I still remember when it happened, a stroke of serendipity that changed my life forever.
I was in Florida on vacation with my parents, and we ran into a few of their friends down at the dock. As I do with every person that I meet, I immediately surveyed the footwear of these people, and I saw that the man was wearing a pair of camo Crocs.
It was in that moment, for some mysterious reason, his selection in footwear resonated with me. He wore his Crocs confidently, and they seemed to be saying, “We are here to provide comfort and ease of use, and because he is kinda cool he chose this camo colorway. If you don’t approve, we don’t care.” My own adidas slides seemed almost meek by comparison.
A few hours later, I swung by the Crocs outlet store and bought my own pair. That was a decade ago, and I haven’t stopped wearing Crocs since.
To be honest, I can not tell you how many pairs of sneakers I own; calculating my sneaker collection is like counting grains of sand on a beach or the number of hairs on my dog. For those of you (like my wife) who are shaking your head at my excess, well… I get it. There are many people, after all, for whom shoes are purely utilitarian or even a luxury.
But for many of us, shoes are something far deeper than just ways to protect our soles. It all started when I was a child and I saw college basketball players like Maryland’s Len Bias and Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing wearing Nike Terminators — the hightops with NIKE across the heel in big block letters. For whatever reason, something about those shoes spoke to me, and I’ve spent the last few decades completely obsessed with sneakers.
Some people collect cars, some collect bespoke suits, I collect sneakers. I try to keep it reasonable — whenever I get a new pair, I give a pair away — but I will freely admit that this is not a hobby that reflects reason. I don’t need several dozen pairs of shoes. But at the same time, for whatever reason, I sort of do?
There is something within me that connects with sneakers. Whenever I meet someone, my eyes automatically go to their shoes, because that is how I judge people. (It isn’t fair, I know, but to quote Andre 3000, I’m just being honest.) I’m not looking for expensive shoes, per se, but rather something that works. Are you wearing some new kicks that were recently released? Are they beat up? Do you wear the same shoes every time I see you? Do your shoes complement the rest of what you’re wearing?
The thing is, if you come to my house, I will fail all of the previous questions, because when I am at home I exclusively wear Crocs. I put on my Crocs the moment I wake up, and take off my Crocs right before I get into bed. They are my house shoes, sturdy enough to wear for yardwork, working on the grill, even a run to the grocery store or coffee shop, but they are also the most comfortable pair of shoes that I own. And I own a lot of shoes.
There is nothing cool about Crocs. They’re made of rubber, I think, or some sort of polymer or plastic or something or other. Aesthetically, they’re chunky and unsleek, with the widest toebox I’ve ever encountered, which sorta turns up at the front like clown shoes. Crocs are technically clogs, I suppose, a style of shoe which date back to the 1200s, according to Wikipedia. And if a style of shoe has been continuously produced for nearly 1000 years, it would seem to reason that there’s something about that style that works.
I also find that I enjoy the certainty of knowing what shoes I’m going to wear. Believe it or not, I spend a few minutes each time I get dressed figuring out which sneakers I should wear that day. Any other time? No problem, I just throw on my Crocs. They’re a staple of my daily uniform. And did I mentioned they’re the most comfortable shoes that I own?
These days they have Crocs that are lined with fur, Crocs built for running, even a line of Crocs endorsed by Post Malone, which, whatever. (I’ll give you that his songs are catchy, but Post Malone looks like he needs a shower. Get off my lawn, you kids!)
Perhaps it makes me old and uncool, but I really don’t care if this admission changes the way you feel about me. As my friend Russ Bengtson wrote for GQ the other day, “In an era where people increasingly want their sneakers to speak for them, I find myself wondering what exactly it is that we’re trying to say.”
I only allow myself to wear them around the house — even I have my limits — but even then I know exactly what my Crocs are saying: I’m at the point in my life where I value comfort over style.
And I’m fine with that.