For 21of21, GOOGLE SHOPPING and PAPER came together to break down some of the most memorable shopping moments of 2021 based on Google's trending search data. Crocs continue to be the unlikeliest cool shoe, bolstered in part by their ubiquity as well as their super-unique collaborations. This year, Google search interest for “pink crocs,” “lilac crocs,” all peaked throughout the year in the US.
We love to pretend that Crocs are a brand new fad. It’s so easy to forget the past when you spend too much time on the internet, which lacks a linear timeline, and instead gives the impression that everything and nothing is trending at the same time. Yes, they’ve only become a style statement in the last few years, but they’ve never not been popular. They immediately found their target demographic of families in need of comfortable shoes suitable for indoor and outdoor activities, it just took the fashion world some time to consider their aesthetic possibilities.
That was… until their appearance on the runways of London and Paris in 2016. Suddenly wearing crocs wasn’t just accepted, it was a signifier that one was in the know. The high fashion crossover gave people permission to wear them ironically or simply to show their passion for comfortable shoes without fear of being ostracized, but the point remained: everyone was now free to wear Crocs. The endless collaborations that have spawned since then, are as chaotic and dare we say, iconic, as the concept of Crocs themselves. Everyone from Bad Bunny and Diplo to KFC and even ranch dressing. Yes, ranch dressing. These collaborations inevitably sell out immediately.
I unknowingly picked out my footwear for the end of the world early last year, when I came across one of these brand collaborations in my office’s discarded PR gift pile. A pair of black and purple Crocs, with a rainbow KISS logo, and portraits of the famously face-painted rockers splashed around the base. It was an unholy union that also made perfect sense. They weren’t as comfortable as I’d expected, but it didn’t matter; the novelty factor was high and people were immediately responsive on Instagram. I figured I’d wear them with socks.
Over the next few months, the KISS Crocs accompanied me on my bleak pre-Zoom walks across Bed Stuy, Brooklyn with the glam rock heroes bearing witness to crowded funeral parlors and illegally evicted tenants sleeping on the street and in their cars. They listened to new records when they dropped at midnight, and bingewatched all the true crime documentary series. As the weather warmed up, the news got worse and a legion of police helicopters whirred in a holding pattern above my block. I wore them to the daily protests that were organized via Instagram around New York, grateful for their light rubber soles and slightly menacing appearance.
In the fall I drove out west, unable to commit to the ominous winter ahead. My Crocs accompanied me to Utah, immediately acquiring a layer of red desert dust that has permanently muddied the Peter Criss’ black-and-white whiskers, perhaps affecting their resale value. I settled for a while in Hurricane, a small town near Zion National Park with painterly sunsets and tourist trap trading posts. In these parts it was not unusual to see unironic Crocs on the street or in the supermarket aisle. One afternoon, while standing in a parking lot and eating a snow-cone from one of the town’s three competing teen-run stands, a local approached with the compliment that mine “were the coolest ones” he’d ever seen.
Before returning to New York in the spring, I dipped down to Florida, the KISS Croc’s spiritual home. I wore my pair all down the coast until reaching the Everglades, where they mingled with alligators and manatees, and then further still to the tip of the Florida Keys, where they merged seamlessly with the prevailing parrot head, conch-brained aesthetic. They proved their practicality, too: the Croc is a watersporting shoe at heart.
I wish I could produce here a simple narrative of redemption or hope: a love story of me and my KISS Crocs, the shoes I wore for eight or so really bad months, partly as a joke and partly because it seemed pointless investing in any other summer sandal when nice clothes and all the other pleasures of the world were so famously becoming obsolete. That in ode to the pandemic I wore ridiculous shoes to match the ridiculous news headlines, or as protest against the frightening mundanity of working from home. I want to end this on some kind of punny ode to the rubber mules that saw me through a tumultuous period, and continue to take up space in my new, pandemic-priced apartment. Something like: I want to Croc n’ roll all night. And hypebeast every day!
What’s true about my Crocs and about life in recent memory is that they’re best approached with a pure and deep sense of resignation and acceptance.