Crocs are strangely compelling. I’ll make a confession up front: I’ve just bought my first pair after resisting them for the last few years. Like this blog, I thought they were ugly and cheap looking. Shoes made of injection-moulded rubbery plastic seemed like another indicator of the impending apocalypse. It did seem that shoes like these should never grace the feet of anyone over the age of five.
But Crocs have had a strange victory march, certainly through North American society. And this has been despite a variety of alarmist high-exposure news reports about them. For example, Maclean’s (Canada’s very own, low-rent version of Time magazine) ran an exposé about how Crocs in healthcare (where they are very popular) are endangering both patients and staff. Says Maclean’s:
An increasing number of hospitals and health centres are moving toward banning Crocs and Crocs knock-offs from their facilities for fear the shoes have endangered both patients and staff. The main offenders appear to be the popular Beach and Cayman models, which have holes on top, side vents and a back strap rather than a closed heel. They allegedly have been responsible for infection control hazards because bodily fluids such as blood have spilled into the holes. Staff have reportedly twisted ankles because of the open back. And staff reaction times are said to be compromised because it’s suspected that clogs are more difficult to run in than traditional hospital footwear.
And you do see them everywhere in hospitals. I’ve been spending a bit of time lately at Toronto’s Sick Kids children’s hospital, and I would say – estimating anecdotally and visually – that 50-70% of all staff seem to have them on their feet. They come in all sorts of colours, to match various flavours of scrubs, and you can sort of understand how walking around on something soft, wide and washable would make sense in a hospital. As for running or infections… well, sure. You might have to slip them off if they call a code and run on your socks, and you may have to throw them into the washing machine once in a while.
Horror stories from outside of healthcare abound, too. For example, CityNews reports about a four-year-old Toronto boy who almost lost a toe in an escalator:
Duncan was at Sherway Gardens with his family, coming up an escalator when suddenly one of his Crocs got stuck between the moving stairs and the stationary wall. His mother quickly figured out what was happening, but not before his shoes were forever ruined. “I dropped my shopping bag and ripped his foot out,” recalls Duncan’s mother, Karen Goodfellow.
And the Japanese have actually issued a government warning to let people know that Crocs can get kids’ feet stuck in escalators.
All of this sounds a bit like sour grapes, doesn’t it? Like alarm bells rung by those that are aesthetically offended.
I’ll admit that they’re perhaps not the most pleasing shoes to the eye. And – being German – I’m partial to Birkenstocks, the original manufactured clog (we’ll leave out Dutch wood-sole clogs for the purpose of expedience here). Birkenstocks are shaped ergonomically (and have been, for a hundred years), look good and can be worn as sandals in the summer and slippers in the winter. But: I’ve discovered that they can become smelly and stained pretty fast because of all their natural materials (leather, cork, etc.). And, while Birkenstock offers the ability to replace the footbed, this is a costly process which – in my experience – doesn’t work very well.
So the idea of wearing an anatomically shaped, anti-bacterial, disposable, $35 clog is sort of appealing. Plus Crocs are completely vegetarian/vegan-friendly. And now you can even buy a recycled, post-consumer version (but those only come in a putrid grey that’s truly, deeply ugly).
I’ll see how I actually do this summer… I may flounder and go back to my Birkenstocks when I’m finally confronted with my size M12/13 pair of brown Caymans on my feet, paired with shorts and no socks. That’s why I have the big mirror in my hallway. Just so that I can be mortified at myself before I leave the house.