When we spoke to Crocs (CROX) CEO John McCarvel back in January, we couldn't help but notice his choice of footwear: He wasn't wearing Crocs.
But we couldn't really hold it against him. McCarvel was in town to accept an innovator award from the National Retail Federation, and Crocs didn't really make anything appropriate for the occasion. You can't wear Crocs with a suit, right?
Well, that's not entirely true. As it turns out, Crocs now offers a number of shoes that are a bit more on the dressy side. They've got loafers, for instance, which could work at the country club. And for the office they've got the "Tummler" shoe, which combines the molded rubber clogs with a black leather slip-on dress shoe. As the website explains, it's meant to be a "work shoe you can live with."
Around the same time we came across the Crocs dress shoe, we also became aware of another product that tries to combine stay-at-home comfort with office-appropriate wear: Dress pants-style sweatpants. These have all the comfort and warmth of a pair of sweatpants, but are designed like a pair of dress slacks, complete with back pockets, belt loops and pinstripes.
Together, the Crocs dress shoes and sweatpants dress pants suggest a new paradigm for office wear: Dressy enough to pass muster with your boss, but comfortable enough that you can feel like you're having a pajama day working from home. But could you really pull this off in an office environment?
To find out, I got a pair of each, then put them on and headed down to the offices of StyleList, Aol's fashion experts. I modeled my office wear for a panel of three StyleList editors: Ellen Thomas, Logan Sowa and Abby Silverman.
Their first reaction was telling -- two of them didn't realize that I'd actually changed into the sweatpants. That, I thought, meant that I could get away with wearing sweatpants without anyone noticing. But on closer inspection, doubts started to emerge.
"I don't think I'll ever be inclined to think this is acceptable in the workplace," said Sowa. "They looked like real pants, but there were a few telltale signs that something was off: They were a bit baggy, and definitely didn't look tailored."
I couldn't help but agree. I was a little disappointed with the fit, expecting it to have a more modern, slim cut. And I wasn't about to pay to have a pair of sweatpants tailored.
Still, I could see there being a small market for this sort of thing. Let's say you work at a tech startup and love the pajamas-and-sweatshirt lifestyle, but want to be prepared in case you need to suddenly meet with investors. Could these make for a nice middle ground?
Silverman was skeptical of this notion.
"Whether you are on Wall Street or at a start-up, it's important to be as professional as possible -- you never know when you'll be in an elevator pitch," she said. And Thomas wondered what was so difficult about wearing dress pants, many of which can be quite comfortable. While the idea of pinstriped sweatpants was certainly amusing, and they seem like they'd be very warm in the winter, we ultimately agreed that they weren't office-appropriate (unless you work in a very casual office).
The Crocs were a different story.
"These actually aren't terrible for what they are -- a comfortable pair of shoes disguised as dress shoes," said Thomas. "I still would not want to see my boyfriend in them, but if you're going to invest in something like this, this particular style is pretty believable."
I was more or less in agreement. I didn't find them all that attractive, as they're a little too blocky for my taste. But if the goal here is to wear something that's comfortable, but still qualifies as a dress shoe, this definitely passes muster. I can imagine a doctor wearing these -- healthcare professionals like to wear Crocs because they're on their feet all day, and these could pair up with a shirt and tie to maintain a professional appearance when meeting with patients and families.
"If you're someone who is always on their feet for work, these Crocs are perfect for getting your feet through the day," agrees Silverman. Even Sowa, who admits she "inherently [has] a thing against Crocs," says they aren't half bad.
So there you have it. If you spend a lot of time on your feet, but still work in an environment that requires you to wear dress shoes, these Crocs could be a good compromise. But please don't try to get away with wearing sweatpants.
Pinstripe Dress Pant Sweatpants: $128 at BetaBrand.com. Also available in grey or black, $108.
Verdict: Too baggy to pass as real dress pants, and likely inappropriate at all but the most casual office environments.
Men's Tummler Shoe: $79.99 at Crocs.com.
Verdict: Not the most stylish shoes around, but a great option for professionals who spend a lot of time on their feet.
Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.
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