Crocs sent 500 pairs of free shoes to Minneapolis for a high school prom

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Why would a billion-dollar footwear company in Boulder, Colorado, give away hundreds of shoes to high school students in Minneapolis?

Why would students at South High School want to go to their prom wearing shoes that "everyone wore during middle school ... but don't talk about because it's too horrible to remember"?

Hint: the answers are connected. But for the full story, read on.

The idea

Lilly McLaughlin didn't even own a pair of Crocs.

But her friend Cornelia Lutz has been a big fan of the brightly colored, clog-like shoes ever since she got an orange pair back in fourth grade, she tells BringMeTheNews.

During a discussion about the comfiness of Crocs, the friends decided they should wear them to the prom. In fact, they thought everybody at South's prom should wear them. The two started a Facebook page encouraging just that.

That led to some debate at South High about whether prom Crocs were a good suggestion. An article in the school newspaper summed it up with the headline "Crocs to Prom: Cute or Tacky?"

The backlash

While Lutz and other Crocs fans love the comfort and think they're fun, they've heard the comments from those who make fun of the shoes.

"People think that Crocs are for old men who have given up," Lutz says.

McLaughlin adds: "They say the holes are where your dignity seeps out." Ouch.

The reporter for the school newspaper, The Southerner, offered the above quote about middle school Crocs being too horrible to remember. But the story also says: "Most think that they’re tacky and have an ugly appearance, but nevertheless Crocs are making a comeback."

The debate reaches Bangkok

At about this time the top marketing executive with Crocs was at a conference in Bangkok, Thailand, when a Google alert directed him to some media coverage about his company. He read in The Southerner about the "Crocs to Prom" movement.

Soon the company's Vice President of Communications, Katy Michael, was on the phone with South High asking how many people would attend the prom. Michael tells BringMeTheNews the answer was 500 ... and that's how many pairs of Crocs were quickly on their way to Minnesota, at no cost to the school (one pair of Classic Crocs typically sells for about $35).

Lutz and McLaughlin say once their classmates learned the "Crocs to Prom" campaign involved free shoes, opposition to the idea seemed to evaporate and former critics were suddenly on board with the idea.

Why are prom Crocs becoming a thing?

Company Vice President Michael tells us she's never heard of a whole school wearing Crocs to the prom until now. But the shoes have been showing up at proms on a smaller scale.

Teen Vogue reported on actress Ashley Benson's push to popularize the idea. There's even a #CrocsAtProm photo contest on Instagram. (Winners get cash and a supply of you-know-what.)

According to Teen Vogue Crocs are part of a trend toward "bucking convention and wearing pieces that truly reflect your personal style."

Michael, the Crocs vice president, says it's been 14 years since the company started and the shoes now take some high schoolers back to their youth.

At South High, Cornelia Lutz says she's just not one to be embarrassed about what she's wearing. "I'm not one to care enough – or have enough money – to buy expensive shoes and then not wear them again."

Finally there's Lilly McLaughlin, the new arrival to the Crocs world, who's likes that they're comfortable enough to dance in. McLaughlin knows the phrase "dress to impress" but says she plans to make her impression on the dance floor.

The Minneapolis South prom is on Saturday night at The Commons Hotel.

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