Images via Birkenstock; Aimé Leon Dore

I MUST confess, I am a rubber shoe apologist. Despite the hate they get and divide they cause, there’s no denying these wearable tyres are comfortable, durable and subjectively stylish. As a fan, it will come as no surprise that I’ve worn my way through many pairs. I’ve watched as Crocs entered the zeitgeist and crunchier outdoorsy brands, like Merrell and Chaco, introduced perforated iterations of their own. But recently, a new type of rubber clog has entered the proverbial group chat. Once, this breed of clog collected dust on the shelves of hospitality supply warehouses, but today, you can buy them from fashion temples like Prgrss, Above the Clouds and Ssense. They are cloggier in composition than their predecessors (yes, it’s possible), they contain no holes and they tend to run large.

Ringing any bells?

Like many footwear trends of the past decade, we can trace this development back to the kind, comfort-focused folk at Birkenstock. It was mid-last year when I first noticed people pulling from the German brand’s back catalogue, and emerging with a style known the Super Birki. Endearing, yes. But even I considered them not just objectively ugly, but objectively… purpose-built. The style is quite literally found on the brand’s site under ‘gardening favourites’.

“A highly versatile clog, the Super Birki is useful in many occupational and private settings. Made from oil, grease, dirt and water-resistant polyurethane and washable at up to 60° Celsius making it ideal for the food industry, clinics and gardening,” reads the Birkenstock website. There is no mention of the local wine bar, fashion week or the beach as “ideal” settings. Yet these were the contexts in which I continually spotted this new-age rubber clog.

Were they the affordable alternative to Fear of God’s rubber California ‘loafers’, which broke the internet when they debuted in 2021? Or were we simply ready for an update to the holey Croc silhouette?

In order to understand how this style became so popular in the first place, we have to go back to 2002. It was quite a year: Toby Maguire made his debut as Spider-Man, JT and Britney broke up and most importantly, Crocs were born. At the time, everyone unanimously agreed they were heinous, with only daggy dads as their disciples (having already conquered the also once-heinous chunky sneaker).

By 2006, Crocs were all the rage, having been begrudgingly and then increasingly enthusiastically accepted by the public if not for their style, then at least for their comfort. They became the ultimate off-duty shoe — even Kate Middleton and George Bush each had a pair — replacing the Ugg boot as the celebrity set’s favourite questionable comfort shoe. For ten long years, clogs were little more than that. Yes, they were the questionable comfort shoe, but they were still confined to last-minute grocery runs, hung-over breakfasts and pre-footy training car rides. It wasn’t until 2017 that fashion got in on the joke: Thanks to Christopher Kane’s crystal-covered redesign, and Balenciaga’s blinged-out collaboration with the brand, the clogs-aissance was well underway.

Perhaps the fashionable uprising of clogs was cemented in 2019, when Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) teamed up with Steven Smith to release Yeezy’s famous Foam Runner. Upon release, the shoe was compared to everything, from (naturally) Crocs to a colander to a hospital shoe cover. Regardless, the shoe — priced around AU$110 — became one of the year’s must-have items and was reportedly selling for two to three times its retail price on resale sites. You can call Ye a lot of things (really, go ahead), but behind the curve is not one of them.

Throughout the pandemic, comfort shoes (well, comfort everything) became the go-to. If you worked from home and tied a single shoe lace for anything other than a run, you’re most definitely lying. So when sneakers, loafers and boots are deemed redundant, what shoe do we turn to for nipping to the bin or trotting to the beach — something more robust than thongs, but lower effort than sneakers? You guessed it: clogs.

Gen Z then helped bring the shoe into a new decade, which isn’t surprising given their penchant for so-gaudy-it’s-good clothing (we regret to inform you that Ugg boots, speed dealer sunglasses and ‘soccer casual’ styles are also back). In 2020, rubber clogs entered The Lyst Index for the first time, with the Grateful Dead x Chinatown Market x Crocs tie-dye clogs debuting at number nine in Q3 (the foam runners would debut at number one in the rankings exactly a year later). The 2020 Emmy’s would see Succession star Nicholas Braun take to the red carpet in a Paul Smith x Crocs pair.

Which brings us to this new flavour of mule — the Super Birki silhouette. Like most trends, the rubber clog movement is an evolving one, and right now, we’re in the throes of chef shoe heaven (as for how real chefs feel about this, I can only imagine the feeling is akin to how workmen felt when Carhartt went mainstream).

Just this week, Crocs dropped its own version of the hole-less style. Dubbed the Dylan Clog, it’s more streamlined than a conventional Croc, but the volume hasn’t been sacrificed — it’s as if the Super Birki and California Loafer had a child. Even New York’s most lined-up-for store Aimé Leon Dore has its own pair of ‘garden clogs’. As does Prada and Adidas Originals.

If history is to be trusted, it’s only a matter of time before cool people everywhere trade their pocked numbers for these slick, closed in versions. If you’ve held off joining the trend, now might be the time.