Most people my age don’t like crocs. Croc bashing (making fun of people wearing crocs) was really popular when it first came out, I remember “liking” a bunch of those “Take off those crocs, you look like a Dumbass” groups on facebook.
Despite the number of anti-crocs groups I joined on facebook, I actually don’t care if someone wears them. I think they look ridiculous, but if you want to look ridiculous, that’s your choice. It’s none of my concern. I think a lot of “fashion” trends now a days are stupid: sagging pants, duck faces, caking on make-up, and toe shoes. If I walked around telling everyone why I thought they looked stupid, I would be on the track to working at McDonalds with no friends.
But then I got to Japan… and I was the only one NOT wearing crocs (especially during the summer) and I had to wonder why?
In the Japanese market alone, crocs have made a tremendous profit. Not just crocs, they have off-brand “fake” crocs, crocs accessories (charms you can pin to the large holes in the shoes), winter crocs (typical crocs with Ugg-boot type lining on the inside), and slippers shaped like crocs. And people buy them. At the grocery store, I was standing in line with a guy and his girlfriend buying matching pairs of crocs slippers and all I could think of was “Why?”
Why do people wear crocs in Japan, arguably one of the best-dressed countries in the world? Not just Japan, though, lots of other Asian countries tend to love crocs. So I started asking my Japanese friends why they love crocs. The answers surprised me.
The practical purpose of crocs is pretty simple: they’re easy to put on, they let your foot breathe, and they cover your foot.
Why is this important? Because:
A. Crocs are easy to put on. In Japan, you have to take your shoes off in the genkon (front entrance of a house). I stopped wearing lace up shoes in Japan because I got sick of tying them up several times a day. No one has time for that.
Crocs don’t involve shoelaces. Or Velcro. Or complicated straps. Crocs are slip-on shoes. IF I were to buy a pair of crocs, I would use them for short grocery trips, taking out the trash, or re-parking my bike. Crocs save time by simplifying the process of putting on and taking off your shoes, especially at a stranger’s house.
This year alone, I’ve had two friends break an ankle (and another sprain his wrist) after tripping over shoes in the genkon entrance while trying to put on their shoes. The genkon is one of the most dangerous places in the Japanese home; I can understand the need for a shoe that simplified this process.
B. Crocs let your foot breathe. It’s not the heat that will kill you in Japan, it’s the humidity. As a series of long, slim islands that end up being about half the size of the State of Texas, Japan has a lot of exposure to the ocean. And with that proximity to the ocean come waves of humidity – especially in the summer.
Texas in the summer feels like I stepped into an oven; Tokyo in the summer feels like I stepped into a Sauna.
Crocs are the most comfortable, Japan-appropriate, summer shoe. I will stand by this statement; three summers in Japan have taught me (as long as you’re out of the main city) crocs are the go-to summer shoe. The condition “Japan-appropriate” is important because…
C. Crocs cover your foot. In our pre-departure class for Japan, we were warned that flip flops are considered rude and socially unacceptable. Our teacher said “it has something to do with showing your toes.” I’m not sure how true that is, but I have noticed that while everyone wears high heels or flats, no one wears flip-flops in Japan.
Flip-flops considered a “beach shoe” that you should only wear to the, well, beach. They’re like the lowest class of shoe (oddly beneath the croc). Crocs on the other hand, cover your foot – or more importantly cover your toes. That makes them more culturally acceptable in Japan than in America.
Also, crocs give you the option of wearing socks. This is important, because (as I said before) – you have to take your shoes off when you go to someone else’s house. Sometimes they will have extra “guest slippers” for you to wear, but some of the time they won’t. And leaving nasty, sweaty foot-prints all over their house is pretty rude. And embarrassing.
I have friends that carry around an extra pair of socks whenever they’re wearing high heels or a sock-less shoe – just in case they go to someone else’s house. No one wants to go barefoot.
Crocs are silly, but they’re practical.
Japanese people wear crocs because crocs are light, comfortable, easy to slip on, cover your foot, and allow you to wear socks. That makes them popular in Japan – despite their ridiculous appearance.
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