When it comes to fashion trends, 2020 will be remembered as the year of tie-dye, nightgowns, face masks, and... clogs. While the former three have all taken off as a result of work-from-home lifestyles, the clog — long considered the footwear of choice for moms and Brooklyn creatives — already made a solid comeback a few years ago. In the last six months, though, it became impossible to ignore that clogs were on the feet of, well, everyone you know (personally and on social media). Even high-fashion took notice of a shoe that has often been called “ugly”: During the Spring 2021 Paris Fashion Week shows, no shoe was more talked about than the clog (granted it was no regular clog, but rather one designed by luxury brand Hermès). But this was just the high-fashion pinnacle of what has already been a clog-filled spring and summer.
Back in May, UGG released a collaborative collection with cool-kid brand Eckhaus Latta. The campaign — shot on a floating dock in the middle of a lake with no one but the models around — appeared staged just to showcase the retro-esque, of-nature appeal of what had once been known as an orthopedic shoe. (Let the record show that the line’s Boogie Platform, a clog-platform hybrid, seen below, could only look orthopedic to those who run in heels for sport — and not just during Copenhagen Fashion Week.)
Then there is the other clog: Crocs. Known primarily as the go-to footwear for chefs, children, and moms who garden, these foam clogs — that previously would have not dared to grace the feet of any self-described fashion person! — have undergone a makeover. Since 2016, the brand has collaborated with the likes of Christopher Kane (where they were marble and rock-adorned), Balenciaga (where they featured a giant platform), and Barneys (where they were spike-studded). The style has experienced even more success with partnerships with celebrities and Croc enthusiasts like Post Malone and, more recently, Justin Bieber’s Drew House and Bad Bunny — all collaborations that have sold out within hours.
And the clog’s popularity is showing no signs of slowing down. According to fashion shopping platform Lyst’s October report, “Clogs are becoming the comfy-ugly shoe of winter, with searches for the style being up 27% month-on-month.” Of the styles, the most searched for are the Birkenstock Boston Clogs (44% since the beginning of September), a more traditional clog style from a brand that knows a thing or two about shoes that can transcend decades and seasons (hi, Arizona!). The search for JW Anderson’s Chunky Chain Mules, one of the most popular shoes from the fall 2020 runway, is also up by 11% according to Lyst. Half-loafer, half clog, it’s the epitome of the high-fashion potential of the shoe.
People aren’t just searching, but are actively purchasing, too. According to the New York Times, the sales of Crocs are up 48% at a time when, the publication notes, sales of other footwear are down 20% compared to 2019. While a lot of the sales could be attributed to the high-profile names attached to recent collabs, there’s more behind this pandemic success. Last week, when boldly declaring that “Crocs are cool now,” GQ wrote, “The brand made plenty of new friends this year—a year when just so happened that no one needed to wear real shoes anymore.” It’s true. As the pandemic has forced many indoors, comfort has become key. And you can fight the aesthetics all you want — Naomi Campbell called Crocs a “lazy shoe” while on the Hot Ones (17:20) just last week — but there’s no denying that cork- and foam-soled clogs are comfortable. Add a soft lining on the interior, and they can double as an indoor shoe and work in the colder weather. As if to further make the case for their current zeitgeist status are the presence of tie-dye clogs. (In the case of Crocs, they even have a lined tie-dye style.)
When HILOS, a new sustainable footwear brand, pre-launched this fall (its official launch will happen in spring), it did so with a clog-mule style, a design that was decided on pre-pandemic. “The clog is a transformer; it’s carried me from dive bars to weddings and felt natural throughout,” Gaia Giladi, the brand's Chief Creative & Co-Founder, tells Refinery29. “When imagining a radically new way to make shoes, 3D-printed from completely new materials, I knew it needed to be a transformer at heart — day-to-night and versatile for any room — so naturally the clog influenced our first design.”
The 3-D printed platform of this clog (that helps with comfort and support, plus can be made on-demand, thus reducing waste) brings up an interesting point. Over the last few years, what a clog looks like or is made from has changed significantly. While the mention of clogs may have historically prompted images of the Dutch farmers’ wooden klompen, or more recently of the Birkenstock Boston Clog or Crocs, now what comes to mind are images of brands like No.6, the New York-based brand known for its clogs that combine traditional silhouettes with interesting details, and Gucci, with its backless loafers. Even Bottega Veneta’s rubber rain boots can be described as clogs with the right styling — as endorsed by writer and clog enthusiast Lauren Mechling on her @thecloglife Instagram account.
Again, clogs aren’t a 2020 phenomenon. The clog’s turn for the fashionable has been talked about ever since the aforementioned Crocs runways. It was solidified when, in 2018, Maria Grazia Chiuri sent out a clog on the Dior runway — for the first time since 1954, according to Paper. But, as the Lyst report suggests, clogs may be at their fashion peak now — thanks to us being in a time when a customers' needs intersect with the designers’ openness to make comfortable fashion. In addition to providing comfort that’s fitting for the lockdown age, which has no end in sight (thus, no limit to how many clogs you can buy), there is also a nostalgia associated with the shoe. A reminder of a simpler time, filled with gardening and hiking in clogs, which we have taken up again; and emblematic of the cottagecore aesthetic that has been prominent at the beginning of the pandemic, when at-home activities like baking bread and stocking up on houseplants were also at their peak popularity. When speaking about the new Hermès’ new collection, the brand’s creative director, Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski, told British Vogue that it was all about “resurrection”: “You rest; you feel better; you recalibrate; you rediscover the most essential things.”
For those who are then rediscovering the shoe staple, welcome to the new age of the clogs. I am joining just now, too (my eye is on the UGG x Eckhaus Latta Boogie Platform). For those who haven’t noticed the shoe’s recent fashion glow-up, maybe it’s because you’ve been wearing clogs all along — just without all the bells and whistles.