UGGs, Crocs and slippers put their stamp on work-from-home wardrobe


Hands up if you wear heels or formal shoes as often as you did 15 months ago.

NOTHING UGGLY ABOUT COMFORT: UGGs are the new heels, thanks to Covid-19.
Image: FILE

No takers?

That is no surprise as, during the coronavirus pandemic, sales of comfortable footwear such as Crocs, UGGs, takkies and slippers have soared.

They may not be glam but they are the new work-from-home uniform as thousands of workers transition their feet to soft, cushioned comfort.

US market research group NPD said sales of fashion shoes had declined sharply during Covid-19.

“[But] consumers began prioritising comfort well before 2020.

“In fact, fashion footwear [particularly dress shoes] had been losing share to more comfort-orientated and athleisure categories for years, aligning with similar trends in apparel,” NPD accessories and footwear analyst Beth Goldstein said in a blog forecast.

During the pandemic, she wrote, sales of slippers were on track to grow 50% for the year and brands like UGG, Crocs and Birkenstock were “bright spots in an otherwise tough year for footwear”.

In March, Goldstein said further that any increase in dress-shoe sales would be “occasion-based”, with surges short-lived.

Along with stretchy pants, slip-on footwear has become part of the work-from-home uniform and may be a trend to outlast the pandemic.

In SA, the picture is the same, with retail shop windows full of loungewear and sneakers, and slippers outnumbering stilettos on the shelves.

It is a trend long in the making.

From Pamela Anderson wearing UGGs with her red Baywatch cozzie in the 1990s, to supermodel Irina Shayk stomping about in a Barbie-pink pair in 2020, the casual Australian surfer boots known as UGGs have been in favour, if not in fashion, for decades.

As the New York Times put it, these slipper-soft boots have become “part of the uniform of a certain upwardly mobile consumer with bland bourgeoisie taste”.

However, fashion designers have been reinventing UGGs, as with trendsetting British designer Molly Goddar’s shaggy slippers at her spring 2021 show.

American designer Telfar Clemens is another, and will be releasing a range of patchwork UGGs in 2022.

Though original UGGs will set SA consumers back anything from R1,500 upwards, you can find cheaper versions in our budget chain stores for between R100 and R200 a pair.

The New York Times has also reported on the surge in Crocs sales.

In September, it noted, a special-edition pair of Crocs released in collaboration with Latin pop star Bad Bunny went on sale at noon.

Within 16 minutes, they were sold out.

Designs the company created with the Grateful Dead and Post Malone — a long-time Crocs collaborator — all sold out within an hour.

Other recent Crocs collaborations, including one with KFC, have been as popular and in 2020 sales were up 48%.

Crocs president Michelle Poole has been reported as saying she wants the firm’s footwear to give wearers a “come as you are” welcome and has notably referred to Crocs as a Marmite brand.

That is because, like the tangy spread, Crocs tend to be an item you either love or hate.

Over Covid-19, people have been tucking into Marmite footwear so we have to ask, what is next — the return of the stokie?



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