A love-hate thing

They may be ugly, but Crocs are great for the garden

"Be careful what you laugh at because you may one day covet it," goes the saying I have coined, in the hope of leashing in my intolerance of things I do not understand or agree with but might one day find myself embracing.

I think of this every time I put on my Crocs. Crocs are terrifically ugly, bulb-toed, synthetic clogs with holes on the top (well, depending on the model - the Endeavor is a closed-top version for "all weathers"). Crocs were born in 2003, but really started to be worn over here with vigorous relish two summers ago. They are hideous, and come in mostly terrifying colours such as orange and bright, child-attracting pink. Even the purple, which you think and hope would provide you with a sophisticated, muted and discreet option, is in reality the worst shade of lilac/violet it is possible to have ever mixed in a plastics factory. So how did I find myself owning two pairs (navy and olive Caymans, less bulgy-toed versions of the original Beach model)?

It was the fault of the garden. When you have a garden, as I now do, and find that the previous owners were insane enough to lay cream carpets throughout the entire house (no doubt in order to sell it), you need shoes that you can slip on and off easily to go outside and relinquish when you come back indoors. These shoes also need to be waterproof, easy to clean and non-slip. If you can actually hose them down, too, well, that's a super-bonus. It's not very easy to find something that ticks all these boxes, yet Crocs do. Except, of course, the holes in the top do let dew in of a morning, but somehow this doesn't matter.

You can shove Crocs in the washing machine and they float, though that is only really of importance if you plan to dangle your feet off a boat over a deep, deep sea. Crocs are also perfect for little ones, on the beach and by the swimming pool, and certain styles do indeed come in teeny tiny sizes. Despite the blurb, however, Crocs, in my experience, do make your feet sweat.

In terms of fashion, Crocs have completely overtaken Birkenstocks which, while wonderful (I have a pair, of course), were a little bit worthy and serious in comparison to the silliness of these plastic clogs. But Crocs are not cheap: £30 a pair. This where Gumbies come in; they're half the price. I'm struggling to see the dif ference and only wish I had discovered Gum bies before shelling out so much for my Crocs.

You can also buy funny little accessories to clip into the holes on your plastic clogs. This fad I have thus far managed to resist. I've also retained some sense of my original reluctance about Crocs (they really are the Marmite of footwear) by never wearing them beyond the confines of my garden. I wonder what else I hate that I'll end up wearing next. What an adventure life is.

Annalisa Barbieri was in fashion PR for five years before going to the Observer to be fashion assistant. She has worked for the Evening Standard and the Times and was one of the fashion editors on the Independent on Sunday for five years, where she wrote the Dear Annie column. She was fishing correspondent of the Independent from 1997-2004.

This article first appeared in the 16 July 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Chavez: from hero to tyrant