It is a question that must have plagued those attending King Charles’s first luncheon for the Order of Merit on Thursday – what to wear while eating partridge pie with the new monarch.
For the 85-year-old artist David Hockney it was simple – his signature checked Savile Row suit, a knitted checkerboard tie … and a pair of yellow garden Crocs. As a fan of the great outdoors, the king was delighted. “Your yellow galoshes!” he remarked. “Beautifully chosen.”
Crocs might be closer in shape to clogs, but he was not far off. Durable, sturdy and slip-resistant, crocs began life as outdoor shoes but were quickly adopted by blue-collar industries, notably kitchen staff and nurses. Made from a proprietary cell resin material called Croslite, which is somewhere between rubber and plastic, they are comfortable for workers to stand in for long hours and thick enough to protect feet from a stray cleaver.
We love to hate Crocs – but that does not stop us buying them. Driven into the arms of comfort-wear during the pandemic, sales have soared in the past five years. In the quarter ending 30 September, they reached almost $1bn (£827m). According to a spokesperson, more than 100m pairs are sold each year. It is less about who is wearing them, and more about who is not.
Influence tends to trickle up, so it was only a matter of time before Hockney would join the Crocerati, a broad but notorious band of wearers that includes the pop star Justin Bieber, rapper Post Malone and the actor Adam Sandler. Blame Christopher Kane and Balenciaga, too, who have refashioned Crocs, whacked up the price and caused them to sell out.
Hockney, of course, has always been a style icon. Over the past two decades, Paul Smith and Christopher Bailey have designed collections around the artist’s wardrobe, which included (but was not limited to) Coney Island logo sweatshirts, striped rugby shirts, slacks and spectacles. Historically, though, the artist preferred a pair of white, battered, lace-free white plimsolls.
The luncheon’s dress code is a long way off that of broader culture. Most attendees wore black. The TV presenter Floella Benjamin was among the few guests to introduce a welcome pop of magenta in her headpiece. These days, Hockney mostly uses a wheelchair, so was presumably granted carte blanche. Comfy on levels actual and spiritual, he no doubt chose Crocs because they have a deep insole, so one can pop their orthotics inside.
But he may well have been drawn to the colour. Guests will have noted he wore them with a pair of blue socks. From a distance, it was as if his 1967 masterpiece, A Bigger Splash, had come to life.