This year, rather than spring trends—Hot pants! Corsetry! Orange!—we have pandemic fashion. Instead of investing in tangerine corseted playsuits or handbags to carry nowhere, we are buying sweatpants and, apparently, Crocs. You might have thought the “it” shoe of the pandemic was socks, but sales data suggests it’s actually a ventilated foam resin clog.
Some of the people wearing Crocs are healthcare workers; the company has donated more than 450,000 pairs to those working on the Coronavirus’s front lines, where comfort and ease of cleaning are imperative. But many are just regular consumers.
I am one of those people sliding down the slippery slope toward Crocs. I bought a pair of fresh lace-up Vans sneakers right before the world went to hell, but haven’t put them on once. Instead, I alternate between hideous (and hideously comfortable) Brooks running shoes and two different pairs of Birkenstocks. When it came time to construct an elevated garden bed (also a hot pandemic commodity) last weekend, I considered my footwear options and thought: You know what would be great right now? Crocs. Last week, I had a pair of plain white ones in a virtual shopping cart but couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger. Would I ever wear these in a world in which I leave the house? Then, a fashionable textile designer I follow on Instagram posted a photo of herself wearing Crocs printed with strawberries.
Something was afoot.
Shoe sales overall are down. In its quarterly footwear report yesterday (April 28), the research firm NPD reported US sales of fashion footwear—which also includes slippers, for some reason—were down 24% in all categories except for slippers, compared to the first quarter of 2019. Athletic, or performance footwear was down 19%. The category that suffered the least was leisure footwear, which includes “sport lifestyle” footwear including hiking boots, water sandals, and “sport slides.” In other words, Crocs.
“As March came to a close,” Beth Goldstein, an NPD footwear and accessories analyst, said in the report, “categories aside from slippers that are relevant to life-at-home showed slight growth over the prior week, including sport slides, flip flops, hiking footwear, and mule/clogs—driven by the continued strength of Crocs.” Goldstein also noted last week on Twitter that Crocs were the “only top brand in NPD’s Retail Tracking Service to show growth for the month of March.”
Crocs total revenue in the Americas rose, even though in-store retail fell by 9% compared to the first quarter in 2019. It was made up for by a 27% increase in wholesale sales and 14% from e-commerce. Crocs’ global sales were slightly down for the first quarter of 2020 due to sagging revenues from Asia.
There’s no denying Crocs are baldly unattractive. But if we’re social-distancing, there’s little chance our friends and colleagues will even see our feet this summer. The fortunate among us with yards and gardens might be anticipating hours spent there with kids and pets, rather than, say, on vacation, at a museum, or anywhere in public with other people wearing pretty shoes. So if you too are considering buying a pair, take solace: You’re not alone.