Fashion: The Case Against Crocs

I like to play a game with my son, Joseph. We sit on a bench in touristy Old Town, Alexandria, Va., and we're not allowed to get up until we see a dozen pairs of Crocs. It usually doesn't take long. But the other day we were stuck at eight after a few minutes, and I was getting a little concerned. Just then my boy leaned over and said, "Don't worry, Dad. A family of dorks will come along any minute." To paraphrase Hank Hill, if he wasn't my son, I would have hugged him right then, I was so proud.

I know what you're thinking: what kind of sick father lets his impressionable young son call people dorks because of the shoes they wear? Well, who else will teach him that wearing sweaty bright purple clown shoes in public is not OK? He certainly won't learn that lesson at school. Teachers seem to be some of the biggest abusers of this horrid fad.

I know what else you're thinking: "I like Crocs … they're so comfortable. I'll tell you who the dork is … the guy writing this story, that's who! And who died and made him the fashion authority anyway?" Well, no one. I own pitted-out T shirts that are more than a quarter of a century old, and I've been known to strut around town in some pleated khaki Dockers. I own one belt. A female colleague even told me once I'd be a "perfect candidate for 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy'." I think she was trying to be helpful. My complete lack of fashion sense actually supports my theory, because even I know these things are an abomination.

Yes, I'm really, really late to the Crocs-bashing party. Really late. Plenty of fashionistas have written screeds over the years. But the damn things are still here, so this is no time to stop fighting. To quote the great John Belushi: "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell, no!"

I've been following the good work of Web sites like I Hate Crocs Dot Com for some time, even going so far as to submit a photograph of a stuffed skunk spraying a pair of pink Crocs. The fantastic Best Page In The Universe posted a hilarious rant a while back joking that people who bought Crocs on also bought frozen corn dogs, Pabst Blue Ribbon Light and trucker balls, as well as the CD single "Hey There, Delilah" by the Plain White T's. The rant's author, Maddox, writes: "People who wear Crocs go on and on about how comfortable they are, and how it's supposedly odor resistant because it's made out of some kind of anti-bacterial foam … You know what else it's resistant to? You getting laid."

A popular YouTube video called "Dorcs" parodies the trend: "Wow, but they're so ugly," says an office worker to her friend. "That's how you know they're comfortable," he says. By the end, she's a convert: "I've given fashion the finger, and joined the Dorcs revolution!" The Crocs Empire is acutely aware of us haters. Even their own commercials make fun of the irrational and over-the-top rage their shoes instill in people like me. In one, an unshaven lunatic holds a neon blue Croc in front of his face and screams, "Why are you wearing these!" for 30 seconds. I only wish I'd known about the tryouts for this commercial.

Crocs's stock price has cratered of late, so there is hope. According to the Rocky Mountain News, the shoes, "which were once so popular that the company couldn't keep pace with demand, are now piling up in warehouses." Maybe the company's just a victim of its own success. If practically every person in the U.S. already has a pair and they're indestructible, how many more can you sell? The same thing happened to Wham-O back in the 1950s with the Hula Hoop.

But the company isn't giving up. They've been diversifying, sponsoring Olympic teams and veering off into sandals and other designs, trying to fool us. They've even gone so far as to create a high-heeled Croc. OMG, as the kids say. These have to be seen to be believed. I recommend only the strong of heart should attempt to Google "high-heeled Croc." The company Web site has this ominous warning for us: "Today, Crocs™ Shoes are available all over the world and on the internet as we continue to significantly expand all aspects of our business" (italics added). That sounds like a threat to me. They're even suing other companies like Skechers for allegedly stealing their great idea. Skechers says the lawsuit is "baseless," "outlandish," and "ridiculous." I'll tell you what's outlandish and ridiculous: that these things sell so much that another company would feel compelled to copy them, allegedly. Don't we have enough eye pollution with just the originals still out there? Don't be fooled, America! Soylent Green is CROCS!!!

If you think about it, the Crocs company should really be admired. P. T. Barnum would be proud. They've managed to separate money from the wallets of millions and millions of seemingly sane people who wake up, look in the closet, and actually decide: "Today I'll leave the house wearing these neon-green Dutch bubble shoes with Swiss-cheese holes in them. Maybe I'll even buy some little plastic strawberries or bananas and jam them in the sweat holes, just to jazz things up and make the bacteria incubate faster." That's fine. I say do whatever you want in the privacy of your own home. Let your Crocs freak flag fly. But don't make the rest of us watch.

I realize this article might not go down too well even in my own editorial office and certainly not in our ad sales department. My boss in Washington read an early draft and said it was funny, but that I had a "somewhat demented obsessiveness." At least he threw me a "somewhat." Another editor wondered aloud if I had perhaps been trampled by Crocs at some point in my life. I also worry about writing this because some of my best friends—and their sweet, innocent children—wear them. One of my dearest—the sister I never had—introduced me to the shoes years ago when she waltzed into a garden party in a pair of bright hot-pink Crocs. I couldn't stop staring at them. "What are those things?!" I whimpered nervously, hoping maybe she was rehabbing from some sort of strange Achilles mishap. "Oh, they're called Crocs … I got them for gardening," she said, so innocently.

Oh, if only we'd known what a tsunami of fashion idiocy was about to be unleashed, maybe we could have stopped it somehow, and they would have stayed in the garden where they belong, covered with manure, a trendy item to be featured on If only. Then they wouldn't be out there in the American mainstream, that big, vast, sweaty mainstream traipsing through our airports and over our beaches and around our great shopping malls. Plop, plop, plop, they go, stuffing their Crocs faces with ice cream and Doritos and giant sodas. Plop, plop, plop. Stuff, stuff, stuff. Yuck, yuck, yuck. And the rest of us have to watch. I spent eight hours waiting on a flight at Dulles over the 4th of July week and I was just minutes from tackling the next group of Crocs ploppers I saw. Luckily for me—and the ploppers—my flight finally arrived and I wasn't arrested for assault. Knowing my luck, I'd have shown up in court to find 12 pairs of Crocs sitting in the jury box.

It would have probably been better for my career if I just posted this as an anonymous Craigslist rant as CrocsHatah35 or something. Plenty of others have spouted off about Crocs there. And sure, I would have had a lot more readers. But Craigslist doesn't write my paychecks, and this is just too important to ignore another day. Some times you just have to make a stand, even if it's a few years late. Do we really think we're going to stop global warming if we can't even end this fashion Chernobyl once and for all? I think the U.S. government should institute a Crocs buyback policy, like they do in the inner city for guns. It would do more to beautify this great land than Lady Bird's highway beautification program ever did.

So I'm begging you, America. Just stop. When you wake up tomorrow and look at your options, choose flip-flops. Go barefoot. Wear boots. Anything but Crocs. By next summer—if we all work together—we can have this plague of bad taste virtually eliminated. Yes! We! Can!