Image: Balenciaga
Yes, these hideous heels might have meaning behind them.

On June 7, Balenciaga announced a collaboration with Crocs. Born from it are the infamous “stiletto crocs” and “rain boot crocs”. People all over social media (particularly Twitter) have responded with scorn, incredulity, and laughter.

Some are treating these crocs as a joke or meme. Even news outlets are joining in on the joke, with NPR tweeting out a mocking “CaPitAliSm bReEds InNovAtiOn“.

Others are comparing the stiletto crocs to chocolate-covered cicadas. (Which reportedly taste good and are part of an ongoing trend to normalize alternative protein sources.)

According to a CNN interview, the crocs may sell for as much as $1,000. A Quartz article points out that the selling power of these foam stilettos come not from their fashion appeal, but instead from their ability to differentiate Balenciaga from other high-end fashion labels. Essentially, they’re good marketing. If the stiletto croc’s social media buzz has created as much hype as the first Balenciaga and Crocs collaboration, then these may sell out instantly as well.

These shoes have stolen the show–and social media’s response to them only further perpetuates their supposed meaning.

Balenciaga’s Spring 22 Collection: Meaning and Messages

Like 2021 Cruella’s high-fashion upstages, Balenciaga’s Spring 22 Collection comes with its own message. Stated at the beginning of the video directed by Quentin Deronzier and supported by Deronzier’s artistic choices, Balenciaga Spring 22 tackles how technology enables the illusion of perfection and how that has blurred the lines between fact and fiction.

Balenciaga’s Spring 22 presentation considers our shifting senses of reality through the lens of technology. We see our world through a filter—perfected, polished, conformed, photoshopped. We no longer decipher between unedited and altered, genuine and counterfeit, tangible and conceptual, fact and fiction, fake and deepfake. Technology creates alternate realities and identities, a world of digital clones.

On the surface level, Balenciaga’s crocs already escape the “filter” of perfection. Crocs have long been known as ugly but utilitarian shoes–imperfect and unpolished. Social media’s incredulity, however, has only pushed that idea one step further. Many didn’t believe the news after it was announced; in fact, many have never seen the crocs on an actual person. (The promotional pictures only included side shots of the stiletto crocs and rain boots, after all.)

As CNN aptly reported, the infamous stiletto crocs are barely visible in the Spring 22 looks. In fact, it’s hard to tell whether the clone models of Eliza Douglas are actually wearing stiletto crocs under their long, baggy pants. This is in stark contrast to the stiletto croc’s boot cousins, which were unobscured in 4 out of 44 looks. While this could be the result of the stiletto crocs being too ugly to showcase in a complete outfit, it could also be the artistic choice to juxtapose the more socially acceptable rain boots against the shocking stiletto crocs. With the rain boot crocs in the limelight and the stiletto crocs hidden, the Spring 22 show is a direct contrast to social media’s response. It prompts the question of whether a truth is based in reality or ideas.

To add to this, the “platformed pool slide” crocs advertised in the Spring 22 collection notes are nowhere to be seen.

Balenciaga Crocs 2.0, the second collaboration between the two brands, sees the classic clog made into pumps, boots, and platformed pool slides.

Are these crocs real or part of a marketing gag? Either way, it was smart marketing on Balenciaga designer Demna Gvasalia’s part.