First published by The Pool on 30 March 2017
Remember how much we laughed when Crocs first became a thing? You know Crocs: the obnoxiously practical clogs that were everywhere about a decade ago, when they first started being worn by gardening grandparents and certain kinds of families on Sunday walks. In case you’re unfamiliar, Crocs are almost aggressively ugly – shaped like hippos, formed out of a foam-like substance, and punctured with big holes. Until recently, I’d have said that Crocs and the fashion industry had no common ground whatsoever.
And yet, this season Christopher Kane – the very coolest of London designers – has done a collaboration with the brand. In his version, the Polyethylene Vinyl Acetate (yep, that’s what Crocs are made of) comes in a marbled effect, embellished with chunky stones. They look like your mum was out weeding the rock garden and inadvertently picked up some sparkling debris.
“Hilarious,” I smirked, when I first saw them. Kane is an incredible designer and one with a great sense of humour; his Crocs – selling for £275 a pair, thank you very much – seemed to fall entirely into that second camp. It’s true that the contrarian fashion industry loves to champion an unlikely hero, but I never thought they’d manage it this time – until I saw the shoes popping up on Instagram, with hashtags like #couturecrocs, #theseshoesaremadeforwalking and #wishlist.
Crocs aren’t the only unlikely fashion trend this season – you’ll have heard about the mismatched shoes sported at Céline, for example. Then there’s Balenciaga’s £2325 “blanket bag”, which looks weirdly similar to one of those vinyl pouches that pillows arrive in. (As The Sun helpfully points out, one of those “will cost you just £15.99 and comes with two pillows inside” – useful to know, if you are genuinely trying to choose between the two purchases.)
Also on the current must-have list are Prada’s corset belts (similar pieces cropped up at Victoria Beckham), which sit over your clothes as decoration: they’re a little bit nineties and entirely superfluous to any outfit. And on a high-street level, there are those unsettling Topshop jeans with a plastic window on each leg – all the better to display your knees with. “There are indeed some mad trends out there right now,” agrees fashion writer and street-style star Pandora Sykes, who was among those wearing Christopher Kane Crocs on Instagram. “I attribute that to the 'chaos theory' that fashion is going through right now – so every era is in fashion at once, be it eighties, nineties or noughties.
Chaos indeed. “What do they take us for?!”, one might cry at the sight of these products – but then, a week later, one might find oneself sidling up to a shop window to eye something similar. After all, Naomie Harris wore mismatched shoes to the Oscars this year (and looked good doing it), and Mango, ASOS and Zara are among the dozens of high-street brands doing their own versions of those corsets. Plus, I’m wearing the “Clear Knee Mom Jeans” right now.
OK, so maybe I’m not. But we are eminently persuadable when it comes to fashion – just think of the items that you’ve scorned in the past and now wear all the time. When I bought my first pair of boyfriend jeans after a decade of skinnies, for example, my best friend and I laughed ourselves silly. I looked like Jerry Seinfeld circa 1992. Then I wore them once or twice and suddenly, they seemed fine. See also: midi skirts, which were for years considered dowdy and unflattering; crop tops, which I confidently (and wrongly) predicted would not be worn by anyone over 18; culottes, which are just a ludicrous idea; and kitten heels – which, like Michael Myers in reboots of the Halloween franchise, will never, ever die.
The truth is that it’s the fashion industry’s job to push us, always, out of our comfort zones. From a creative point of view, this must make designing so much fun (imagine the laughs in Kane’s studio back in September); from a commercial perspective, it keeps us all spending money. And so designers drip-feed us these strange ideas, and immediately a chain of events kicks in to make it all more palatable.
Say it’s, I don’t know – a turban made of zips. First we see it on Joan Smalls on the catwalk, and we chuckle because it will never catch on. Then we see that Emma Stone has worn the turban made of zips on the red carpet, and Kate Moss has been photographed on her way into the Groucho Club wearing it, and we begin to reconsider. By the time Zara does its own zip turban for £19.99, the whole idea is starting to seem very stylish indeed, and when we show up to a party, zips all over our heads, our friends voice nothing but their envy and admiration. The fashion machine has normalised it.
That’s not to say that you’re obliged to get on board with every fad, though. “I think that oddball trends are all in the eye of the wearer,” says Sykes. “You shouldn't wear an off-the-shoulder puffa à la Balenciaga or thigh-high latex boots just because fashion decrees it so – you should wear it because it resonates with your personal style.” In other words, be a fashion adventurer, rather than a fashion victim: take the trends as an opportunity to reexamine what you like, and you might find the whole thing quite mind-expanding.
Anyway, the latest furore is over Gucci’s Ilse sock sandals – a red sandal worn over a beige latex sock, which gives the overall effect of a disembodied mannequin foot. The internet is going insane over their hideousness, but will we all be wearing something similar to the pub by June? My prediction is that we categorically will not – but then don’t trust me, because I said the same thing about culottes.