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A Croc of Shoe

Would you buy a car called the Volkswagon Hoax? Would you dine at a bistro called Bilk? Or get your hair done at the Dupe Salon? Few would. And yet millions of people pay $30 a pair for the ugliest footwear ever to cradle a human heel — shoes whose very name is synonymous with “nonsense.”

Crocs. They’re a sham at the end of your shin. A prank below your ankles. A fraud perpetrated on the feet of fools.

There are few of us left on the planet who don’t own a pair of the holey, rubbery, sea slug-resembling slip-ons. (The duo behind are among us.) As attractive as a gawky, pimply teenager at the apex of his awkwardness, Crocs have enjoyed inscrutable global popularity for years now. Jack Nicholson and Halle Barry wear the things. And little Violet Affleck. President Bush sported them recently — in public — with black socks and shorts. Sigh.

Lore has it that waterproof, non-skid Crocs were invented as a boating shoe in Boulder, Colo., by three fishing buddies. More likely: The guys were stoned and zonked out on repeats of What Not to Wear when one nudged the others and said: “Dude, you know what would be freaking awesome? We invent the most heinous shoes imaginable and, like, convince people they’re amazing. Then see who buys ’em… “

You really can’t underestimate Americans’ apathy for aesthetics, especially when comfort is a factor. By all accounts, Crocs are irresistibly cozy, which is why you should never, ever try them on. And which is why they look like something a doctor might prescribe for someone with special needs. Any shoe marketed as both “unisex” and “antimicrobial” has no business being worn outside of a restaurant kitchen or surgery ward.

I grant you that fashion is fickle and styles often grow on us after seeming odd at first. But some designs are just wrong wrong wrong from their first jaunt down the runway. Buttafuoco pants pounce to mind, as do other Emperor’s New Shoes like Birkenstocks, Tevas, and even, yes, Ugg boots. (Ugg, people! Would you have bought them if they were called Yuck? Or Eww?!)

I’m not buying the “they’re so ugly they’re cute” logic, either. It wasn’t true of the Olsen twins. It isn’t true of Chihuahas. And it doesn’t make you look any less ridiculous in your lime-colored Disney Beach Crocs — especially if you’re a man, in which case you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

With summer approaching, I fear frivolous-footed folk will once again be digging these eyeball-offending accessories from the back of their closets and clomping around Santa Barbara’s plazas, parks, and paseos in them. But there’s hope that Crocs may soon be going the way of the Pet Rock, the Clapper, the Flowbee, and other inventions that briefly convinced the nation we needed something that we really, really didn’t.

The company, which only two years ago boasted the largest footwear IPO in history, recently closed its Quebec factory due to a drop in sales. And no hail-mary Mary Jane or squishy flip-flop model is going to save the brand from this freaky phenomenon: Countless Crocs-wearers, mostly children, have had their feet caught and chewed up in escalators around the globe. Last week, citing dozens of injury complaints from its most fashion-inept citizens, Japan’s trade ministry called upon the manufacturer to come up with a safer design.

Ouch. Wouldn’t want to be in their shoes.

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