A once-scorned foam footwear now enjoying a fashion revival - billionaire socialite Kim Kardashian last month chose a high-heeled pair for an outing to daughter North’s sports game - is at the centre of a uniform stoush at a Northland high school.
Leigh Gayford bought a pair of plain black Crocs for her 13-year-old son to wear as part of his Whangārei Boys’ High School summer uniform, after the $69 leather Roman sandals she initially purchased “fell apart” under the teen’s size 13 feet within a few weeks.
She wanted comfortable footwear her “rapidly growing” son would get plenty of use from at school and home before outgrowing them, and believed the $85 Crocs met the school’s uniform policy of being either plain black or brown sandals with a heel strap, Gayford said.
The mum-of-five was stunned when a teacher told her son last Thursday his Crocs didn’t comply.
An email sent to all parents the next day stated school staff were “seeing an increase in non-uniform items at school”, which included Crocs as they were “considered to be foam/rubber clogs rather than sandals”.
Students wearing incorrect uniform could be asked to remove the offending items, which may be confiscated.
Gayford, whose subsequent post about the footwear fail on the Northland Grapevine Facebook page sparked more than 100 comments, more than half in support, said the school had become “hung up” on the fact Crocs manufacturers themselves described the footwear as clogs.
Her daughter, a student at Whangārei Girls’ High, is able to wear Havaianas to school, as despite the Brazilian brand being similar to jandals they had a heel strap, Gayford said.
“We didn’t even think twice about whether the Crocs were sandals or a clog. I hadn’t even used the word clog for years until last week, when the school decided Crocs weren’t a sandal but a clog.
“To me, it doesn’t really matter what they’re called - at the end of the day, they’re a summer shoe with a heel strap.”
Her son had even blacked out the “little white crocodile” logo so the Crocs would comply.
“Normally kids wouldn’t dream of [doing this] ... because that’s the brand name, but because he was wearing them to school I made him.”
But Boys’ High principal Karen Gilbert-Smith said it would be unmanageable for the school’s uniform policy to list every type of non-complying footwear.
“[Our] policy talks about what an [item] should be, not what it shouldn’t be.”
If parents weren’t sure whether an item of clothing or footwear complied with the policy they should check with the school before buying it, Gilbert-Smith said.
Asked why Gayford should know to check compliance when her son’s Crocs were black and had a heel strap, Gilbert-Smith said Crocs itself marketed the footwear as clogs - something Gayford had been told when she contacted the school after a teacher spoke to her son about his footwear.
“When something’s described as clogs, not sandals, then it doesn’t [meet uniform rules]. We gave her that feedback, she took to Facebook.”
The school also offered to provide new sandals for Gayford’s son, but were turned down; Gayford claimed the offer was only made yesterday and she hadn’t had time to make a decision yet.
Gayford also wrote to the board of trustees before its monthly meeting on Tuesday night, asking for black summer footwear with heel straps - no matter its brand name - to be allowed, but the board decided against amending the uniform policy and maintained Crocs didn’t comply.
Gayford said yesterday she hadn’t yet decided how she’d respond to the board’s decision.
Changes had in the past been made to the Boys’ High uniform, at the request of students, including adding an ankle length, non-woollen socks option, Gilbert-Smith said.
“[But] there’s only one parent that’s contacted me about Crocs - and that’s [Gayford]. There’s not an epidemic of boys wanting to wear Crocs to school.”
The school board was open to another look at a request relating to Crocs or Crocs-imitation footwear if there was a “shift in what the school community thinks it appropriate”, chairman Andrew Carvell said.
“This is the first time it’s been raised. The school gets ideas from parents on numerous things, we don’t want to keep changing things for the sake of it.
“Because it’s just been so wet this year, I was quite surprised we haven’t seen a push for gumboots”, said Carvell, who’s recorded more than 2500mm of rain at his property this year, 600mm above average.
And while Gilbert-Smith said she hadn’t been contacted by any parents since the footwear flap went public, Gayford said she’d had positive feedback.
“[One person] said, ‘for God’s sake, boys can now be girls at school, and girls can now be boys at school, but a Croc can’t be a sandal?’”
Another had applauded her for sticking up for students and their families, she said.
“Because at the end of the day, they’re our boys that go to these schools, and the principal and the board, they’re all there for us - they work for us.
“Rules are good if they have a purpose, but I just don’t feel like this rule is fit for purpose anymore.”