x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

A fashion lesson in the form of plastic shoes

Colin Randall wears Crocs to pick his daughter up from the airport - and learns some ugly truths about fashion.


The complete story of what I know about fashion would detain no one for long. But even I could understand a young friend's description of the shame she felt when her parents arrived on a visit one Saturday during her undergraduate days at Cambridge University. They were wearing matching shell suits. My elder daughter's shell suit moment came when she stepped from her plane to be greeted by her own parents. "Oh no, Mum," she exclaimed in arrivals. "I cannot believe you're wearing Crocs."

If that seemed bad enough, she then turned to me: "Dad, you too!" Now I do realise plastic sandals are not at the cutting edge of style. I would not wear them to the restaurant. But they are astonishingly comfortable for someone who is unable to wear conventional sandals without having his feet cut to ribbons. They seem absolutely right for the outdoor lifestyle we lead in the south of France, and it had never occurred to me to change for a quick errand.

"Just Google it and you'll see what I mean," my daughter said, walking a pace or two ahead to avoid guilt by association. The first internet pages I checked seemed to provide full vindication. They told me Crocs were "comfy and cheerful", a substantial innovation in footwear with soft, lightweight, superior-gripping and odour-resistant qualities making them "ideal for casual wear, as well as for professional and recreational uses". Then I realised I was on the official Crocs site, which could hardly be expected to dismiss them as the epitome of style faux pas.

My next stops were what my daughter had in mind. One site suggested the appeal of Crocs was to the zero-to-five and 85-plus age groups and likened them, as a choice of footwear, to "wearing bathrobes outdoors". Then I stumbled upon a blog called I Hate Crocs, described as "dedicated to the elimination of Crocs and those who think their excuses for wearing them are viable". The author may not be one of the world's most prolific bloggers - the two most recent postings were in July and there was nothing before that since January - but links led to an I Hate Crocs store, a Crocs-burning video and even a Facebook group.

So now I know. I also know now why the site has been silent. It considers its mission accomplished, for the company that has reportedly put these shoes on 100 million pairs of feet is in trouble. Healthy profits in 2007 turned into a $185 million (Dh680m) loss last year. Some 2,000 jobs have been shed and US analysts say the future is bleak. The blogger wants it both ways, however. After thanking like-minded souls for "all your good work", he admits the victory is bittersweet, because "the whole US economy had to tank to bring it about". It is, he concedes, a "shame" about the lost jobs.

Yes, I have learnt my fashion lesson. But forgive me for feeling that the blogger's sympathy for the newly unemployed amounts to so many crocodile tears. crandall@thenational.ae