Full Of Crocs

Built for comfort but not for beauty, the candy-colored, all-ages, both-genders, perforated plastic clogs inspire scorn, loathing and mockery

October 14, 2007|By Jill Rosen | Jill Rosen,Sun reporter

A young woman waits demurely in a stark room. Before her on a table sit scissors and one half of a pair of Crocs.

For the next two minutes and 35 seconds, as a jaunty Cole Porter score plays, she takes scissors to shoe, shredding the rubbery yellow thing into sad little slivers. The slivers she pulverizes in a blender.

A smile never leaves her face.

The dismemberment, enjoyed by more then 60,000 people on YouTube, comes compliments of the folks behind Ihatecrocs.com, an Internet site dedicated to the elimination of Crocs and those who think that their excuses for wearing them are viable.

Though that mission is failing miserably -- sales of the pliable, holey, cloggish Crocs are as relentless as their fans evangelistic -- Crocs haters remain convinced of the shoe's in-your-face obnoxiousness. They want to cut them to pieces, burn them and feed them to woodchippers.

Woodchippers?

In a world of fashion that has more than its share of don'ts -- what exactly is it about a toy-like little shoe with holes that provokes such vitriol?

Is it the candy colors they come in? The plasticity? The cheapness? Is it the brazenness with which Crocs owners have introduced the former boat shoe into polite society, shuffling and shlumpfing around grocery stores, shopping malls -- even offices.

"They repulse me," says Vincenzo Ravina, who founded Ihatecrocs.com with his friend Kate Lesh, the happy snipper. "They are to your eyes what secondhand smoke is to your lungs."

Cancerous?

Ravina's Web site tops 1,000 hits a day.

His products -- including the $17 T-shirt with the slogan "Friends Don't Let Friends Wear Crocs" -- have found devotees internationally.

Judy Rudo, who owns the fashionable Joanna Gray Shoes in Cross Keys, put her decidedly un-Croc'd foot down when her husband recently expressed some interest in a pair.

"I said, `You are not getting those. I don't care who's wearing them and what they say. I'm not walking around with you with those on.'"

When it comes to washing the car, going to the pool or gardening, J.S. Edwards owner Edward Steinberg will give Crocs some leeway. But just a little. He doesn't want to see them in a workplace -- ever. And he's not going to stock them in the store next to the $900 suits.

As he anxiously awaits the end to what he hopes is a fad, he worries what will become of all the seemingly nonbiodegradable castoffs.

"Hopefully they're being sent to Third World countries," he says, jokingly. "Landfills aren't being clogged with them yet, but I'm sure they will be."

TV personality Bill Maher recently focused a diatribe against them that began, "New rule: Stop wearing plastic shoes."

When President Bush was photographed in a pair a few months ago -- wearing them with black socks, no less -- Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan, worried that the nation would consider it a presidential pardon of sorts, a go-ahead to wear the "exceedingly unattractive" shoes in public.

"They (the Crocs-wearing public) must wear them as if they were perfectly acceptable shoes and not the equivalent of waterproof bedroom slippers," she groused.

Even God, apparently, is short on mercy for Crocwearers.

On a Web site devoted to style tips for the clergy, the host, a New England pastor, filed her take on Crocs under "Fighting Frump." "Crocs are an abomination," a Houston church leader wrote in agreement.

Like many haters, ihatecrocs.com founder Vincenzo's aversion grew from feelings of helplessness -- he felt as if he had lost control.

One day "the weird kid" in class showed up with Crocs. Vincenzo snickered disparagingly with his friend, Matt. Two weeks later, Matt got a pair.

"And his girlfriend. And all my other friends," the Canadian college sophomore says. "I'm looking around and going, `What's changed?'"

For Kristen Chase, an Atlanta mother of two, the hate evolved from a quest to prove that stylishness does not stop at the playground gate.

"Everyone thinks that moms are so tired and we don't have a lot of time, so here some really comfortable shoes -- Crocs," she says. "I protest that marketing. Sell us something cute and chic, not these heinous-looking shoes."

Chase, who co-edits Cool Mom Picks, which she calls, "a service review blog for discerning moms," recently posted a profanity-peppered rant against Crocs that garnered more than 150 messages -- some in agreement, others in outrage.

"While I find the fact that they resist bacteria somewhat interesting," she wrote, "when did that become a criteria for a good pair of shoes? And is it really that the material resists germs or that you just scare the [expletive] out of bugs when you clop around in their direction?"

Clearly it's going to take more than hating them to stop the Crocs.

Crocs Shoes, a young Colorado company, topped $350 million in 2006 and this year has already surpassed that. That's millions upon millions upon millions of Crocs, squishing shamelessly planetwide, but nowhere more than in middle America.

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