What Happened: Once believed to be the antithesis of fashion — Victoria Beckham said she’d rather die than wear them — the chunky Crocs Classic Clog is now at the heart of a cultural phenomenon led by young Gen Z consumers.
The ‘clogcore’ movement is making waves on the Chinese internet. On Xiaohongshu, topics such as ‘holey shoes,’ ‘Crocs,’ and ‘DIY holey shoes’ have been viewed 260 million, 150 million, and nearly 100 million times, respectively. Netizens have even invented slang to express their enthusiasm for the shoes, invented in 2002. Many young girls, fans of the slip-on brand, have proclaimed they’ve “entered the cave” (加入洞门), a phrase which refers to the clogcore trend.
Crocs’ latest financial report confirms the popularity of the shoes in the country. In Q1 2023, the company’s revenue in China grew by more than 110 percent year on year. Artisan Partners, an investment management company, forecasts that Crocs’ revenue growth will continue to surprise to the upside, driven by expansion outside the US.
North America is Crocs’ primary market, accounting for 61 percent of its total revenue, while Asia generates 20 percent. The Colorado-headquartered footwear firm has announced plans to accelerate distribution in Asia with the goal of achieving 25 percent of its sales there by 2026. But can China sustain Crocs’ ambition?
The Jing Take: The rise of the Crocs Classic Clog in China can be traced back to the pandemic. As people prioritized stay-home comfortability over formality, the lightweight slip-on mules rapidly gained momentum. Additionally, domestic style icons, such as Yang Mi, Bai Jingting, and Ouyang Nana, were seen sporting the shoes, contributing to their skyrocketing popularity.
Another reason the iconic shoes have recently emerged as a fashionable item among young consumers is their customizability. Owners have been accessorizing the clogs with charms pinned in the holes of the slip-ons, which quickly grabbed Gen Z’s attention as a tool to express their personality and individuality.
Chanel-style Crocs, embellished with pearls and tweed ribbons; M&M-style Crocs, with chocolate chips fulfilling the holes; and McDonald’s-style Crocs, decorated with French fries and McNuggets are just a few examples of the thousands of style suggestions on Xiaohongshu. Anyone can create their own unique pair of clogs and change the charms according to their daily outfit or mood.
This is prime example of how a niche category can become a mainstream hit among Gen Z because of personalization. The DIY trend has recaptured young Chinese shoppers’ interests. Nonetheless, Crocs faces a big challenge expanding its market share in China — a cheaper version is available on Alibaba’s e-commerce platform, priced at under than $7 (50 RMB), a tenth of the Classic Clogs’ price. Consolidating its reputation and building loyalty will be crucial for the business to build on its products’ popularity in China.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.