Home Performances tales Crocs: the evolution of the brand and its cultural impact through collaborations
Performances tales

Crocs: the evolution of the brand and its cultural impact through collaborations

From disdain to trend, here's how Crocs won over Generation Z through successful collaborations

Crocs: the evolution of the brand and its cultural impact through collaborations
Photo credit: Crocs instagram

At some point, Crocs began to appear everywhere: on social media, in stores, on the feet of children and adults, garnering widespread attention without an immediate explanation. Footwear, previously labeled as unattractive, has suddenly become a trending phenomenon. This success is no coincidence, but can be attributed entirely to the Crocs brand, which has been able to create an engaging narrative capable of connecting deeply with consumers and obtaining user-generated content at scale.

Through a series of high-impact photo and video campaigns, the brand has managed to engage its fans in the first person who have, even spontaneously, created branded content. Thanks to these initiatives, Crocs has managed to attract the attention of Generation Z.

However, this was not the only key to its success. The brand has started a series of collaborations with personalities and brands that have sparked a sense of nostalgia in Generation Z, prompting many to buy footwear not only for their features, but also to stay connected to the past and beloved characters from a bygone era.

But who exactly is Generation Z? You could be part of it too, without knowing it.

Generation Z, made up of individuals born between 1996 and 2010, is characterized by a dynamic and innovative approach to life.

Unlike previous generations, this one prioritizes online access to consume media content, with television giving way to digital platforms. Although Instagram retains its popularity, it is TikTok that represents the real revolution, capturing attention with its spontaneity and creativity. In fact, the #crocs brand  has more than 7.3 billion views on TikTok.

What truly sets Gen Z  apart is their  open  and inclusive mindset, driven by curiosity and a desire to explore the world without prejudice or limitations imposed by society. She prefers diversity and inclusion over conforming to traditional fashion and behavior.

Crocs’ origins and its evolution

The Crocs originated as a footwear designed for sailing, designed in 2002 by three enthusiasts of the industry: Scott Seamans, Lyndon Hanson and George Boedecker Jr. While sailing in the Caribbean, they discovered a foam plinth made of the patented Croslite material, which stands out for being lightweight and designed to distribute the impact on the foot, without absorbing water or sweat, making it resistant to bacteria. The three combined their skills to rework the design and find investors, and in 2002 they presented the Crocs at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show.

Initially adopted and appreciated by professionals such as nurses and chefs for their convenience, Crocs soon gained popularity among the general public but divided between those who appreciate them and those who don’t.

Despite this, Crocs have continued to sell due to their durability and comfort. Over the years, the brand has expanded its product range by acquiring Jibbitz in 2006,  the manufacturer of  the charms that fit into the characteristic holes of Crocs; but before it became successful today, Crocs underwent several moments in which its sales dropped.

crocs-collaborations | shoestechnologies
Classic clog customizable with Jibbitz charm
Photo credit: Crocs website
crocs-collaborations | shoestechnologies
Example of Jibbitz charm
Photo credit: Crocs website

A  really difficult year for the brand was 2008 when sales plummeted by 30% and in 2010 Time magazine included Crocs in the list of the 50 worst inventions.

The brand, however, did not give up and the turning point came with London Fashion Week SS17, when Crocs were worn during Christopher Kane’s fashion show  and created a shock among the participants.

Crocs: the evolution of the brand and its cultural impact through collaborations
Christopher Kane x Crocs SS17
Photo credit: crocs website

It was only Demna Gvasalia, creative director of Balenciaga who understood the intent of the brand and so a year later they made a collaboration, creating the trend of ugly/chunky shoes thanks to crocs with a 5cm high platform, and made this collaboration shape the success of Crocs as a streetwear icon. This allowed the brand to return to being appreciated, recording a sold-out even before they arrived in the store.

The brand has harnessed the nostalgia of the 2000s by becoming part of fashion’s aesthetic of ugliness and irony, and has had a surge in sales over the years. Despite the criticism, Crocs has sold over 300 million pairs worldwide, continuing to offer comfort and functionality in addition to fashion. Despite their long history of resistance, Crocs has recently begun to take its first steps to win over even the trendiest audience.

Crocs and successful collaborations

Crocs has shown that it knows how to capitalize on the success of its collaborations, in particular with Balenciaga, while maintaining a fresh and current image. In fact, in 2021 the brand collaborated again with Balenciaga, creating something never seen before: the Crocs with stiletto heels and in 2022 a unisex model: the Pool Crocs flat sandals. A collaboration between the two brands that has always sparked disparate reactions on the web, also in this case social networks around the world could not help but talk about it. From those who would never do without it to those who don’t understand the choice.

crocs-collaborations | shoestechnologies
Pumps Madame 80mm Balenciaga x Crocs
Photo credit: farfetch website
crocs-collaborations | shoestechnologies
Crocs x Balenciaga Wmns Pool Slide Sandal ‘Black’
Photo credit: Balenciaga website

But as Balenciaga’s creative director says:

Fashion is subjective

Demna Gvasalia

Crocs has taken advantage of the opportunity to attract public interest through successful partnerships that awaken nostalgia for the 2000s, putting comfort over aesthetics at the forefront. Collaborations have become a key element of Crocs’ strategy, giving designers and artists the freedom to express their creativity. This has led to the creation of unique and authentic products that have won over consumers.

Partnerships with luxury fashion brands, streetwear labels, and artists have propelled Crocs into the streetwear space, making it surprisingly trendy while maintaining its authenticity. Each collaboration challenges fashion expectations and conventions, transforming Crocs’ reputation from mere clogs to coveted fashion items.

Crocs is carving out a strong niche for itself in the collaborative footwear space, working with brands like Naruto, Toy Story, Hello Kitty and more to produce noteworthy pairs, but there are some collaborations that have been more successful than others with crocs selling out in less than 24 hours.

Salehe Bembury x Crocs

The collaboration between Crocs and Salehe Bembury has led to a number of innovations in shoe design, blending urban style with elements of luxury and functionality. The partnership began with the launch of the Crocs Pollex Clog in 2021, featuring a unique design inspired by Bembury’s fingerprints and details that improve traction and ventilation.

crocs-collaborations | shoestechnologies
Photo credit: Crocs website

The success of this first release prompted the brand to expand the range of colors and appoint Bembury as creative director for the Crocs x Pollex Pod line.

On March 15, 2024, Crocs launched a new Crocs Pollex Clog model in a new variation: street artist Futura for a special edition, Futura x Salehe Bembury x Crocs, It added a graphic and urban touch to the silhouette.

This partnership resulted in a unique version of the shoes, with a bold color palette and signature artist details: royal blue as a base, with various aquatic hues covering the forefoot and heel of the slip-on hoof. In addition, the artist’s hallmark appears on the inner heel to further emphasize the collaborative effort.

crocs-collaborations | shoestechnologies
Futura x Salehe Bembury x Crocs
Photo credit: crocs website

Now, Crocs and Bembury are setting the stage for the launch of the first Crocs Pollex shoes with a distinctive silhouette, inspired by both running sneakers and low-top hiking boots. This new design will feature features such as a mesh inner lining, a medial shank, and perforated overlays on the upper, echoing Bembury’s fingerprints as a distinguishing element.

The Salehe Bembury x Crocs Juniper, as it has been called, will offer a vibrant color palette, featuring soft pinks, dark blues, and a semi-transparent layer in green and blue, a departure from previous versions.

With these new releases, Crocs and Bembury continue to redefine the concept of street-style footwear, combining fashion, functionality and urban art in a single proposal. The launch of  the Salehe Bembury x Crocs Juniper is expected for spring-summer 2024 and is generating huge suspense in the world of footwear, promising to capture the attention of fashion and streetwear enthusiasts in a significant way.

Futura Laboratories x Crocs new collaborations

Crocs joins Futura for a collaboration that goes beyond the Crocs Pollex Clog with Bembury, expanding the partnership with the launch of the Classic Clogs into a shared collaboration. This new project has achieved a success comparable to the previous collaboration with Bembury, with the clogs sold out in just a few hours.

Futura is known for its distinctive futuristic styling, which gained popularity on the streets of New York in the 1970s under the name Futura 2000.

His art, characterized by a lively use of color and abstract shapes, has pushed the boundaries of traditional lettering. In 1997, he founded Futura Laboratories, achieving success in the world of footwear and fashion with collaborations with brands such as Nike and Zoo York.

His influence was also evident on the Louis Vuitton runways in 2019 and, more recently, as we have already mentioned, with the collaboration with Salehe Bembury for an ultra-limited edition of the Crocs Pollex Clog.

At 69 years old, Futura continues to rack up successes, demonstrating its commitment with the latest collaboration with Crocs for Futura Laboratories’ Classic Clogs.

These clogs come in two colorways, both reflecting Futura’s distinctive art style. The ‘Green Ivy‘ model features a hazy pattern in vibrant shades of green, light blue, fuchsia and black, while the ‘Pearl White‘ model offers a chromatic print with reflective brushstrokes, alongside Futura’s signature atom symbol. Both models are complemented by Future Laboratories branding on the heel strap.

crocs-collaborations | shoestechnologies
Photo credit: futuralaboratories
crocs-collaborations | shoestechnologies
Photo credit: futuralaboratories

The release of these shoes is accompanied by exclusive Jibbitz charms, representing Futura’s iconic symbols, such as the Pointman, characterized by a design conceived in the 70s and 80s. These charms, packaged in a custom collector’s box, can be added to any pair of Crocs, adding a touch of art.

Lightning McQuenn x Crocs sold out

Crocs has made headlines with several successful collaborations, it has also launched models inspired by cartoon characters, such as the aforementioned Naruto, Hello Kitty and McDonald’s, but one of the most successful collaborations was with McQueen, from the Pixar “Cars” franchise.

The first model, the Lightning McQueen Clog, was launched in April 2021 and quickly sold out of stock, thanks to its popularity, it was restocked in August 2023, but demand continues to be high. This model paved the way for further collaborations with the “Cars” franchise, such as the Classic Clog Mater Hook, which was also highly praised.

The Crocs Lightning McQueen are an homage to the main character of the film, with a design inspired by the Chevrolet Corvette C1. They feature a red construction with graphics reminiscent of Lightning McQueen, ventilation holes and LEDs in the sole that light up with every step.

Generation Z’s reaction and ”ugly” fashion

Why does Gen Z love Crocs? This is not an easy question to answer. But let’s try to explain why, in our opinion, this generation embraces this style.

Generation Z has developed an affinity for “ugly” fashion, a concept that embraces grotesque and unconventional aesthetics. This preference stems from several cultural and social factors that influence today’s youth.

crocs-collaborations | shoestechnologies
Juicy Couture velvet jumpsuit 2000s
Photo credit: Juicycouture website

One of the main influences is the setting in which Gen Z grew up. The 2000s were marked by an obvious trend towards ugly aesthetics, with iconic examples such as the Juicy Couture velvet jumpsuit  and eccentric clothing from celebrities such as Britney Spears. These elements have helped shape the aesthetic taste of Gen Z from a young age.

Additionally, Gen Z has grown up in the age of the internet and social media, where humor is often expressed through memes and humorous content. Ugly aesthetics have become an authentic and recognizable alternative to the perfect, filtered images that dominate traditional media. Memes celebrate ugliness as a way to counter the idealized image of perfection.

Crocs fit perfectly into this ugly aesthetic. On the one hand, they are the object of derision for their design considered unattractive by some. On the other hand, they are appreciated precisely for this “ugly” characteristic and for their distinctive appearance. Wearing Crocs thus becomes an affirmation of individuality and a way to rebel against  the conventions of traditional fashion.

Crocs offer comfort and convenience, allowing people to feel relaxed while wearing them. Their popularity is further supported by the “Dadcore” and “Ugly Footwear” trend, which has captured the attention of fashion brands and celebrities, leading to an increase in demand and sales.

crocs-collaborations | shoestechnologies
Photo credit: Asos website

The ability to customize their Crocs with “Jibbitz” charms adds an extra element of attraction for Gen Z, allowing them to express their individuality and follow the latest fashion trends.

In addition, the company has also targeted this age group for advertising, engaging social media influencers who share videos while wearing Crocs. This has helped make Crocs a common item in the wardrobe of young people.

Crocs trend

On November 2, 2023, Crocs Inc released its third-quarter 2023 financial results, with consolidated revenue reaching $1.045 billion, an increase of 6.2% compared to the same period last year.

This shows the wide acceptance and popularity of this footwear brand, which has become a global trend thanks to their comfort, versatility, variety of styles and colors, customization, and collaborations with celebrities and influencers.

These elements combined have made Crocs one of the most loved and desired footwear today.

Crocs: the evolution of the brand and its cultural impact through collaborations

Crocs: the evolution of the brand and its cultural impact through collaborations

From disdain to trend, here’s how Crocs won over Generation Z through successful collaborations

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