Yes, they're hideous. ("But they're so comfortable!") Yes, websites and newspaper columns have been devoted to deploring them. Yes, America's world image slipped several additional notches when the Vacationer-in-Chief was photographed wearing them. With dark socks, no less.
And yet, the foamy, perforated footwear known as Crocs are a retail phenomenon ($200 million in sales in 2006). It's a mystery I can't explain. But I can tell you why they're called Crocs, now that I've read Megan O'Rourke on "The Croc Epidemic" in Slate.com:
Crocs was conceived by three friends—Scott Seamans, George Boedecker, and Lyndon Hanson—on a trip in the Caribbean, when Seaman showed his friends the extraordinary slip-resistant clog he was wearing; learning that it was made by a Canadian company called "Foam Creations," the friends spotted an opportunity. Soon they had licensed and were trying to "develop" the shoe (by adding a strap to the back); the name was the first thing that had to go. They realized the tops looked like crocodile snouts from the side. Presto! Crocs was born.
Crocs are made from a material called Croslite, a "proprietary closed-cell resin" that is neither plastic nor rubber and was developed by Crocs predecessor Foam Creations. How Croslite got its name is harder to suss out; the Cros- prefix may be a scrambling of "closed-cell resin."
The PR gods are certainly with Crocs this week. Rob Walker devoted his Consumed column in the Sunday New York Times Magazine to the Crocs business story and to the fervent sentiments, pro and con, they inspire. Walker observes:
Aspiring lifestyle brands are a dime a dozen, but Crocs have trod an unusual path. The shoes caught on first in Middle America, then migrated toward the more trend-centric coasts, possibly aided by the most significant marketing campaign in the company’s brief history: ads in Vanity Fair and other magazines carried the theme “Ugly can be beautiful.”