CNA – Remember Crocs, the chunky rubber slip-on dotted with ventilation holes? They are becoming popular again – on red carpets and in supermarkets alike.
“Personally, I used to hate it. But I loved how open, willing, and adaptable the brand is,” said fashion educator and creative consultant Rio Furqan Saini.
“At its core, and let’s be honest, it’s an ugly pair of rubber slides.
“But ugly is subjective.”
Once ridiculed, the brand has seen a revival in recent years, with its comfort, celebrity endorsements and iconic look driving its comeback.
The American footwear company debuted over 20 years ago at a boat show in Florida, where 200 pairs were sold out.
Sales quickly grew in the next five years, with the company undergoing a rapid expansion. But amid the global financial crisis, the brand’s stock fell quickly, and by July 2014, it announced it was closing 75 to 100 stores worldwide.
But in recent years, the beleaguered firm started making a comeback, and not just in the United States (US). The Asia-Pacific region saw a huge jump in revenue in the third quarter of this year.
Revenues in Asia Pacific grew 65.5 per cent to USD138.5 million, the biggest percentage increase across all regions, including North America and Europe.
“We continue to see high growth potential for the brand, fuelled by strong consumer demand globally, and we remain on track to reach USD5 billion in revenues by 2026,” a Crocs spokesperson told CNA.
The Asia-Pacific region has high growth potential, with “consumer awareness and excitement on the rise”, the spokes-person said.
For 21-year-old Crocs lover Zenith Wong, wearing the holed sandals is a part of her identity.
“To me, Crocs make me feel like my own individual. Boldly wearing a piece in spite of the criticism of it in the fashion world makes me feel unique and good about myself,” she said.
The reasons for the revival of Crocs as a brand are varied, but among them is celebrity endorsements, fashion experts told CNA.
In recent years, Crocs have been spotted on the feet of famous celebrities – Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande – to name a few.
A key factor that has brought Crocs beyond the mainstream is celebrity culture, said Furqan.
These celebrities are “mixing it up as extensions of their personalities in both daily life and even the red carpet”, he added.
“The openness of Crocs and its open business model of collaborations with high fashion has propelled its sartorial game,” said the fashion director.
Sell-out collaborations with singers such as Post Malone and Bad Bunny elevated the once fashion faux pas to iconic status.
A lot of influencers and celebrities who are popular among the Gen Z crowd, such as Bretman Rock and Bella Poarch, are brand ambassadors for Crocs, said fashion lecturer at LASALLE College of the Arts Rohaizatul Azhar.
But it is not just celebrity marketing – the brand collaborated with designer fashion houses to further elevate itself.
Some high-profile partnerships include crocs priced at SGD1,500 per pair, and a collaboration with Chinese fashion label Sankuanz.
Luxury fashion house creative director Demna Gvasalia has been working very closely with Crocs for a few seasons now, said Rohaizatul.
“Demna is very trendy with the cool crowd,” he explained.
“Collaborations enable us to capitalise on the tension that surrounds our brand, as well as drive relevance for Crocs.
“Our approach continues to excite fans and elevate the brand with consumers with collaborations led both globally and locally,” said the Crocs spokesperson.
According to 21-year-old student and Crocs lover Vera Lim, brand collaboration and celebrity advertisement make people “more inclined” to buy Crocs or think they are cool again.
“The slight changes in designs also suited made it more appealing,” she said.
Wong added, “It’s just like a new fashion piece. Crocs are really upping their marketing on social media… Nobody laughs at them anymore.
“It’s trendy, they have endorsements by celebrities, it’s definitely become mainstream.”
But beyond the red carpet and fashion runways, the shape of the once-derided shoes is now one of its biggest selling factors.
“There is also this anti-fashion fashion movement – it is more like being ironic, and trying to make what millennials think is uncool, cool again,” explained Rohaizatul.
Crocs are just “so darn ugly”, said Furqan. “It is the rise of ugly chic.”
“Inherently, aside from the function of it, the form itself is clunky, such is its design language. But then, that’s where the beauty is,” he added.
For it to be so “diametrically opposed” to a pair of sleek branded shoes makes Crocs the perfect example of it being anti-fashion, explained Furqan.
Wong said the main driving factor to getting a pair was the “disdain that I have for Crocs, after hearing people call it ugly and how it’s so out of trend and people just disliking it”.
“When I was trying to find something unique to wear and something to portray my individuality, that’s what I turned to because it would have made me unique to buy Crocs,” she added.
Another Crocs lover Samanntha Htun said part of the appeal is the ability to personalise the Crocs with Jibbitz. Jibbitz are charms that are attached to the slip-ons.
“It has become a trend, especially with the various customisations of Crocs.
‘It has become something that people can express themselves with and showcase their personality through the Crocs that they wear,” said Htun.
“It gives personality to your Crocs and there are really many options to choose from to really express your creativity,” said Lim.
Personalisation is a “critical part” of Crocs’ business, said its spokesperson.
“As a brand, we strive to help everyone feel comfortable in their own shoes and create products that are a blank canvas for individuality and self-expression,” said the spokesperson.