Marie Antoinette, late queen of France, less famously stated that when it comes to fashion, “There is nothing new except what has been forgotten.” And it is true; we often find the clothes and accessories that earlier generations left behind coming back to haunt us with a $35 price tag in Urban Outfitters. Thick-rimmed glasses, overalls, ugly patterned sweaters and what others have thrown away, designers snatch up and send down the runway. Suddenly it is the latest fashion trend.
Balenciaga, a Spanish luxury fashion house, took this page out of Antoinette’s book for their Spring 2018 collection. When the line debuted last fall, an unexpected collaboration took center stage, bringing back a fashion trend remembered only by memes and my second grade field trip photos: Crocs. The infamous foam footwear strutted down the runway in a blaze of bright yellow glory, adorned with garishly kitschy Jibbitz modeled after souvenir refrigerator magnets. All of this was cloaked in the train of a matching yellow dress.
In the mid 2000s, Crocs were all the rage. They were unlike anything we had seen before. They were waterproof, you could decorate them, they could even be lined with fleece, and all with that iconic perforated top. Aesthetically pleasing or not, their unexpected arrival and unique catch-all design made them a staple of 2000s fashion. Yet by 2010, they appeared to have been nothing more than a passing fad. Then this collaboration came out of the woodwork.
Balenciaga’s take on the clog shoe comes as 13 centimeter platforms (just over 5 inches), in yellow, black and pink, each available with or without their collab-exclusive Jibbitz. Without these accessories, the shoes come out to a total of $495–but if you want the extra bling for your shoes, the price goes up to $850.
Many were shocked by the collaboration, from fans to fashion publications. Crocs have long since faded into the background of both fashion and business, only really rising to the surface as an example of what not to do. Even in their prime, the shoes did not exactly scream “high fashion” But Demna Gvasalia, designer of Balenciaga’s Spring/Summer 2018 ready-to-wear collection, begs to differ. He believes that the innovative techniques behind the design and manufacture of Crocs are “very Balenciaga.”
And perhaps Gvasalia is right. Over the past few years the fashion world has delved more and more into the kitschy styles of past decades. Runways have been a slew of patterns on patterns and clashing color combinations. Infamous reputation notwithstanding, the chunky clogs are not that far removed from the cuts and styles which are currently in vogue.
Most headlines which covered the runway upset were incredulous at best, and this attitude resurfaced with the shoes’ release for sale. Critics were skeptical that the “quirky” concept would catch on with the public, but this sentiment was quickly stamped out by the consumer response. The Crocs sold out in a matter of hours after their release.
Ever since their debut, these shoes have been the subject of debate and degradation amongst the fashion community as well as those who know Crocs from their meme reputation. I have been on the fence about these shoes for a few months now. My gut reaction was a mixture of shock and secondhand embarrassment. Crocs were glorified clown shoes to begin with; putting a couple extra inches on them only upped their comedic appearance. But in reviewing articles and photos for this piece, they have managed to grow on me.
Perhaps it is nostalgia—sweet memories of saving my allowance and excitedly picking out new Jibbitz to decorate my shoes with—or novelty, but their quirky vibe and design became endearing. I have become captivated by these shoes. Never in my life have I longed to buy a high fashion product. Red bottom Louboutins and Gucci bags never tempted me; they just did not seem to be worth the cost. But Balenciaga’s extravagant take on a classic part of my life has had me rationalizing the $850 pricetag in the dark hours of the night.
Whether or not you think the shoes or the brand itself are fashion forward, there is no denying the booming success of this collaboration. Even infamy is fame. It was a bold move on the part of Balenciaga, but perhaps this is our next foot forward in the history of fashion. Or maybe—like the original Crocs—this is just another fleeting trend in our ever-changing style. Only time will tell. But for now, these shoes are dominating the mind and market of the fashion world.