I hated Crocs more than anyone, but just one visit to its store helped me understand why the brand is doing so well

Crocs wall of little crocsShoshy Ciment/Business Insider

  • Like it or not, Crocs are here to stay.
  • The company has sold more than 300 million pairs of shoes since 2002 and recently reported a 14% revenue increase in its second quarter.
  • But people still have strong opinions about the shoes that seem to break every rule of fashion.
  • I visited a Crocs store in Manhattan to see why the company is doing so well. What I saw made me change my mind about one of the world's most divisive shoes.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

You either love them or hate them. But odds are, you've got an opinion about them.

Crocs are the shoes that everyone loves to hate - or hates to love. The comfort-focused clogs are divisive, to say the least.

When they first launched in 2002, they skyrocketed in popularity, becoming one of the most recognizable shoes in existence.

Since then, over 300 million pairs of Crocs have sold in 90 countries. But the ubiquity and hype of the clogs have not stopped critics from lashing out. As a writer for Slate put it, "A Croc is not a shoe; it is a Tinkertoy on steroids."

Read more: I ordered the same items from Amazon and Walmart to see which would do one-day shipping better - but both had issues

Today, you can get crocs in almost every style for every occasion, from weddings to Pride. There have even been Crocs-inspired handbags and Crocs with miniature fanny packs attached to them. The recently viral Crocs-inspired gloves created by a fan garnered a tremendous amount of attention, and not all of it was positive.

But despite the hate, there is no denying that Crocs are here to stay.

"Demand for our product is strong and our brand heat is rising," said Crocs President and CEO Andrew Rees in its second-quarter earnings call in August. Crocs reported better than expected gross margins and revenue growth of approximately 14% over the same period last year when controlled for currency and store closures.

That makes a full four quarters of double-digit organic revenue growth for the brand.

I went to a Manhattan Crocs store to try and understand what all the hype was about. Though I walked in a Crocs-skeptic, I emerged a die-hard fan, fully understanding why the brand has been doing so well.

Here's why I changed my mind about the world's most divisive shoe:

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I headed over to a Crocs store on Manhattan's bustling 34th Street.

I headed over to a Crocs store on Manhattan's bustling 34th Street.

Before I entered the store, I took a deep breath. I had a pair of light blue Crocs when I was a kid, but I had since grown skeptical of the odd-looking shoes.

Before I entered the store, I took a deep breath. I had a pair of light blue Crocs when I was a kid, but I had since grown skeptical of the odd-looking shoes.

Still, I tried to walk in with an open mind. Crocs' sales are soaring and I wanted to see why.

Still, I tried to walk in with an open mind. Crocs' sales are soaring and I wanted to see why.

The first thing I saw in the store was this massive mural of the Statue of Liberty, which fit nicely in the New York City store.

The first thing I saw in the store was this massive mural of the Statue of Liberty, which fit nicely in the New York City store.

Upon closer inspection, I realized that the mural was actually made of child-sized Crocs.

Upon closer inspection, I realized that the mural was actually made of child-sized Crocs.

This extraordinary design element was an immediate draw and super interesting — well-played, Crocs.

This extraordinary design element was an immediate draw and super interesting — well-played, Crocs.

A sign in the front of the store affirmed that "classics never go out of style." Judging by the clog maker's success, this mantra seemed to be true. But I would have to see it to believe it.

A sign in the front of the store affirmed that "classics never go out of style." Judging by the clog maker's success, this mantra seemed to be true. But I would have to see it to believe it.

I always thought that "Rocking Crocs" was a sarcastic phrase, but this store seemed to own it. This marketing technique worked surprisingly well.

I always thought that "Rocking Crocs" was a sarcastic phrase, but this store seemed to own it. This marketing technique worked surprisingly well.

In fact, the whole marketing campaign in the store seemed to zone in on owning the Crocs stigma and being yourself. Crocs are the epitome of going against the grain and this store was celebrating that. I started to forget the stigma of Crocs almost immediately upon entry.

In fact, the whole marketing campaign in the store seemed to zone in on owning the Crocs stigma and being yourself. Crocs are the epitome of going against the grain and this store was celebrating that. I started to forget the stigma of Crocs almost immediately upon entry.

Another sign was advertising how a specific shoe uses certain materials to maximize comfort and feel. However they may look, Crocs are certainly comfort-focused and I couldn't argue with that.

Another sign was advertising how a specific shoe uses certain materials to maximize comfort and feel. However they may look, Crocs are certainly comfort-focused and I couldn't argue with that.

I was surprised to see so many different styles of Crocs on display at the front of the store. It looked like the brand had come a long way since I was a kid. I didn't remember nearly this many models or styles.

I was surprised to see so many different styles of Crocs on display at the front of the store. It looked like the brand had come a long way since I was a kid. I didn't remember nearly this many models or styles.

These Crocs slides looked pretty comfortable.

These Crocs slides looked pretty comfortable.

And so did these flip-flops.

And so did these flip-flops.

Of course, there was a whole wall of the classic Crocs available in practically every color.

Of course, there was a whole wall of the classic Crocs available in practically every color.

These patriotic clogs were going for about $40 dollars.

These patriotic clogs were going for about $40 dollars.

We found a whole section of Crocs accessories to personalize our shoes. They seemed pretty cute, plus there was a "buy two, get the third free" deal, so it seemed worth it.

We found a whole section of Crocs accessories to personalize our shoes. They seemed pretty cute, plus there was a "buy two, get the third free" deal, so it seemed worth it.

Overall, the first floor was filled with basically every style of Crocs that could possibly exist. We found everything from winter Crocs lined with warm insulation ...

Overall, the first floor was filled with basically every style of Crocs that could possibly exist. We found everything from winter Crocs lined with warm insulation ...

... to stylish ballet flats ...

... to stylish ballet flats ...

... to Crocs sneakers.

... to Crocs sneakers.

We even found Crocs high heels, which was probably the biggest surprise. They still looked super comfortable.

We even found Crocs high heels, which was probably the biggest surprise. They still looked super comfortable.

My assumptions about Crocs were already fading away. Some of the shoes in the store were barely recognizable as the clogs I had grown to dislike. In fact, some of them even looked stylish.

My assumptions about Crocs were already fading away. Some of the shoes in the store were barely recognizable as the clogs I had grown to dislike. In fact, some of them even looked stylish.

I slowly began to understand the main appeal of the brand: comfort. The clog maker infuses comfortable material and technology into all of its shoes, even the more formal designs.

I slowly began to understand the main appeal of the brand: comfort. The clog maker infuses comfortable material and technology into all of its shoes, even the more formal designs.

I was surprised at how appealing the comfort factor was — I even began to overlook the design I had initially found off-putting.

I was surprised at how appealing the comfort factor was — I even began to overlook the design I had initially found off-putting.

The store was filled with people of all ages. I saw a range of people, from kids and teenagers to adults and people over 60. And this was no surprise — Crocs had options for every age group.

The store was filled with people of all ages. I saw a range of people, from kids and teenagers to adults and people over 60. And this was no surprise — Crocs had options for every age group.

Almost fully swayed, I traveled upstairs to check out the second floor of the store.

Almost fully swayed, I traveled upstairs to check out the second floor of the store.

Here, I found a massive selection of Crocs for children in various sizes and styles.

Here, I found a massive selection of Crocs for children in various sizes and styles.

There was even a handy floor design to help kids find the correct sizes.

There was even a handy floor design to help kids find the correct sizes.

I also found what seemed like a design center for kids to personalize their own crocs with assorted accessories.

I also found what seemed like a design center for kids to personalize their own crocs with assorted accessories.

There seemed to be shoes for kids with every taste. I found a generous selection of Disney-themed styles.

There seemed to be shoes for kids with every taste. I found a generous selection of Disney-themed styles.

In the clearance section, I found even more models. Many of them were variations on the classic Crocs clog.

In the clearance section, I found even more models. Many of them were variations on the classic Crocs clog.

These Pride Crocs caught my eye right away.

These Pride Crocs caught my eye right away.

I don't have kids, but I could understand the appeal of Crocs for a youngster. The comfortable shoes can easily be put on or taken off, and they can withstand a bunch of different terrains, including water.

I don't have kids, but I could understand the appeal of Crocs for a youngster. The comfortable shoes can easily be put on or taken off, and they can withstand a bunch of different terrains, including water.

Plus, there were even some dressier options for kids as well, making Crocs a great choice for every occasion.

Plus, there were even some dressier options for kids as well, making Crocs a great choice for every occasion.

Though I didn't buy anything in the store this time, my opinion about the divisive shoe had certainly been altered.

Though I didn't buy anything in the store this time, my opinion about the divisive shoe had certainly been altered.

I followed the bright signs back downstairs and out of the store. As I left, I mulled over the idea of getting a pair of my own classic clogs and realized why the brand is doing so well.

I followed the bright signs back downstairs and out of the store. As I left, I mulled over the idea of getting a pair of my own classic clogs and realized why the brand is doing so well.

The comfort appeal and the "owning yourself" marketing makes Crocs feel like a club you want to be a part of. And with its low prices and inclusive tactics, membership is more than attainable.

The comfort appeal and the "owning yourself" marketing makes Crocs feel like a club you want to be a part of. And with its low prices and inclusive tactics, membership is more than attainable.

To avoid any serious impulse buys I could have regretted later on, I left the store with no shoes in hand. But there's no denying I caught Crocs-fever, and a purchase is practically inevitable. Stay tuned.

To avoid any serious impulse buys I could have regretted later on, I left the store with no shoes in hand. But there's no denying I caught Crocs-fever, and a purchase is practically inevitable. Stay tuned.
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