Brooke Shields wears Crocs to the red carpet – but can they ever be truly fashionable?

Brooke Shields gestured to her yellow footwear, explaining: 'I couldn't do this in heels!"
Brooke Shields gestured to her yellow footwear, explaining: 'I couldn't do this in heels!" - Invision

Rare is the household that doesn’t have a pair of Crocs lurking somewhere between the shoe basket and the cupboard under the stairs. Regardless of your opinion on their aesthetic merits, even the staunchest haters would agree that they’re pretty useful for gardening in. Or maybe – provided it’s dark, and the neighbours don’t see you – putting out the bins.

Most would agree that this is where Crocs belong: firmly below stairs, their function a direct consequence of their ugly form. You’d hesitate to wear them out to lunch. You’d balk at wearing them to a party. And you definitely wouldn’t wear them within spitting distance of a camera, where evidence might be collected and used against you and your horrific taste in shoes.

The actress Brooke Shields, however, had no such qualms when attending the 77th Tony Awards in New York on June 16. Greeting the sea of flashbulbs with a winning smile, she even lifted up the hem of her yellow gown to ensure photographers captured her matching yellow Crocs in all their perforated rubbed glory.

Brooke Shields posing for photographers at the 77th Tony Awards, June 16
Brooke Shields posing for photographers at the Tony Awards on Sunday evening - Invision

To be fair, the 59 year-old actress’s unusual choice of footwear was a direct consequence of some recent toe surgery. Two days before the event, Shields had shared a photo of her feet in braces with her 2.1million Instagram followers. When she told an interviewer at the Tony Awards that “I couldn’t do this in heels”, she wasn’t joking.

Shields’s decision to wear Crocs may have been born out of necessity, but for a growing army of people, Crocs are a footwear of choice. Bella Hadid, Margot Robbie, Justin Bieber, Kendall Jenner and Priyanka Chopra are but a handful of celebrities who have recently been spotted wearing Crocs. Which is no doubt why, in January, the company announced that 2023 sales had exceeded expectations, and estimated that full-year sales would total about $3.95 billion, an 11 per cent increase and a record for the brand.

Justin Bieber is just one celebrity spotted wearing the shoe
Justin Bieber is among the celebrities spotted wearing the shoe - GC Images

Those left wondering why their favourite £31.49 gardening shoe has found such unexpected fame may like to note that, to borrow the parlance of the demographic with which they’re currently finding favour, Crocs have had something of a glow-up. A slew of savvy collaborations have elevated the clog from workhorse to thoroughbred – most recently, via a partnership with the esteemed designer Simone Rocha, which saw the Croc sprout a 3.5 inch heel and become embellished with crystals. Launched in April, their £170 cost was no impediment to these pimped-up Crocs selling out.

The bejeweled Simone Rocha X Croc collaboration
The bejewelled Simone Rocha X Croc collaboration - Gamma-Rapho

Crocs have also launched collaborations with brands as various as Levi’s, Balenciaga and McDonald’s. 2017’s Balenciaga collaboration sparked particular ire among diehard fans due to its elevated 10 cm platform, which some dismissed as “dangerous”. If the platform didn’t cause you to keel over, its £650 price tag would.

Those who balk at Croc Couture can still take their pick from myriad other iterations on the Crocs website. Heinz might be famous for offering 57 varieties, but Crocs come in so many variants as to be uncountable. Not only are there seven core styles in a combination of 13 core colours across men’s, women’s and kid’s, but each style has its own sub-divisions, with the ‘platform’ category alone offering 15 variants. The classic clog, meanwhile, comes in 20 different styles.

A guest at Copenhagen Fashion Week sports pink Crocs
A guest at Copenhagen Fashion Week sports pink Crocs - Getty

That this classic clog is so beloved of nurses, kitchen staff, gardeners and electricians (for whom the foam resin acts as an insulator) is precisely what proved such a draw for Christopher Kane. The first designer to give Crocs a high fashion makeover in early 2017, Kane used the clog’s popular “Jibbitz” charms as a reference and embellished his with colourful crystals, resins and stones. When they appeared on the catwalk, they quickly polarised opinion. “People were honestly stunned,” remembers Kane. “There was a similar reaction to our SS/12 show, where we presented pool slides and Velcro sandals with satin shift dresses. It was definitely snobbery: ‘who on earth would want to wear those?’ It really made us laugh, how many people feared the Croc.”

Those who still fear wearing them out and about could either follow Gen Z’s lead and team them with equally municipal items of clothing (Lucy & Yak dungarees, Aries sweatpants, denim Bermuda shorts and a simple white tee), or go into complete denial that they’re wearing Crocs at all, and pair them with a statement skirt or cocktail dress. As with trainers, the main rule is that there are no rules.

'There are no rules': Heidi Klum paired Crocs with her colourful, embroidered outfit in 2023
'There are no rules': Heidi Klum paired Crocs with her colourful, embroidered outfit in 2023 - GC Images

Victoria Beckham may have said she’d “rather die” than wear them, but some glamorous fans maintain the platform Croc fulfills the same function as a high-heeled shoe – minus the bunions.  For the fashion PR Daisy Hoppen, the 3.5 inch heel on her bejewelled Simone Rocha Crocs is no impediment to their wearability. “They’re practical and comfortable, as well as beautiful. I wear them to drop off my baby to the childminder and also out in the evenings. To me, they are an all-purpose shoe.” Other fans concur. On Reddit, entire forums are dedicated to the practicality of the heeled Croc. “I wore mine to a wedding and was the only guest whose shoes didn’t sink into the grass,” said one user.

Whether you wear them for comfort like Brooke Shields and David Hockney, for fashion like Bella Hadid and FKA Twigs, or simply to do your household chores, rarely has an item of footwear meant so many different things to so many different people.

As Kane notes, “Some might find them ugly or unsophisticated, but it’s fun to play with notions of taste. Is it good or bad?” When it comes to Crocs, that very much depends on who you ask.