Jul 312013



A large part of Rock ‘n Roll has always been the aesthetics of it. There are innumerable takes on what makes for a cool Look, but seldom are those looks based on things like “comfort” or “utility.” That’s not to say that a cool look can’t be comfortable, but rather that comfort is a secondary concern. Even “anti-Looks,” like that of Neil Young are still making a statement. To paraphrase noted Canadian philosopher Geddy Lee, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

As the father of 2 young kids, I spend a fair amount of time at playgrounds and get-togethers and such with other parents who may not have the same priorities when choosing what to wear. Plenty are well dressed, even fashionable, but there is a certain pragmatism that take hold when you are getting dressed for a day to be spent hanging out on the sidelines of a little league field or at the playground.

Which brings me to my question: Which is the most style-free, utilitarian, and therefore least “rock and roll” footwear, Birkenstock or Crocs? If forced to wear one or the other, which would you choose? I recognize this is very much a Hobson’s Choice so rest assured, your answer will not be interpreted as an endorsement of one type of footwear, rather it will be seen and an indictment of the other.

Which is the most style-free, utilitarian, and therefore least “rock and roll” footwear, Birkenstocks or Crocs?

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  24 Responses to “Hobson’s Choice: Footwear of the Dammned”

  1. I’m not sure I am comfortable with your characteristics that lead to the designation of least rock ‘n roll footwear. Crocs have plenty of style, but the style is so bad and so anti-rock ‘n roll that it outweighs the lack of style offered by Birkenstocks. In other words, Crocs are the least rock ‘n roll footwear out there. In fact, I’d go as far as to say they are the least-human footwear available.

  2. Crocs have the same amount of style as Birkenstocks which is to say not much and all of it is bad. But both emphasize utility over looks (and self respect). I’ll bet if you ask someone why they wear Crocs, the first thing they will mention is that you can step in anything and just hose them off to get them clean, as opposed to the fact that they come in so many different colors. They are shoes for people who don’t care what they have on their feet. Sort of like what Nickleback is to music.

  3. Please note that there were two questions above. Although I voted* for Crocs as the most style free utilitarian/un-rock and roll shoe, I would wear them any day before I wore Birkinstocks.

    (* my vote for Crocs was by accident, by the way. I meant to vote for Birkinstocks, but I’m willing to let my vote stand since both choices really are pretty heinous).

  4. Birkinstocks have a constituency. Hippies and jam band fans probably still feel comfortable putting them on before a festival. Crocs are for kids. Maybe Dee-Lite could get away with wearing them, or a teenage Japanese girl pop trio, but not many others. Crocs are least RnR. I don’t think Birks really deserve much criticism as footwear.

  5. 2000 Man

    I have to go with Crocs. I have a pair of black ones, and they have a leather top with a leather shoelace. I got them in a big bin outside a Crocs outlet for five bucks, and if I’d have known how much I would like them, I’d have bought ten pairs. They’re wide, like my feet, and I can walk in water, mud, poo or pretty much anything and a run under a faucet anywhere and they’re back to clean (at least not muddy or pooey). I like Rock N’ Roll a lot, but I’m decidedly uncool and don’t look like Rock N’ Roll at all. I only found out about Birkenstocks because I think The Grateful Dead and their fans all share a few pairs, right? Sucky music deserves sucky shoes? Birkenstocks have that thing between the toes, don’t they? That’s a total deal breaker for me. I can’t stand things between my toes.

    Remember before they made women’s underwear out of dental floss they used to call flip flops “thongs?” I wouldn’t want string in my butt cheeks, either.

  6. ladymisskirroyale

    Ahem, Lady Miss Kier would never have been caught dead in crocs. Unless they had high heels or spangles.

  7. ladymisskirroyale

    Birkenstocks are so anti-cool, they are cool. If you look up images, you can find Usher (!) wearing them, so that must mean something. And as chickenfrank says, they do go with a certain band look. Recently, Birkenstock has been having some fun with their ugly shoe image, and now adding bright colors and interesting patterns. You don’t have to have that thingy between your toes, although there is always the raised bump there.

    Crocs are just comfy lumps of plastic. They are the empty plastic water bottles of shoes; just imagine how long they will take to decompose. To paraphrase Neil Young, crocs will wear out before fading away.

  8. Yes. Shouldn’t have used her as a potential example. She was much cooler than the Croc. There must be someone who likes bright funky clothes and is wearing them ironically. Gaga? Katy Perry?

  9. misterioso

    I am with LMKR’s comments. I wouldn’t and don’t wear either, but I am unoffended by Birkenstocks, really. Whereas I think Crocs suck, for the reasons LMKR offered above and because I am privately convinced (like I am some kind of amateur podiatrist!) that they are terrible for your feet. When I see kids running around in them it makes me wince.

  10. ladymisskirroyale

    I would have suggested Cindy Lauper but since her face lift and latest success with Kinky Boots, she has most likely chucked those colorful kiddie shoes.

  11. ladymisskirroyale

    You will never see children run in Crocs – only shuffle. When the Zombie Apocalypse happens, the zombies will be wearing Crocs.

    BTW, ever since responding to this post, I’ve been getting Zappos ads on the side bar!

  12. I’ve been sitting on this comment for a good 24 hours. I keep thinking I’ll find the right way to phrase this, but all I can come up with is “I’m dismayed by your willingness to wear Crocs over Birkinstock sandals.” I dislike Crocs so much that I would wear Birkinstocks with socks over Crocs without socks. (I’m a big believer in NEVER wearing socks with anything resembling sandals, including “slides,” as the kidz call them and wear them with socks.) For all the faults of Birkenstocks (and I also CAN’T STAND anything with that toe thing, like flip-flops), they are made of leather and wood, real materials. In guitar terms, Birkenstocks are to Crocs as Carvin guitars are to Steinbergers.

  13. This entire thread reminded me of something I wanted to share a month or two ago. A coworker, who is a huge Dinosaur Jr fan, was tempted to buy some special-issue single that was only available if he paid some outrageous price for an accompanying pair of suede, purple hippie shoes. His wife, also a coworker, knew I engaged in some flashier shoe wear, including a love of suede shoes. She proposed that I might want to check out these horrible, suede, purple hippie shoes in case I actually liked them and wanted to split the price of the shoes/special-issue single.

    “How bad can they be,” I asked rhetorically (or so I thought), “I love the color purple and I do have hippie sympathies.”

    Well, she sent me the link, and they were as bad as her husband made them out to be. They were something I would only consider wearing to a Renaissance Faiyre, and I do NOT intend on ever attending a Renaissance Faiyre!

    That said, I’d wear these things before Crocs AND Birkenstocks:


  14. 2000 Man

    What is vegan suede? Made out of people? Like Soylent Green?

  15. I get your point, and while I disagree with it, the last sentence in your post (Birkenstocks = Carvin, Crocs = Steinbergers) is so insightful that I nominate it for Comment of the Year.

  16. While I object to Crocs on grownups (although slightly less that I object to Birkinstocks), I am all in favor of them for kids. And my kids can really run in them. I’m not sure how but they do.

  17. BigSteve

    Crocs? Seriously? I have never been tempted to wear something made out of synthetic foam, at least in public. I wear what I think are called ‘slides’ around the house during the summer, and come to think of it god knows what they’re made of, but when I’m out in the real world I want actual shoes that protect my feet from the elements. I was in several airports last week, and it always aggravates me to get stuck behind someone who is schlepping along in flip-flops. Call me crazy but I wear actual shoes and pants and a shirt when I fly. I guess I’m just never is a situation where I’m about to “step in anything and just hose them off to get them clean.”

  18. Ha! On Gawker today, they have what they are calling “the last and final argument against crocs” and then they posted a picture of Ariel Castro, the Cleveland kidnapper wearing them with his prison jumpsuit. They neglected to post that famous photo of Adolph Hitler wearing Birkinstocks when he went on vacation to the North Sea.


  19. ladymisskirroyale

    The dude does know how to accessorize: matching belt and shoes, nice touch of silver to lighten things up. A good look for him.

  20. God save my soul, on the way out of Sports Authority I made an impulse buy on the way out of a pair of Birk-type shoes (with the over the foot material, no toe-thong) that were ridiculously marked down to $12.

    And now I. Can’t. Stop. Wearing. Them. “Raise that flaaag, Wave it, Flyyy it high!”


  21. Not sure why I repeated “on the way out.” Must’ve been my state of mind reeling through Sports Authority after seeing the price of U5 soccer boots.


  22. ladymisskirroyale

    I will go on the record to say that this household has 4 pairs of Birkenstocks and 1 pair of Crocs…

  23. Never owned crocs or b-stocks, and I was never a fan of “thongs” for my feet (flip flops) …. UNTIL I received a pair of these as a gift several hers ago.


    Even if you lose one flip flop, you can still open your beer of choice because the fine folks at Reef put a bottle opener on BOTH THE LEFT AND THE RIGHT. Genius.

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