Crocs with a fruit design
Illustration by Shannon Czerpak, University of the Arts

Crocs Are Unique, but Still Exemplify Multiple Global Trends

These distinct foam shoes became a trend years ago and now they’re a trend again. But what does this mean for sustainable fashion?

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Crocs with a fruit design
Illustration by Shannon Czerpak, University of the Arts

These distinct foam shoes became a trend years ago and now they’re a trend again. But what does this mean for sustainable fashion?

Crocs are foam-based shoes that many people find very comfortable to wear. These shoes are made from croslite, a type of polymer called ethylene-vinyl acetate. Of course, chemicals are part of the shoemaking process, whether a company is manufacturing Crocs or not. But we know that sustainability in the fashion industry is something that we haven’t fully achieved and foam shoes aren’t the most sustainable material out there. There are lots of lies that we’re told when it comes to sustainability and recycling: Items that are considered eco-friendly in reality may not be, and we need to recognize that.

Recently, I watched a documentary where they talked about recycling and how most of the recycling process is really a scam. Cans and bottles have that three-arrow recycling logo, but just because that symbol is present on a can or bottle doesn’t mean those items are necessarily recyclable. The documentary showed how most cans, bottles, plastic containers, and other items thrown in trashcans and recycling bins eventually end up in a landfill. The most important part of the documentary pointed out that companies are trying to avoid lawsuits. That’s why they put recycling signs on their products — to pretend that they care about the environment and practice sustainability. When we recycle something, the item will usually end up in a huge landfill, either in the United States or in a foreign country. We’re passing the problem onto someone else to take care of and also continuing to pollute the Earth.

This all relates to Crocs because Crocs aren’t really made out of eco-friendly materials. When an individual thinks about the word “foam,” I’m pretty sure that the term “environmentally-friendly” doesn’t come to mind. It’s understandable why people wear Crocs. They come in many different colors, they’re easy to put on, they’re easy to walk in, they’re very comfortable, and you can put buttons in the tiny holes on top of the shoe.

I personally don’t like Crocs because I think they’re silly looking, and, to be honest, sort of ugly. But I understand the appeal. It’s a fashion trend, and many Americans love fashion trends because they are popular. People want to feel a sense of belonging and want to feel popular, which includes participating in popular activities and wearing popular things. Most people want to follow the crowd, but it’s important to note that although Crocs are very comfortable, they’re made out of foam, so their durability is questionable. Imagine you’re walking on a gravel road and a pebble hits the bottom of your Croc and makes a hole in the shoe. This clearly isn’t good because you paid for an item made out of foam and the item is now damaged. I don’t think it’s easy or possible to fix a Croc once it’s been damaged. Putting duct tape over the hole probably won’t work. Eventually, that piece of tape will wear off, so your only other option is to buy another set of Crocs and risk breaking those again.

One more thing that relates to Crocs and fashion trends is the idea of planned obsolescence. Planned obsolescence can be found in the fashion industry as well as the technology industry. An electronic device or trendy fashion item will eventually become obsolete because people are tired of it and something new will always be coming out to replace it. When things become obsolete, they’re no longer of value to most people and many people decide to toss that product in the trash. The problem with things becoming obsolete is that people don’t realize they’re wasting their money and harming the environment. That’s why I don’t exactly see the purpose in fashion trends or constantly buying the most recent iPhone, because eventually those things will become obsolete. Planned obsolescence definitely rules our lives more than we realize, but if we’re more mindful of this idea and the things we spend our money on, Americans will save more money and will hopefully reduce damage to the environment.

One thing that I try to do when I see something I like is ask myself: “Do I need this? Or do I just want it?” If the answer is that I just want it, I’ll most likely put the item back on the rack. However, if I don’t already have the item and I know that it’s good quality, I’ll most likely buy it. The fast fashion industry and the fast fashion business model aren’t going away any time soon, but if we become more aware of the limited resources this planet has to offer and how much we’re consuming, maybe things will start to change.

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