As Crocs turn 20, here's a look back at how they became a beloved kitchen shoe

The controversial "ugly-chic" shoe is loved by kitchen workers, professional cooks and celebrity chefs

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published October 27, 2022 11:30AM (EDT)

Rows of hanging Crocs in the first UK Crocs store on October 18, 2007 in London England. (Cate Gillon/Getty Images)
Rows of hanging Crocs in the first UK Crocs store on October 18, 2007 in London England. (Cate Gillon/Getty Images)

Whether you love 'em or hate 'em, there's no denying the fact that Crocs continue to be a popular style of shoe. Earlier this month, the famed footwear brand celebrated its 20th anniversary, aptly hailing it as "Croctober."  

On the streets, the shoe — which are basically foam clogs with holes on the top — remain a divisive trend that has either been ridiculed or embraced wholeheartedly. Amongst Hollywood A-listers, the sentiment aligns with the latter. Celebrities, like Justin Bieber, John Cena, Post Malone and even Al Pacino, are just a few fans of the brand who were recently seen sporting the shoe. The shoes also made appearances on the red carpet, per Questlove, who wore a pair of gold Crocs to the 2021 Oscars awards ceremony, and Nicholas Braun, who wore a pair in the comfort of his Lower East Side apartment while watching the 72nd Emmys remotely.

For others (myself included), Crocs are just flat-out ugly. As Buzzfeed's Scaachi Koul wrote and asked, "Have you ever seen a shoe that just...looks racist? That's how Crocs look. If the shoes could speak, I feel like they would say something really upsetting about redlining." 

But in the galleys of professional kitchens, Crocs have been beloved for quite a while. In fact, they are so adored by kitchen workers that the brand itself released a specialty line of Crocs made for those working in food service.   

How did this adoration come about and what additional ties do Crocs have to the food industry? Here's a closer look at why the shoes are so loved in professional kitchens, the notable chefs who wear (or wore them) and, as an extension, some of the food-themed collaborations the brand has done:

Why are Crocs the best kitchen shoes?

Although Crocs were originally invented as a boating shoe, it soon became a signature kitchen shoe because it is durable, sturdy and slip-resistant — a list of qualities revered by food service employees. The shoes are also incredibly comfortable, allowing chefs and workers to stand for long hours without suffering from blisters, cramps or sore feet.

Unlike traditional clogs — which are all wood and oftentimes, heavier — Crocs are made from a proprietary cell resin material known as Croslite™, which resembles the texture of both rubber and plastic. Such material makes the shoes both soft and lightweight and helps provide additional cushioning.

Crocs are also incredibly protective. Despite their open back, the shoes are closed-toed and thus, safeguard kitchen staff's feet from the sharp objects they routinely work with. Specialty crocs for food service workers are frequently made sans the shoe's signature holes. A few popular choices include the Bistro Clog, the Crocs On-The-Clock Work Slip-On, the Mercy Work Clog and the Neria Pro II Clog.

Which celebrity chefs are fans of the brand?

Perhaps the most infamous wearer and lover of Crocs is chef Mario Batali, whose signature look once consisted of shorts and bright orange Crocs. When asked about his choice of footwear, Batali told Eater, "I think what I realized as an owner of my own place, I could do whatever I wanted ... It was just about comfort, it wasn't about fashion. Now of course, I'm a fashion icon." In a separate interview with Inc., Batali explained that his family's "national color" is orange which is why he adores that hue in particular. He also shared that his first pair of orange Croc-style shoes were a gift from his wife on the opening of Pó, the now closed Italian restaurant co-founded by Batali.

In 2007, Batali launched his own line of Crocs called the Bistro Mario Batali Vent Clog, which were briefly discontinued almost six years later. Following the news, Batali said he placed a final order for 200 pairs of orange crocs so he wouldn't run out of his usual collection.

Batali's long-established partnership with Crocs finally came to an end in 2017, amid accusations of his sexual misconduct. Two years later, the disgraced chef was seen sporting a pair of Yeezy sneakers (specifically the Yeezy 350 V2 in a steeple gray/beluga/solar red colorway) in lieu of his orange Crocs for his Friday court appearance.

Other notable fans of Crocs are chef Thomas Keller and restaurateur Guy Fieri, who favors the brand's kitchen-specific Bistro Clogs. A picture of Fieri covered in flames is also plastered on a viral pair of black Crocs, which are no longer available for purchase on the brand's official website.  

What food brands have collaborated with Crocs?

In addition to its ties to the food service industry and prominent chefs, Crocs have partnered with multiple fast food and convenience chains to release limited-edition food-themed (and food-scented) shoes.

In 2020, Crocs partnered with KFC to introduce a line of fried-chicken clogs, decorated with two Croc "Jibbitz" charms that are meant to look and smell like fried chicken drumsticks. Per Eater, a high-platform version of the shoes, "designed to look like haute couture buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken for your feet," were first introduced months prior during New York Fashion Week.

Two years later, the brand announced a collaboration with 7-Eleven to create three limited edition Crocs, including a Mega Crush Clog that has an "elevated heel." In the same vein as the KFC Crocs, the 7-Eleven Crocs also came with custom Jibbitz charms, like a 7-Eleven brand logo, a Slurpee, a big Bite Hot Dog, coffee, and pizza.

By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon, covering Culture and Food. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Anniversary Crocs Deep Dive Fashion Food Footwear Professional Kitchens Ugly Chic