Cue the identity crisis.

By Sam Reed
Sep 08, 2020 @ 2:58 pm
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My boyfriend’s out-of-the-box white Crocs were beaming in the evening light — almost as if someone had swapped the moon for a black light — as he stood on the beach of the Delaware River post-canoe trip. And maybe my brain was fuzzy from spending enough hours in the sun to make a dermatologist cringe, but I thought to myself: Huh. Those Crocs aren’t completely hideous. 

When Crocs — a plastic-y hybrid sandal-shoe with Swiss cheese holes and a strap resembling a seatbelt for your ankles — were first introduced to the world in 2001, I was 8 years old. I can't recall my first Crocs encounter, but I know it wasn't long before I categorized the shoe as “Uncool,” stashing them away alongside other items my social circles deemed fashion tragedies — rolling backpacks, those curved-bottom Skechers things, and literally any visor — in a box in my brain labeled “no, not ever.”

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Crocs, I thought, are for dads on vacations, and little kids who didn’t know any better, the victims of well-meaning, albeit tasteless, parents. Crocs are for Jack Nicholson. I, on the other hand, was a high-strung pre-teen obsessed with the lie that new clothes were the answer to every middle-class anxiety. The kind of kid that made my mom drive to three different department stores in order to find black Converse low-tops for my first day of fifth grade. (Shout out Mervyn’s — RIP.) While I understood the need for their existence, Crocs, like tube socks or orthopedic shoes, just weren’t for me. 

And now, all of a sudden, I’m contemplating picking up a pair. Not even the high-fashion kind that can cost upwards of $800, or the novelty kind that signals allegiance to an American fast-food chain restaurant and a deeply ironic sense of humor. I’m thinking about buying a pair of standard-issue white Crocs; and this desire is causing something of an identity crisis. 

Let’s face it: Crocs are the shoe of Pandemic Times, for myriad reasons. Like most of the clothing I wear these days, they’re comfortable (allegedly, since I have not actually worn them. Yet.). Unlike my chunky Doc Marten platform sandals, they protect my toes from the nippy puppy I adopted in March. I would like to state for the record that I am not a doctor, but Crocs somehow also seem more hygienic than a pair of sandals when walking down the streets in New York, especially in the midst of a pandemic. (Have you ever worn open-toe shoes in Midtown? I don’t recommend it.) And, unlike the crusty Nike running shoes that have seen one too many music festivals, they breathe. Best of all, they can be worn while canoeing in the Delaware River, saving my soles from the rocky, slippery bottom. They also float.

Even when Crocs became fashion in the late 2010's, when designers like Christopher Kane and Demna Gvasalia (Vetements, Balenciaga) turned the foam clogs into a designer-approved spectacle, I still didn't budge. My preferred shoe at the time? Literally anything from Zara; in other words, nothing that could be called “practical.” Early-20s me was just as meticulous as middle school me about cultivating a cool girl image — less so for the popular kids, however, and more so for Instagram. 

Recognizing my desire for Crocs in the year 2020 has forced me to acknowledge the many small ways I’ve changed recently — fashion-related and otherwise. Though only two years have passed since Balenciaga unleashed the frankly offensive 5-inch platform Crocs, I feel like a radically different person than I was then. In 2018, I vowed never to shop fast-fashion again, pledging to buy only from sustainable brands that produced their clothing ethically. I began to buy only what I needed, found a local cobbler to fix "old" boots, and began to mend my own clothes. Our Trumpian dystopia has opened my eyes to the consumerism of it all, and I’ve started to shed the backward belief that the image I present through my clothing is my entire identity.

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For the sake of full transparency, I'll admit I still don't love the way Crocs look — even on fashion girls. (The only person that can pull them off and truly look God-like is Shia Labeouf. Fight me.) What I do love is the confidence of those same fashion girls, and their insistence on wearing what they want, the opinions of the "popular" kids be damned. "You can wear foam clogs and still feel good about yourself," I chant to myself thrice while looking the mirror.

Jokes aside, the "I don't care what others think" energy I carry now, on the brink of my late-20s, is liberating. Giving myself permission to not just "break" fashion rules, but to push them out of a moving vehicle at high speed, has cured my anxiety and cleared my skin (with a little help from Zoloft and Spironolactone). I may never get back the first 20 years of my life when I broke out into hives at the mention of Crocs, but at least I have so much free time now! I've learned to sew! I finished The Sopranos! Like I said, lib-er-a-ting

I’m having an identity crisis, I guess, because I am a different person than I was in the days when I equated Crocs with Mario Batali. This is truly the final frontier of my personal transformation. As we all know, there are far more important things to worry about, especially right now, when the world is on fire in the literal and metaphorical sense. So I'll strap on my Crocs and march into the future.