7 min

Crocs & Birkenstock: unexpected best-sellers

The first Birkenstock shoes were launched in 1963, with comfort as their only selling point. Sixty years later, comfort is still the main selling point – but that didn’t stop the brand from being bought by LVMH in 2021.

Crocs has done collaborations with Justin Bieber and Lego, to drop some big names. The classic model has also been redesigned by Balenciaga and sold for €500, making its place in luxury fashion. Apparently an ugly object, worn by an elite, suddenly becomes socially acceptable – and ultimately desirable.

“Ugly” is the symbol of taste and transformation, the symbol of rejecting beauty diktats and the injunctions to perfection. Ugly… A return to the roots of all things? A search for authenticity? Or simply another fad?

Let’s zoom in on bad taste as a new battlefield of expression.


Crocs and Birkenstock: France and the UK focus on comfort

In France, Birkenstock is one of the top 15 best-selling brands, ahead of New Balance and Reebok. The brand’s market share has increased over the last two years, while Adidas is losing ground.

In the UK, Crocs has seen its market share increase fivefold in just two years. Since the pandemic, comfort is (even more) important than aesthetics. The market shares of some brands have exploded during the health crisis.

With the imposed restrictions and the obligation to isolate at home, many took up puzzles, crocheting and plant cutting… feet snuggled up in their Crocs. Since then, the pandemic has stopped but the need for comfort continues – Crocs seem to be here for good.

The brand has also collaborated with Lego, Justin Bieber and Balenciaga: the functional shoe has become an object of desire.

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“Ugly,” a symbol of counter-culture

Aspirations have changed. We want authenticity, originality, laissez-faire – not beauty that is considered too standardised, too rigid. On Tiktok, the beauty brands no longer have the power: it is the users themselves who create the new make-up trends, which the brands then draw inspiration from to design their collections.

Trying different things, daring to wear clothes and accessories considered “ugly” or ostentatious, is a form of reappropriation and emancipation.

These convictions are expressed through the typology of Crocs and Birkenstock buyers: they are mainly millennials. Gen Y makes up at least 40% of Birkenstock and Crocs buyers. They carry the trophy in France: 55% of Crocs purchases and 54% of Birkenstock online purchases are made by millennials.

Birkenstock buyers are predominantly female, especially in France and the UK. Men represent only 33% of the buyers.

In Spain, 63% of Crocs purchases are made by men.



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An opportunity for brands: from Monoprix “ugly fruit and vegetables” to Lidl Christmas jumpers

Ugly has become a sales technique, a marketing trend. Consumers looking for authenticity are turning their backs on perfect-perfect advertisements and photoshopped campaigns. One of the pioneers was Monoprix with its anti-waste food campaign. Body positivity, fruit and veggie style.

Brands that embellish reality no longer have the upper hand

Victoria Secret declared bankruptcy in 2019, shortly after its “The perfect body” campaign. After 4 years of absence, it seems that a new fashion show is planned for 2023. The teaser on the brand’s Twitter account: a silhouette with shapes.

An inclusiveness that would have been more welcome if it had not followed the bankruptcy of the brand.

Tacky and cheesy take the stage

Lidl understood the assignment. Its Christmas trainers, flip-flops and jumpers go like hotcakes every time they are released. They sell out in just a few days, and are then sold at a premium on Vinted and Ebay.

The brand, which has long been associated with end of the month struggles, is making its way into pop-culture and playing with the rules of how things are done. Rarity is usually associated with luxury, so this is a symbolic revenge for Lidl.

Discount brands have lost their stigma and are growing in popularity.

Forcing brands towards authenticity

As a result of the “ugly” trend / rejection of perfection, brands are focusing on transparency, ethics, sustainability and authenticity; values that are closer to buyers’ expectations, which contribute to reinventing beauty standards – and to normalising them.

Promoting the “ugly,” glorifying the normal, putting cheesy on the pedestal – it’s more than a way of consuming, it’s a political message, a symbol of consumer emancipation.

Why is ugly fashionable? Because the beautiful is simply no longer beautiful.

➡️ Read our shoes market study.


companies use Foxintelligence daily to understand everything about their market, their competitors and their customers thanks to our panel of +5M e-shoppers.

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