How I Think

the world's ugliest shoe

Published 6 months ago • 1 min read

Hey strangers, I'm back! I spent the last year learning how to actually build a startup. Not talk or write about it. And damn it's been an awesome experience. I'm still building. But I'll be writing a series on The Stories Behind the World's Biggest Brands. So without further ado...

In 2010, TIME called it one of the “50 Worst Inventions”.

Others called it the “ugliest shoe ever”.

But since 2002 they’ve sold over 600 million pairs.

Here are 3 ways Crocs transformed from boat shoe to global brand:

1) Polarize Me

Crocs were rebellion. TIME mag called them ugly. Every media outlet mocked the look.

But what do Crocs achieve?

A polarizing reaction.

Croc’s Chief Marketing Officer Heidi Cooley says it best:

“Yes, we’re ugly; yes, we’re polarizing. But importantly, we’re one-of-a-kind. And what we recognized is that this is exactly what resonated with some of our fans: They too see themselves as one-of-a-kind.”

Today, our world is filled with sameness. The same minimalist designs. The same popular TV shows. The same fashion styles.

Crocs broke the mold. They polarized the masses and created a movement. And every Croc wearer felt one-of-a-kind.

2) Choose Your Own Adventure with Jibbitz

Sheri Schmelzer loved Crocs so much her family had 10 pairs. But she had a problem.

How do you tell them apart?

So she whipped out rhinestones and clay to make charms for her Crocs’ holes. Immediately, people started asking about the charms. And Jibbitz is born.

After Sheri hit 6-figures in sales, Crocs bought Jibbitz for $10 million. And now they sell over $100 million / year.

For Crocs fanatics, Jibbitz upgraded the brand from unified cult to a choose your own adventure. Croc wearers upgraded from ship passengers to the captain.

No other brand lets you craft this level of individual experience.

3) From Rebel to the Runway

But until October 2017, Crocs was still the rebellious teen stuck at the kids table.

Then Balenciaga did a collab with Crocs for “Embellished Platform Clogs”.

This catapulted Crocs from backwater brand to center stage at Paris fashion week.

And soon Crocs were cool enough for Justin Bieber, Post Malone, John Cena and dozens of celebrities.


Today, Crocs has over 9.6 billion views on TikTok. The latest Barbie movie launched its own collab with Crocs. And sales hit $3 billion.

Only time will tell.

But Crocs may just be the closest thing to religion the foot has experienced.

Talk soon,

Chris Hladczuk

p.s. what did you think of this series? Hit reply and let me know

How I Think

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