The Gen Z Shoe Trend Millennials Just Can’t Get Behind

Look, I get it, fashion is cyclical. In the words of Heidi Klum, “one day you’re in, and the next, you’re out,” and if you wait long enough, whatever trends you loved or hated back in the day will make their way back into vogue. So I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that Crocs, the controversial plastic clogs that took the world by storm back in 2006, are now not only socially acceptable, but actually cool. That said, I just don’t think I can get on board with them.

And I’m in good company. None other than Victoria Beckham herself was recently gifted a pair of lilac Crocs by Justin Bieber, complete with cartoon animal Jibbitz (that’s Croc-talk for the little doo-dads you stick in the holes). She was kind enough to poll her Instagram followers to ask whether or not she should attempt to style the shoes, and the conclusion was overwhelming. “Will I be wearing lilac Crocs?! Well that was close! I think I'd rather die but thank you anyway @justinbieber”.

For their part, Crocs is going hard after the fashion set, having launched numerous trendy collaborations over the past year or so with musical stars like Post Malone, Bad Bunny and Luke Combs, actress Ruby Rose, fashion brands ranging from mall-favorite Madewell to high-end designer Christopher Kane, and even contemporary artists like Takashi Murakami. And this blitz is paying off. According to Google Trends, searches for Crocs are on the rise, and a quick scroll through Instagram or TikTok reveals tons of adorably dressed influencers sporting them, too. But if you really take a look, you’ll notice a theme: Most folks who wear Crocs belong to Gen Z.

Yup, there’s a clear generational divide between those who think Crocs are just another cute throwback, normcore piece and those who, like Beckham, cannot shake the idea that they are hideously embarrassing—something your painfully uncool drama teacher might have worn while doing vocal exercises. Even a quick poll of the PureWow offices revealed that pretty much everyone in support of Crocs was under the age of 25, while everyone against was old enough to remember Tim Gunn referring to them as “plastic hooves.”

For those above the Gen Z cutoff, Crocs will always be a punchline. After all, outside of chefs, nurses and gardeners, who loved the lightweight foot support and ease of care, much of the nation once came together to declare Crocs one of the world’s “50 Worst Inventions.” To like Crocs was to declare yourself staunchly anti-fashion, an unpredictable rebel whose opinions were not to be trusted.

So when did things change? Maybe it was when Michelle Obama wore them on vacation in 2009? Or in 2015 when Prince George rocked a tiny navy pair, causing a major spike in sales. In fact, Crocs have been growing in popularity pretty much since their initial launch, slowly but steadily leading us to this weird and potentially wonderful (for the health of our arches) point in history.

And who knows? Perhaps I, Victoria Beckham and the other elder haters are wrong. After all, why should we embrace other comfortable-yet-dorky staples like nap dresses or or dad shoes, and not Crocs? PureWow’s own Dara Katz wore nothing but Crocs for a full week in 2019, at first because she thought it would be funny, but ultimately finding them to be “the best shoe ever.” “They are ironic,” she concluded, “They are fun. They are comfortable.”

So, please, Gen Z and all fans of the podiatrist-approved plastic hoof-slippers, do continue styling them and posting your wonderful, if confusing, outfits to social media. I’ll be here liking and favoriting and bookmarking them. I’ll just be doing it in my UGGs, thank you very much.



Abby Hepworth is an RRCA-certified running coach who has worked in fashion for over 10 years. Want to know what shoes are in this season? She's got you. Need recommendations on...