How To Make Millions Selling Ugly Shoes

Published by 40 Comments

crocsWould you buy a pair of ugly shoes just because they were comfortable? That’s the question that Crocs inventors Lyndon “Duke” Hanson, Scott Seamans, and George Boedecker asked themselves when they set out to create a lightweight and extremely comfortable shoe. I personally would never be able to go without my Crocs again. These things are beyond amazing and if you don’t have them… your feet may never forgive you.

Crocs were originally created to be an outdoor/boating/watersports type shoe because of their rubber build, light weight, and the fact that they float. But instead, mainstream society has taken to these shoes like bees to honey. They have become the overwhelming success story of the 2006-2007 fiscal year.

But how does an ugly and inexpensive shoe take the world by storm? Let’s look closer.

In 2004 Crocs started to create some buzz in the watersport community as a comfortable and lightweight boating shoe. Later that year, Crocs purchased Foam Creations and their manufacturing operations to secure exclusive rights to the foam resin called “croslite” which actually forms a mold to the wearers foot, which provides a comfortable and functional shoe.

Crocs began marketing their product to the outdoor community but eventually word got out about their odd creation. Deciding to push their luck, the creators agreed to give their shoes a test run on the east and west coasts, and allow distributors to carry their footwear.

It didn’t take long for these odd, yet comfortable shoes to catch on to the masses. Crocs blew up in 2006 and has become the leading “sandal” in the world. Crocs projected profits for next year? A cool 400 million. Not bad for a product that started out as a rubber and foam mixture.

About Bryan Clark

Bryan Clark is a professional writer, blog editor and evangelist. He has contributed to leading news properties and blogs in tech, entrepreneurship, finance, and the digital lifestyle. Bryan has earned features on Problogger, Entrepreneurs-Journey and USA Today. Bryan works with Growth Partner, a venture fund and startup platform for web businesses.

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40 Comments

  • Yaro,

    Great post as I wasn’t aware of the history of Crocs! I can completely agree with you about not ever giving them up, they are amazingly comfortable shoes and my feet would rebel against me if I were to ever get rid of them.

    Thanks for the history lesson!

  • These things are all over the UK! Especially the bright pink variety! I think they’re hideous! I had no idea they were comfortable – they don’t look it at all!

    I would wear them for a rocky beach, but not if I wanted to look cool :D

  • haha… I had no idea they were that big a success. Every time I see someone wearing them I laugh because they shoes are always bright colours that never go with the clothes they wear. No matter how comfy they were I wouldn’t wear them!

  • They’re huge here in Israel too. I’m with Caroline on this one though … they’re just so ugly.

    I’m curious to see what the company can do to extend the brand, so that they become a lasting phenomenon rather than a short-term fashion trend. I can definitely see how, in a couple of years, they could look “so 2007″.

  • I can all these shoes in Malaysian markets as well although not every one of them are from Crocs.

    With all the people wearing it, I followed suit and bought myself one to wear around the apartment compound where I stayed.

  • I can’t imagine wearing them. It seems like your feet would sweat and you would slide around in them. Gross.

  • Hey Caroline,

    You ought to try them sometime. :-) Even though they look so uncool, they aren’t too bad after a while and they are just soooo comfy.

  • I was at a training seminar for my day job a month ago and the main speaker/instructor was wearing bright orange crocs with his pleated pants and button down shirt. The orange happened to match his company logo color exactly.

  • My aunt bought a pair of these, I think in 2005 and tried to get me to get a pair. I was hooked on my rainbows and still am. They are very comfortable sandals if you have never heard of them.

  • These things are hideous, I laugh every time I see them. I guess the creators are laughing all the way to the bank. This is a great success story. I didn’t know how comfortable they are supposed to be, I may try a pair next summer.

  • I have never tried these sandals before but I have seen them at the stores. I had no idea they were that comfortable.

    I should give it a try. Also this shows that looks aren’t the only thing that appeals to the consumers, sometimes comfort of a product can be the only reason for a product to soar high as well.

  • Melanie Langenhan

    Yaro, I’ve never seen Crocs or heard about them. What a great stuff and a even greater story! I would wear those shoes, but only at home :-)

    Melanie

  • I have a feeling they could have become a craze even if they weren’t extraordinarily comfortable, for the same reason the original Scion xB was so popular. I think people like ugly things sometimes just because they’re different.

  • There was a great 2-3 page article about Crocs last year(I believe Nov) in the now extinct Business 2.0 magazine.

    About the fad and colors, they also come in traditional colors such as black and brown. I happen to have 2 pairs and love’em. Once you try them on, you won’t want to be without them.

    They’re also coming out with all kinds of different styles. Some of them are actually quite dressy. Then there are the camo styled, which happen to look cool. There are also slipper styles, flip-flops and now they’re coming out with Crocs clothing(I learned about that on The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch), so these people plan on becoming more than just a fad and I have a feeling they’ll have no problem doing so.

    Crocs Rock!

  • Yaro, I said the very same thing the first time I saw Crocs. But, they are the most comfortable shoes I ever had. If you don’t have Crocs yet, shutdown your computer and go get some at the nearest store.

  • I have to agree. I couldn’t live without my Crocs. Glad you guys liked the article!

  • I have friends who bought the crocs about a year ago. I have always found them funny looking reminding me those big clown boots. My friends told me they were really comfortable, however I just resist buying them just for the reason that everybody has them. Wherever I go I see someone wearing the crocs and the more I see them the less I want them.

  • Stop resisting Robert. :)

  • Nice post! Here in my country (Colombia) we have a proverb: “I love this as my old shoes”, because old shoes are very comfortable and it doesn’t matter if they are not pretty. So, according to this post, now we could say: “I love this as my ugly shoes”.

  • I wonder if all those crocs I’ve seen around contribute to the profit of the rights holder. The first time I saw them, I was like, “Chinese?”

  • [...] reasons why we live so comfortably now is because I am an information freak. Yaro wrote a post How To Make Millions Selling Ugly Shoes and it goes a long ways to show exactly how something so small in this world can bring you more [...]

  • I’ve never had a pair of the actual brand name Crocs, just the generic Wal-Mart kind… Is there any difference? My pseudo-crocs got smelly and dirty pretty fast. Maybe if I had bought the real thing I would have been happier with them. I guess you get what you pay for.

  • Once again… Great post.
    I am a Photographer here in fort Lauderdale, Florida ( http://www.paulopics.com/blog ). Maybe it would be a good idea to try one to go to the beach.
    I’ve never tried one before, as you said… they are ugly.

    Paulo

  • [...] doing my profile of the business team behind the lightweight slippers known to the world as Crocs, I managed to [...]

  • Pretty good article, Yaro and for sure a great example of how we humans perceive things. If anyone is reading who wants to market something new you can get an excellent example of the stages of market “take up” from some of the comments.

    Notice how many make the comment “I haven’t trued them but I won’t” … there’s the key … you will find very few who say “I tried them but I don’t like them”. So the real key is how to get them on someone’s feet, just once. When I first saw them Iluaghed and thought, “No way for me, ever”. Then I wore them once and will never be without them. The key to marketing an unusual product is getting the potential buyer to give it that first try.

    Crocs are now a very frequently pirated and “ripped off” product as well … a sure sign the brand has taken off. Manolo may not love them and Jimmy Choo may not be losing sleep, but all over the world people are “voting with their feet.”

  • I’ve read that these shoes are very popular. Although, I don’t wear them I’ve seen plenty of people wearing them here in Atlanta, GA. Also, I’ve read reports that some children have had their feet stuck in escalators because of these shoes. But, maybe those are just isolated cases. The shoes continue to be extremely popular.

  • Great story. I would never buy these personally, because I do think that they are ugly, and have some terrible colors.

    But, now that I know they have “croslite” which is similar in some respects to “Viscolase” a slow recovery foam, I might just give them a second look.

    I thought that the soles of these “ugly” shoes” were just an inflexible rubber material, with no cushion whatsoever.

    Robert C..

  • Designer handbags and crappy shoes. Big, ugly but popular hence everybody buys them. Some ‘weak’ people need to stand out and a pair of green ugly shoes will do the trick.

    There are two reasons I would never buy these:
    1. They are so uuuuugly and those colors look like a popular rainbow.
    2. Everybody has them and I’m not a follower. I’m not gonna wear the same (uuuuuuglyyyyyyy) shoes as 9 tenth of the world even if they walk alone and I just float.

  • [...] Starak tells us “How to Make Millions Selling Ugly Shoes“.  I understand that they have fur-lined ones now for [...]

  • John

    Why wear comfortable shoes even though they’re ugly? I don’t know, but it makes more sense than wearing good-looking but agonising footwear, and there’s a ridiculous number of people who do that…

  • I can attest that these shoes are indeed very popular. I’ve seen my friends wear them. And this is a small town somewhere in Sumatra, Indonesia.

  • alan

    what a load of croc!!!

  • I think these shoes are so light and comfortable that people ignore the fact that they aren’t cute. But when you’re just relaxing at home or going on a serious shopping spree these are a good pair of shoes.

  • Yaro,

    I just came across this post about crocs shoes – My wife thought it was ugly, but then, some ‘magic’ appeal of it kept pulling my wife to bought one! :D

    Interesting snip of crocs’ history – a boating shoes? That’s how to explain why great things happen from a small ‘eureka’ moment!

    Cheers, Yaro!

  • CAROL KURPIEL

    I have spurs in my heel bottoms and have been in physical therapy for them.
    I don’t want surgery, so I have adopted a pair of crocs as advised by my Ortho. P.A.
    Now I have to have them at my bedside, so I can get to the bathroom in the night with no pain. So therefore, not only are they my all the time shoes, they are my slippers as well.

    Can’t make it without my crocs.

  • I love Crocs. I thought they were ugly, too – then I bought my first pair – and they’re great!

  • [...] 1. People have made fortunes selling and making SHOES : How to make money selling UGLY SHOES? [...]

  • A

    I guess I’m one of the few that have tried them and find that they aren’t as comfy as everyone says they are? My mom swears by them though, but my sister and I made her swear to never wear them out except for when she’s gardening or has to make a quick trip to the grocery store.

    I honestly like my 1.5″ platform sandals way more – waaaaay more comfy, they’re super cute, and not everybody wears them! And they’ve got a slight heel, about 1.5″.

  • it is really nice collection of good info,,,,keep it up….

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