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In Defense of Crocs

If no one will stand up for the little guy, someone has to

When Ugly Shoes made their resurgence a few years back, it was finally hip to be uncool. Flatforms? So fly! Birkenstocks? Tres chic! Even geriatric sneakers were all the rage. Every big designer hopped on board — Givenchy had the faux-Birkenstocks, Balenciaga with the gem-speckled Tevas; Chanel even combined socks and shoes into one hideous monster, and it hasn’t stopped. Racked’s own spring shoe showcase greenlit ‘90s mules and, omg, cowboy boots for seasonal styling, but like the runt of the fifth grade litter who is persona non grata for floor hockey team picks, Crocs were sidelined from the trend as a whole.

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The pock-faced nursing clogs I love so dear have never been included in the so-fugly-it’s-cute style guides, but it’s never stopped me from wearing them. When it comes to what’s going on below my ankles, I am the Lewis & Clark of foam-like footwear, forging ahead and exploring new territory, one foot in front of the other.

I am a proud, powerful Crocs wearer, and nothing can change that.

Crocs on sale in Boston. Image: Boston Globe/Getty

I bought my first pair of Crocs about a decade ago, when sharing snaps online occured via digital photo albums and the results from Googling your crush brought up timed results from their first cross-country race. A counselor at the day camp I worked at told us about her odd-looking shoes; they were called Crocs and everyone on her college campus were scooping up a pair. They were inexpensive! Dishwasher-safe! Edible if you were stranded on a deserted island! (This last one has proven to just be another tale of Crocs lore.) Regardless, they sounded like something futuristic and bizarre, like David Blaine would have created them solely to shock you by snacking off his own shoes. They had to be mine.

I went on to wear my beloved poo brown-colored Crocs every day that summer, and the next, and so on, until I slowly became more of an adult. Friends berated me about them and the beloved clogs moved into in the back of my closet in a utilities-included apartment. I’d bust them out for Lollapalooza or the last-minute trip to the pool, always favoring them over cuter shoes or dreaded flip-flops but knowing all the while they shone too brightly for this world.

Maria Menounos at Crocs' 10 Year Anniversary. Image: Kristen Blush/Getty

Then, at some point, I just stopped caring. Growing from my teens to my twenties, my posture got worse, walking got painful and I gave up moaning all the way home in stylish yet masochistic heels. (Wearing Litas for a Sunday stroll around New York City was bonkers, yet everyone was doing it at the time.) I eventually gave up my high-high heels, leaned into the Crocs, and the backlash in turn laid into me.

It’s not easy to stand up for something you believe in. I know this, because every time I proudly Instagram my footwear of choice, hoping to desensitize those close to me in understanding why Crocs are king, I’m hit with an acid rainstorm of verbal hate. No one makes fun of my Birkenstocks or Ugg slippers, but post one unironic picture of how you genuinely want to be a Crocs fashion ambassador and they all come out with pitchforks at the ready. It doesn’t matter if I’m being proposed to by Krusty the Klown at my bachelorette party or literally on a work trip at Walt Disney World, people only see the Crocs, not the girl sporting them. I committed style suicide by wearing tie-dye socks under Birkenstock sandals and not one person flinched, but a casual pair of Crocs in the daytime makes me a fashion leper.

It’s not just my loved ones, either. The internet vitriol goes so deep that instead of spreading the hate further by directing you towards anti-Crocs blogs, I’ll instead tell you about how even Time magazine has trolled them. Yet other ugly shoes like Tevas and, in particular, Birkenstocks are plucked from obscurity and blessed with the power to be fashionable. It’s like how everyone on Tiny House Hunters really just wants a trailer but the branding on miniature homes is so much better. Birkenstocks are the hot older sister who forged beyond puberty to get all the glory while Crocs are home on a Friday night studying; the Haley Dunphy to my Alex, the Quinn Morgendorffer to our Daria.

Crocs' most famous proponent, Mario Batali. Image: Jim Spellman /Getty

Vogue and Bloomberg and even The New Yorker have tackled the resurgence of the double-strapped orthopedic sandal, but Crocs? Nothin’. (Well, except for this bizarre, rhyme-obsessed Vogue slideshow of loudly patterned Crocs and equally delusional calf-length socks.) The first Google result for "Birkenstocks" and "Why" is a Buzzfeed listicle touting over twenty arguments for why they’re the best shoe ever; similar results for Crocs bring up plenty of health articles and a piece that includes so many sad references of their plentiful insults. Somehow, Birkenstocks have been deemed as acceptably ugly as we’re willing to get, and I feel it, too. On most days, I wear my white two-strapped Birks instead of my much-preferred white Crocs, because society will be kinder to me if I do so.

Proclaiming your love for Crocs is like telling your first grade circle of friends that Chris Kirkpatrick is your favorite member of N*SYNC, or Donald Trump is your preferred candidate — divulging your feelings will be met with confusion, outcry and banishment. But what is truly so bad about them? That they have holes? They they’re comfortable for wide feet? That they’re available in an array of interesting, vibrant colors? If Chris’ originality was expressed by his fabric-wrapped dreadlocks and Donald Trump was, okay, I’m not going anywhere near that, Crocs should be able to let their rainbow-colored foam flag fly proudly.

I don’t wear them to be ironic or to offend strangers; when I’m in Crocs, I am my best me. When they’re strapped around my ankles (or conveniently pushed up for a relaxed clog look!) I’m not wearing anything to impress others, follow trends or look traditionally pretty. I’m genuinely happy in the most basic way. Wearing them brings me back to when all I had to do was shuffle between activities on campus or babysit children by the beach all summer long. They allow me to embrace the cushy granola life I’d live if only I wasn’t so obsessed with fashion: a chunky wool sock, a comfortable clog, a happy day.

Now, I know — sneakers are comfortable, why don’t I just wear those? Meh, I just always end up feeling like a tired businesswoman who slips off her pumps in favor of chunky white New Balances at the end of the work day, and with flat, wide feet, even the stretchiest of Nikes leave me in horrific pain. Crocs though? Never had a problem. I’ve complained about my feet, my back, my posture every time I’ve left the house except for when i’m in Crocs. They’re ready for anything, too — I’ve gotten rid of every shower shoe in favor of them, and when it comes to summer rainshowers, nothing beats ‘em. Instead of having your shoes soaked, your feet are one with the rain, making crap weather significantly less crappy.

Crocs in Germany. Image: ullstein bild/Getty

All I want in life is to be the one to convince you Crocs are fashionable, and not just because Mario Batali and his terrible color preferences have done more to negatively impact my personal style than should be allowed. I’ve been putting on overtime on the Crocs rebrand. I wore them to Tokyo’s hippest neighborhood, I wore them to Steven Alan in New York City. If I have to be the face of Crocs and swallow the hate, so be it. They’re reliable, they’re comfortable, they’re the best shoe you’ll ever own and frankly, I still think they’re cool. I just want to enjoy my dishwasher safe sandals without becoming a social pariah, and want the same for you.

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