Two decades after Crocs rejected leather, laces, and social norms, another ethyl vinyl acetate concoction is grabbing mass attention—Big Red Boots.
The shoe from Brooklyn-based provocateurs MSCHF is precisely as described; cartoonishly oversized, tomato red, and (somewhat) suitable for wearing on one’s feet. Since images of the boots leaked on Feb 7, they’ve tramped all over social media with considerable help from celebrity boosters.
BIG RED BOOT pic.twitter.com/ECaNRcHg4N
— MSCHF (@mschf) February 6, 2023
Janelle Monáe shot some hoops in them, Rich the Kid donned them to Drake’s Super Bowl party, Wisdom Kaye modeled them to the eyes of 5.2 million on TikTok. Suddenly, even before dropping on Feb 16 via MSCHF’s website and dedicated app at $350 a pair, MSCHF seemed to have scored another viral moment—and MSCHF doesn’t even consider itself a company, but a group or collective that occasionally releases products.
Questions of comfort, practicality, and durability have been absent. The internet wants to know which cartoon figure MSCHF is referencing. Astro Boy? Papa Smurf? Dora the Explorer’s monkey companion Boot? The answer may well be all of the above.
MSCHF, for its part, is highlighting the flow of virtual aesthetics into real life. As people become increasingly exposed and attracted to virtual commodities online, unreality comes to be expected, MSCHF wrote. The boots of celebrated cartoon characters were conceived not with realism in mind, but to be quick to draw and instantly recognizable. Hence MSCHF’s tagline, Cartoon Boots for a 3D World.
“These shoe shapes become genericized in the audience’s memory, and all fulfill the same purpose: to instantly convey the idea of ‘boot,’” said MSCHF in its product description. “It’s a footwear design truism that the shape of a shoe is not the shape of a foot. Big red boots are really not shaped like feet, but they are extremely shaped like boots.”
As MSCHF alludes to, the norms—or the Overton Window, as the collective calls it—of the fashion world may be moving towards the unreal. In the wake of Harry Styles’s Grammy Awards clown suit and Loewe releasing Minnie Mouse stilettos, some are claiming fashion is entering an era of silliness. If so, MSCHF is primed to succeed.