Your Life daily: They're a Croc of fun for your feet; FASHION: The strange-looking, footwear that comes in any colour you can think of is the shoe craze that's taking the world by storm - are you ready for your first pair of Crocs?
THEY have become a global phenomenon, worn by schoolkids, celebrities and politicians alike.
Distinctive in design and hue, the resin slip-ons have been hailed the most comfortable footwear on the planet.
You either love them or hate them - they are Crocs, a shoe that has spawned a thousand lookalikes. We investigate the cult of Crocs.
IT'S unlikely when three pals kicked around an idea for a new boat shoe that they anticipated the impact their creation would make.
But just five years on from the first Crocs, the resin 'jelly' shoes are taking over the world.
The US-based company is the fastest growing footwear firm with sales exceeding 20 million.
Its shoes, sandals, slip-ons, pumps, walking boots, wellies and flip-flops, all made from the same unique, anti-slip, anti-bacterial, mould-to-your-feet material, have an army of devout fans.
They say the comfort factor more than compensates for the bulky styling and lurid colours.
And budget shoe stores are awash with wannabe Crocs as folks seek to get the look with a lesser price tag.
Retailing at between pounds 17 and pounds 40, genuine Crocs can be found on the internet and selected high street shops.
Niki-Lu's, an independent shoe store in Bank Street, Rugby, has been selling Crocs for about a year and staff have seen their popularity soar.
Shop assistant Jade Munroe, aged 21, wears Crocs all the time for work.
She says initially she couldn't see the attraction in the plastic, brightly-coloured footwear but after buying a pair reckons they are the most comfortable shoes she has ever worn.
She admits she's a complete convert.
Jade, from Rugby, said: "I've had my Crocs for about five weeks now, I bought them the day I started work here.
"Before I couldn't understand the fuss and why people loved them so much. Now I literally don't have them off my feet.
"I know some people might be put off by the look of them but I have a Mary-Jane style which looks more like an ordinary shoe but still has all the advantages of Crocs."
The shoes, being made from a special plastic composite, mean there is none of the excessive sweating associated with plastic shoes and because the material has anti-bacterial properties there's no foot odour problem either.
However, this can't be said of cheaper imitations which have flooded the market following the Crocs craze.
Jade said: "There are a lot of shoes and sandals out there which look like Crocs but they aren't made of the special material and they don't have the advantages of Crocs.
"We have had people in here who have purchased cheaper imitations and had problems with their feet."
Jade is not the only one from the store to swear by Crocs.
Manager, Lorri Smith, aged 35, who is originally from Rugby but now lives in Northampton, is a fan too.
Lorri said: "We have been selling the Crocs for about a year and when they first came in we had to stop ourselves laughing. We thought they'd never take off.
"But until you get them on your feet you have no idea how comfortable they are and then you don't care what they look like.
"Now they are extremely trendy and we have trouble keeping up with demand. Everyone from 90 year-olds to first walkers are having them.
"The company advertises in rambling magazines and diabetes magazines.
They are meant to be excellent for people with health problems.
"They are wide and comfortable, have arch support and knobbly bits on the insole to help stimulate circulation."
A further unique selling point of Crocs is Jibbitz the little, plastic accessories you push through the ventilation holes to customise your shoes. Flowers, letters, animals, cartoon characters, the list of charms is endless.
All the Crocs wearers at Niki-Lu's sport Jibbitz with pride, even taking the opportunity to advertise the business with the store name spelt out on the shoes.
"It's a bit of fun," said Lorri.
DJ010807CROC7 FUN FEET... Jade Munroe and Lorri Smith, of Niki-Lu's shoe shop in Rugby, say they can't do without their Crocs and wear them nearly all the time. Pictures by Joe Bailey; DJ010807CROC5 SUCCESS STORY... Love them or hate them, there is no denying the global appeal of Crocs.