Unpacking The Bizarre Rise Of Crocs To High Fashion Status

by: Rosie Dalton | 1 year ago | Features

mage: Balenciaga SS18. Image source.

When the Washington Post wrote a piece in 2013 called 'The rise and fall and rise and fall of Crocs,' the publication probably didn't anticipate to see that pendulum swing right back around again. But when Christopher Kane sent the quintessential 'ugly shoe' down the runway for his spring-summer 2017 collection, that's exactly what happened. And even more recently, the same practical footwear appeared on the runway at Balenciaga for SS18. Since launching in 2002, Crocs have enjoyed many different iterations – from crystal-embellished to platform-heeled – and now, in 2017, their return feels fairly apt in the face of the Gorpcore movement.

Whichever way you look at it, Crocs are a Millennial phenomenon and, as fashion swings back in favour of shell necklaces and bum bags, it makes sense that this chef-favoured footwear would also form part of that conversation. So when Christopher Kane launched his collaboration with the brand last year, perhaps we shouldn’t have been quite so surprised. Back then, the British designer’s take on the Colorado-created shoe was a heavily embellished one, featuring mineral rhinestones and crystals in a variety of marbled colours. But while many thought of this statement as a sort of flash in the pan, the past week saw Demna Gvasalia prove them all very wrong. 

Often looked to a frontrunner of key fashion trends today, Gvasalia  has a particular knack for the unexpected. And when he locks onto a trend, people tend to listen. Many doubted him when he sent puffer jackets down the runway for his Balenciaga debut, but now those very same naysayers can be spotted wearing these jackets the world over. With that in mind, Crocs feels like a natural next step for the Georgian-born creative, especially given their connection to the same cultural groundswell as Patagonia puffers – Gorpcore.

To be clear, there is nothing ‘hike-worthy’ about Balenciaga’s take on the Croc. Instead, Gvasalia gave us platform-heeled versions of the shoe in a range candy colours for SS18. But by their very definition, Crocs symbolise utilitarianism; which is at the core of the Gropcore movement. Identifying this trend earlier in the year, The Cut pointed out that the new micro-phenomenon had sprung from post-election malaise and a sudden urgency surrounding climate change. "To wear Patagonia is to stand in solidarity with the brand’s environmental advocacy,” the publication wrote. And in a similar way now, to wear Crocs is to reject the commerciality of fashion in favour of basic practicality.

Image: Christopher Kane SS17. Image source.

In fact, Demna Gvasalia essentially articulated as much, when he told Vogue that he chose to work with Crocs because “it’s a very innovative shoe. It’s light, it’s a one-piece foam mould and to me these kind of techniques and working with these kind of materials is very Balenciaga.” Yes, he may have adorned them with kitschy pins on the perforated upper, but it was the utility of the shoe (it’s light-weight nature, simplicity of construction and ability to withstand the elements) to which Gvasalia was really most drawn. And, at the end of the day, this is what Gorpcore is all about.

As people begin to reject hyper-commercialised fashion, then, in favour of no-nonsense comfort and outdoor wear like Patagonia tees and Teva sandals, could Crocs be the next big thing in what The Cut describes as “live-good, do-good, feel-good fashion”? Certainly history would suggest that, when high fashion takes on low – as when Phoebe Philo reinvented Birkenstocks at Céline, for instance, or Raf Simons took on Stan Smiths – it tends to give the item a certain halo of prestige. And if Gvasalia’s way with puffer jackets is to anything to go by, then we might just be wearing Crocs before we know it too.

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