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Rubber Shoes Are Having a Renaissance in 2022

Water shoes, typically made from a solid piece of perforated rubber, are everywhere — and expensive.

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Not long ago, Crocs were terribly uncool. In fact, it was less than 12 months ago that we officially declared it time to buy a pair (if you hadn't already).

And although the brand has since sold hundreds of millions of their classic Clog, the plasticky slip-on comes from humble beginnings.

How Did Rubber Shoes Get Here?

In 2002, Crocs founders Lyndon Hanson and George Boedecker, Jr. used a newly-developed antimicrobial injection-moulded foam to make their first shoe — a waterproof design called the Beach, which they introduced at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show. There, they quickly sold through 200 units they'd produced.

Since then, Crocs have become ubiquitous, a comfortable slip-on shoe that's as popular in locker rooms and showers — see: former NHL-er and fellow Swede Peter Forsberg, who invested in Crocs in its infancy — as it is on the beach or in classrooms. Needless to say, everyone's come around on the funky footwear design. So much so that it's bred lots of spinoffs — including bulky boots and bulbous high heels by luxury brand Balenciaga.

balenciaga spring 2023
Crocs, once a shower shoe, are now mainstays at every fashion week.
Sean ZanniGetty Images

Climb, Crocs, Climb

But Crocs is also cashing in on the trend. Its ongoing collaboration with sneaker designer Salehe Bembury, the Crocs Pollex Clog, has transformed the brand into a bonafide streetwear brand capable of attracting several thousand customer-long queues and astronomical resale prices.

Sure, Crocs were nothing new to footwear fans — even those that don't care about shoes at all — but they'd never received interest like this. Crocs were suddenly covetable like sneakers: something folks were eager to own and suddenly taken for granted once supplies were limited.

It's hard to give Bembury full credit for Crocs's resurgence, but he took the brand to a level it hadn't yet reached through collaborations with Justin Bieber, Anwar Carrots or Post Malone. They were offered license to toy with the color of the clog and which Jibbitz, the charms you can put into the circular perforations, but none were allowed to invent a new silhouette.

Originality Wins

In a recent appearance on the Complex Sneakers Podcast, Bembury admitted that his original designs received little pushback. In fact, the Crocs team offered him the opportunity to create his own unique Croc after seeing his early sketches, which toyed with a Crocs Kids shoe — not one they'd ever sold in adult sizes. From there, he 3D-printed a sample. Once he held the mockup he immediately knew, he explained in that same interview, that it'd be an instant success in every color they'd eventually release (0f which there are a half dozen now, but a half dozen more on the way).

That's not only because he's a popular name in footwearm but because other brands' rubber shoes are experiencing similar ascents: Yeezy's Foam Runners, Merrell's Hydro Mocs and even Vans' Slip-On TRK, a rubberized version of its best-selling canvas sneaker. It's hard to say whether any of these will reach Pollex-level heights, though.

pollex clog on stockx
The Pollex Clog in a limited edition color called Spackle Almost White was recently listed for $3,000.
StockX

Rubber Shoes Reach Resale Ridiculousness

Right now, a handful of Bembury's Crocs are reselling for five figures: a friends and family (meaning given out, not sold) pair in a color called Spackle Almost White recently sold for $2,500. Two more, Menemsha and Cucumber, are fetching $400+ per pair. These are insane numbers considering they cost just $85 if you bought them from Crocs.

But Bembury's aren't the only rubber shoes selling for way above retail. Although a steady increase in supply has slowly lowered their resale value, you'll still Yeezy Foam Runners selling for over $500, a 455 percent increase from its original $90 price. The least popular of the three, but arguably the most sensical, is Merrell's Hydro Moc. For now, it rarely resells for much more than retail, which is a mere $55. Occasionally, you'll see a pair listed for $75 or $80, but they sit because folks can find them in stock on Merrell's site still.

If Hydro Mocs suddenly start reselling for more than $100, we will have officially reached peak rubber shoe. However, one could argue we're already there. Seeing folks spend several thousand dollars on a pair of injection-molded rubber shoes is shocking to say the least, but, hey, hype sellsthat's always been the case.

The Holey Trinity of Rubber Shoes:

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Crocs Pollex Clog by Salehe Bembury
stockx.com
$270.00
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Merrell Hydro Moc BLOOM
merrell.com
$100.00
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adidas YEEZY Foam RNNR
farfetch.com
$534.00

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