Ask Esquire: I Really Want To Wear Crocs and Birks. Is That Okay?

IMAGE Unsplash/ The Creative Exchange/ Bernard Hermant

So a few things happened recently. The super duper cut of Deadpool 2 was released, giving fans of the prune-faced hero another chance to decide if its self-aware shtick was really, really funny or really, really not funny. 

In the opening scene, Deadpool lies on top of six barrels of high-octane fuel, his right leg resting jauntily on his left knee, and his feet swaddled in white tube socks and bright blue Crocs that perfectly contrast with his dark red suit (kudos to the costume designer).  

Later on, after a montage of a multi-country killing spree and the thing that happened and the other thing that happened, Deadpool is reading a book (The Canadian Mounted) at the X-Mansion. He’s seated on a Chesterfield couch with his feet on the coffee table, and this time, they’re dressed in royal blue socks and what looks like Tevas. 

Crocs and then Tevas on the well-dressed Ryan Reynolds? This made us think: “So cool these ugly shoes.” And we also asked ourselves...


Can We Really Wear Crocs, Birks, and Tevas Without #Irony?

When we say ugly shoes are having a moment, we are referring to those chunky, alienesque dad sneakers and not the Crocs, or the Teva, or even the Birkenstock. These feet covers are on another level of unconventional beauty, and for the longest time, men have been strongly advised to never wear them, unless they are chefs, persons who lead crunchy lives, or pudgy three-year-olds. 

But fashion likes to make fools of everyone, and so we suddenly find ourselves eating our words. In a world so desperate for something new, what was once considered devoid of pretty, the anathema to style, has been made cool. 

Please Blame It on Normcore

You can thank normcore (remember that?) for the steady ascent of the Birkenstock into the realm of chic again. The sandal was a strange proposition when it first appeared on runways in 2013, but now, in the Year of our Lord 2018, that strangeness has become undeniably stylish.

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In April, dark prince of fashion Rick Owens released a collaboration with the German brand. Of course, his Birks were mostly black, like the Boston clog, and furry, as seen in the elongated straps of the Arizona sandal. And, of course, Birkenstock extended the partnership with a second season dropping in December.

A few days ago, to emphasize the idea that their shoes look better with age, Birkenstock released a personality campaign by British photographer Jack Davison. Featuring non-models like a free skier, a filmmaker, and even a Nobel Prize laureate in their regular, non-furry pairs, the images projected an elegance that makes you want to wear a soft clog with socks right now. Look:


Are Crocs Cool Again?

Not to be outdone, Crocs is a muse to fashion houses. Christopher Kane dreamed up marbled Crocs covered with mineral adornments and crystals, both a play on the little Jibbitz pieces that kids pop into the holes of their baby Crocs. 

Meanwhile, Balenciaga, under the creative director Demna Gvasalia (one of the masterminds of the ugly-chic look), debuted extra-thick platform Crocs with a 10-centimeter sole in its spring 2018 show, and though the creations were impractical and beyond expensive, the pairs sold out. Recently, the brand posted an image of a proper high-heeled version of the designer Crocs on Instagram. Ladies all over the world drooled on their iPhones. 

Hello Darkness, Our Old Friend

So, yeah, just like that friend who you have a love-hate relationship with, ugly sandals are back in our lives. The question now is this: How do you wear this things?  

Take time to read this heartwarming story from The Cut about a woman and her first pair of Tevas, “the white people’s shoe,” which also has a collaboration with Opening Ceremony.

After overcoming a bias toward the sandals, the writer pursued the hunt for and then the wearing of the Tevas with a full heart. She also went for a slightly safer style (take note) and, in the end, was rewarded with happy feet in “stupidly comfortable” shoes. 

Just like the enlightened wearer and other supporters of these sandals, be free. Quiet the voices in your head. They do not look weird on your feet. They are really cool. Put on a pair of Crocs, Birkenstocks, or Tevas (maybe with socks) and walk out the door. Do not turn around.  

How to Wear Crocs? And Birkenstocks? And Tevas?

We’ve also had dalliances with ugly sandals. Long ago, at a food event, we were strongly encouraged to wear white Crocs that look like plastic marshmallows. We don’t remember how it felt, but we do remember it looked funny. It was as if we were Ronald McDonald, but only in the feet. 


In childhood, we also had a pair of the slipper-style Birkenstocks in white (the Ramses), and we wore them till they fell apart. Those we remember were comfortable. It was as if we were walking barefoot at home, but we are outside. Point is, we are already familiar with what we do and don't like.

One last story: It has come to our attention that Mom of Ask Esquire (we will refer to her as MAE) refurbished her old pair of Birkenstocks with the help of the neighborhood cobbler. The distressed parts were replaced with alternatives, but the granola feeling remains. You’d never know that hers are FrankenBirks unless you look closely. 

Now, whenever MAE goes to wherever old people go (like, to the doctor’s) with her feet shod in the cork sandals, she appears cool—not like a regular mom, but a cool mom.

MAE also looks stylish, because—and this is important—she doesn't care about perceptions or collaborations. She does not concern herself with the shifts happening in footwear fashion. She just wants to wear these things, you know?

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Clifford Olanday
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