washingtonpost.com
By Executive Order, Crocs Aren't Chic

By Robin Givhan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 22, 2007

Crocs have been given the presidential seal of approval but this is not necessarily a good thing.

George W. Bush was photographed recently in a pair of black Crocs -- Cayman style, $29.99 -- as he was heading out from the White House to ride his bike. He wore the clunky resin clogs -- which have ventilation holes and a heel strap -- with a pair of black shorts, a white camp shirt, a baseball cap with the image of an unidentified Scottish terrier and black bike socks imprinted with the presidential seal. He had the backstraps of his Crocs flipped forward so they rested on the top of the shoes -- turning them into slides. This subtle gesture -- coupled with the subdued color -- actually made the exceedingly unattractive shoes look tolerable.

Could they have been in a goodie bag at the May fundraiser for the Virginia Republican Party, which, according to the Associated Press, Crocs Chairman Rick Sharp hosted and Bush attended?

According to the folks at Crocs, which is based outside Boulder, Colo., Bush acquired the shoes independently. "We didn't seed the presidential marketplace," says spokeswoman Tia Mattson. "We do have such a broad demographic that even though he's not a 'normal' consumer, he fits right into it: sporty, outdoorsy."

Bush's decision to wear black socks with his Crocs was ill-considered. The combination makes one think of an old man on his way to the beach. Besides, the shoes were conceived for use on boats. The holes allow air to circulate and water to drain. And the non-slip bottoms offer stability. Pairing them with socks is a contradiction.

But at least Bush is wearing his Crocs on the way to an athletic activity. Undoubtedly that cushy, textured interior will feel especially inviting after his bike ride when he slips off his bike shoes with their stiff, inflexible soles.

If only others would limit their Croc wearing to such occasions. But no. They will take the president's appropriate Croc use as validation for their own indiscriminate addiction. They must wear them to the grocery store and to the movies and to dinner. They must wear them as if they were perfectly acceptable shoes and not the equivalent of waterproof bedroom slippers, with a similarly imprecise fit.

Crocs were created in 2002 and roared to ubiquity during the summer of 2006, just after the company went public. The company now manufactures about 4 million pairs of Crocs a month and last year had revenue of $354 million, says Mattson. Among the most enthusiastic early adopters were people who spent the major part of their day on their feet: hairstylists and nurses, for instance. They were perfect shoes for walking the dog. Gardeners found them both comfortable and functional.

Did someone say comfortable? Because this is a culture quick to justify wearing virtually anything in the name of comfort -- pajama bottoms as pants, sneakers as business footwear, leggings in lieu of trousers, Uggs with miniskirts -- Crocs now rival flip-flops as the most annoyingly omnipresent style of summer footwear. City streets are inundated with shuffling phalanxes of men and women with bright orange, yellow and red Bozo feet.

The shoes can look cute on children. But all those adults walking around in Crocs, going on about how comfortable they are, look like overgrown children. They are like the workday Peter Pans who carry backpacks in the city. Not grown-up leather backpacks, but the kind made of nylon with water bottles stuck inside a web of bungee cords and a canister of Bear Be Gone hanging off the side. They have mistaken their walk to the office for a climb to the summit of the Grand Tetons.

Why, oh why, must people assimilate perfectly reasonable, functional and cheeky sports attire into street clothes? Why couldn't they keep their Crocs on the boat or in the garden?

And now cold weather may no longer offer a reprieve from Croc-mania. The company has a new line of footwear: You by Crocs. The first collection, called High Spirits, will be in stores for fall. Priced from $149 to $299, the shoes and boots will have leather and suede bodies, but their platform and wedge heels will be made of Crocs's signature resin.

There are Mary Jane style shoes, ankle boots and cuffed knee-high versions. They are not especially attractive. They don't even have the charm that comes from being unabashedly, deliberately ugly. But they do look comfortable. And for Crocs fans, apparently that's all that really matters.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company