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What a Croc

What a nerd wears says a lot about his style

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A few weeks ago, at an industry meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas, I encountered an editor from another alternative paper in Colorado (the one we borrowed the accompanying story from) and we had a conversation about Crocs. Apparently, I--feeling quite nerdy in my Crocs but with a devil-may-care attitude--was unknowingly on the cutting edge of fashion. Everyone wanted to look at my Crocs. "How do they feel?" "Do you like them?" "What the hell did you do to them?" I was asked many questions.

Last Labor Day, at the Burning Man festival in the desert two hours north of Reno, I noticed that I was not alone in my desire to wear these ugly shoes. They--along with the Willy Wonka goggles--were the hot fashion item on the playa this year. In a variety of colors, you could match any costume. The shoes also allow your feet to breathe and the dust to settle out through the ventilation ports. They are also comfortable and the playa dust didn't stick so much to the god-knows-what material these creatures are made of. While relaxing in the shade one day, a playa vixen came up to me after noticing my size 13, black Crocs and told me she had started a Croc-Mod camp.

"What the heck is a Croc-Mod?" I asked.

I then noticed her Crocs, which, because of the numerous holes, ventilation ports and ability of the material to be pierced, had been decorated with all sorts of interesting items.

"Just a sec," I said running back to my trailer to find the little spiked collar studs (the kind you typically find on a pit-bull collar) that Jennifer from Neonephthys had given me. I pierced the top of my Crocs and I instantly had an Über-fashion statement going on (see picture). It wasn't over-the-top decoration, but hey, I was going for the minimalist look.

I never intended to wear Crocs as my main, go-to shoe. In fact, when I bought them, I envisioned a garden shoe that could be hosed off. For the longest time, they sat in the closet. Then, one fine spring day while looking for gardening gloves, I rediscovered them. Slipping them on, I proudly went into the garden, not caring that the plants would see my feet. My first attempt at putting my foot on a shovel made me realize that these shoes were not for my kind of gardening. I might as well have been barefoot as I hobbled back into the house for some steel-toed shoes. Back in the closet they went, where they stayed.

Then one late summer day when my annual gout flare-up occurred and regular shoes were too painful on my swollen foot, the Crocs made one final exodus from the closet. I needed room. I needed air for my big toe. Now, rarely a day goes by that I don't wear them. With socks or without (they make a nice squeak when worn without), in the rain or not, with the heel strap down or up, I am addicted to them. I might have to find some waterproof socks for when the snow comes, though.

Years before, sometime in the early '90s, I recall having a similar addiction to a pair of shoes. Only then, it was Birkenstocks, another ugly shoe that I didn't care what people thought of because they felt so good on my feet. I also remember in college, after returning from a backpacking trip in Europe, obsessively wearing a Greek fisherman's cap every day for about a year until someone threw it away. I also remember in high school wearing the same light-blue windbreaker every day. Yeah, you could call me a nerd about the clothes I wear. What are you gonna do about it?