There were a lot of standouts from the Balenciaga spring 2022 presentation (Marge Simpson’s gold Lurex gown, preternaturally pointy dress shoes), but perhaps none so diabolical as the pair of massive, gothic platform Crocs that Elliot Page and Lewis Hamilton plodded down the red-carpet runway. The black foam clogs, studded with silver screw and double-B logo decals, feature a metal strip along the sole that reads “Designed in collaboration with Crocs” and branded nameplates on the toe cap and heel. Who knows how far you’d be able to walk in them, lightweight as they may be—but at the very least they’d leave you standing about 11 centimeters taller.
Christened as the Balenciaga HardCrocs™, the heavy-duty shoes finally went up for presale on Balenciaga’s website this morning, selling out within hours.
But this isn’t Balenciaga’s first blockbuster-Croc rodeo; the brand’s creative director Demna, ever invested in populist fashion, has been spoofing the molded EVA foam clog sandals for years, to rousing success. First came the ice-cream-colored platform Crocs for spring 2018; studded with branded jibbitz (a Crocs-coined word for removable charms that fit into the little perforations on top of the shoe), the shoe catapulted both Balenciaga into new meme-potent territory, and Crocs squarely into the high-fashion sphere. And the Crocs company has been picking up what fashion has been putting down. Ever since an eleventh-hour collaboration with the designer Christopher Kane way back in 2016, the brand has solidified its groan-to-grail arc through those sorts of out-there collaborations, soon linking up with Balenciaga and then with surprising musicians such as Justin Bieber and Bad Bunny, as well as niche brands and designers like Palace, Chinatown Market, Anwar Carrots, and Salehe Bembury.
The Balenciaga platform collab made way for new creations, spawning a Croc stiletto and a tall Croc rain boot—the latter of which became the unofficial shoe of Ye, née Kanye West (who, like his friend Demna, simplified his name to a single moniker last fall). Ye’s devotion to the Balenciaga Croc muck boot is so powerful he has now started wearing, more or less exclusively, other iterations of big, honkin’ tactical boots, sending hypebeasts on internet quests for a discontinued Red Wing style and tall Black Diamond work boots made to be worn by actual firefighters. Ye’s Balenci-Croc cosign almost certainly sped up the “Purchase” trigger finger on the brand’s site this morning.
Indeed, the HardCrocs™ stand smack in the middle of a pretty interesting (and very GQ-core) trend matrix, as the aggro epitome of weirdo shoe mania, collaboration hyperculture, non-utilitarian utilitarian fashion, and the ever-churning Ye-Demna Industrial Complex—and that’s by design. “I am not interested in anything average, including the average consumer,” Demna told GQ this past fall. “If someone is personally offended by Crocs, there might be a more serious problem within that person than the design of a shoe.” From our 2021 designer of the year, we’d expect nothing less.