing this while wearing half of a Hooters costume from Clearwater Beach, Florida, and so much fake gold jewelry that I think my entire ear might fall off. But everyone needs something to believe in, and so here is mine: You can crush my spirit, you can take my dignity, but you cannot get me to wear a shoe that looks like a PVC cheese grater.●